Edition 22: August 2010
What Herb is That?
Power herb for strength, stamina and stress relief
SIBERIAN ginseng is used primarily to promote good health rather than to treat ill-health.
As a medicinal plant Ginseng can vitalise, strengthen, rejuvenate the entire body, reduce stress and boost the immune system
Siberian Ginseng is part of the Aralia family, often known as Chinese Ginseng. It has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years and is considered a treasure trove of healing that retards ageing. They used it to treat "yang" deficiency in the spleen and kidney, lower back or kidney pain, sleeplessness with many dreams, lack of appetite, and to enhance overall resistance to disease or stress.
It was used (and still is) to balance “chi”, the vital energy, and to treat respiratory and other infections, rheumatoid arthritis and making muscles and bones strong.
As the popularity of ginseng spread throughout ancient Asia, demand soared and rapacious collection decimated world supply. Chinese ginseng became rare and very expensive. Unlike other favourites like ginger and cinnamon, ginseng remained unknown in the West until the 18th Century, when missionaries learned of the herb’s healing and longevity virtues. Meanwhile, the American variety of Ginseng was receiving fame and was much sought-after as a sexual tonic and it became a major lucrative export to China.
Russian research has confirmed that Siberian ginseng effectively fights fatigue, stress and discomfort caused by excessive exertion; it enhances work performance and athletic abilities because the lungs and heart function more efficiently. Athletes and others who need to increase their energy and endurance levels can benefit greatly from this non-caffeine stimulant that helps counteract fatigue and lethargy.
DID YOU KNOW?
The roots of Siberian Ginseng contain the active compounds eleutherosides. These actives include glycosides, which have tonic properties to the metabolic system. Although a distant relative of American and Asian ginsengs (Panax sp.), with some overlap in its uses, Siberian Ginseng is a distinct plant with different active chemical components; Siberian is considered the least toxic and most nourishing and strengthening to the body.
Siberian ginseng increases endurance, stamina and tolerance to stressful exposures such as intense heat, cold, physical exhaustion, extreme working conditions, noise and pollution.
The plant also shows remarkable protective benefits under conditions of serious oxygen deprivation and is favoured by deep sea divers.
Siberian ginseng contains remarkable compounds that favourably affect the adrenal glands - the small glands that rest on top of the kidneys and secrete stress-fighting hormones. This is why it is so effective for people dealing with high amounts of stress and tension; sometimes the body responds to pain, stress and injury by releasing excessive amounts of cortisol from the adrenal glands. This herb regulates the amount of cortisol in the body for those people whose saliva-test shows an excess of this stress hormone.
The herb acts as a nervine, improving the quality of sleep and preventing night-time waking. It also minimises the effects of jetlag.
Siberian ginseng is an adaptogen, which means it helps people adapt to life’s stresses and changes easily, increasing their resistance to disease. It is equally appropriate and safe for men or women, the young and particularly elderly people.
It helps elderly people’s senses of taste and smell thus improving their appetite. It also increases the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients, thereby preventing malnutrition.
It can combat exhaustion and boost the overall energy levels of people suffering from debilitating conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and it is very useful during convalescence from long periods of illness.
Several human studies report that ginseng, having hypo-glycaemic effects on the body, may lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Other clinical studies have showed that Ginseng helped relieve angina symptoms and lowered cholesterol, helping to prevent the blood clots that trigger heart attacks and many strokes.
It is also understood that Ginseng does relax the arteries and may lower blood pressure (systolic and diastolic). This research news is very promising; however, the above serious conditions should be always treated under professional supervision.
Use half-to-one teaspoon of powdered root per cup of boiling water, simmer for approximately 15 minutes, strain and drink up to two cups a day.
Be patient if you are interested in long-term health benefits, as only consistent usage will get beneficial results. Siberian ginseng does not directly stimulate the central nervous system so immediate changes in overall energy will not occur. All tonic herbs need time to support the complex metabolism of the body, including glucose-glycogen storage, the adrenals, and the cardio-vascular system. Use it with other adaptogenic and toning herbs such as echinacea and goldenseal to support the immune system. If using ginseng over the long term, most herbalists recommend taking it daily for a month, then stopping for a month before resuming treatment.
Ginseng is proving to be a worthy preventative in the battle against cancer. It also supports cancer treatments for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy who often develop bone marrow suppression and decreased white blood counts; this ginseng helps reverse these conditions in most patients. It reduces the effects of excessive exposure to toxic chemicals and minimises cell damage from radiation.
This remarkable herb also protects the liver from the harmful effects of drugs, alcohol and other toxic substances. Studies have shown ginseng improved liver function in elderly people with alcohol-induced cirrhosis. Participants with emphysema, in another study, demonstrated improved lung function when using ginseng, meaning that more oxygen entered into their blood streams, increasing their energy output.
Use of ginseng demonstrates an increased sperm count in men; the herb boosts testosterone levels in men, and as a result, could possibly cure impotence in the long run. Korean research showed a marked improvement for erectile dysfunction in men who ingested ginseng, which supports the Chinese belief in the herb being an aphrodisiac. Among the female population, the herb may help to prevent infertility by providing healthy uterine function, as well as easing menstrual cramps and helping to reduce the effects of menopause.
Studies show that Eleuthero Ginseng improves the functioning of the immune system and helps prevent illness by revving up certain white blood cells that devour disease-causing microorganisms. Enhanced immune function means greater resistance to illness, speedier recovery and improved general well-being.
Research also indicates an increase in production of interferon, the body’s own virus-fighting compound. Siberian ginseng increases the synthesis of antibodies, thereby reducing incidence of minor ailments such as colds and influenza and helping the body deal with viruses, bacteria and chemicals.
Siberian ginseng has scientifically been shown to slow certain viruses, including influenza A (which causes the flu) as well as human rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (both of which cause symptoms of the common cold). A study of people with herpes simplex virus type 2 (which generally causes genital herpes lesions) found that Siberian Ginseng reduced frequency, severity, and duration of outbreaks.
Name: Siberian Ginseng
Latin Name: Elutherococcus senticosus
Other names: Cii wu jia (Chinese Ginseng), Life root, Man root, Jen shen.
What is it? Siberian gingseng is today found in Siberia, northern China, Korea and parts of Japan, growing abundantly in the wild. It is a shrub that grows up to 3m, with five leaves attached to one steam. The roots, the coveted part of the plant, are woody, wrinkled and twisted and often shaped like a human.
Properties: Adaptogen, (helps the body's reaction to stress) antidepressant, anti-cholesterolemic, antioxidant, immune tonic, tonic, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, hypo-glycemic, aphrodisiac, neuro-protective.
Precautions: Problems with ginseng are rare, but be sure that the Ginseng eleuthero is botanically authenticated as other types of ginseng (often Periploca sepium) are used to adulterate this variety and can cause side effects. It should not be taken by people who have clotting problems or who are taking anti- coagulant medications. This herb may enhance the action of other stimulants such as ephedra, caffeine, thus causing overstimulation.
Essential Oil of the month
Earthing oil restores lust for life
KNOWN as the Oil of Tranquility, Vetivert is a mild sedative that strengthens the central nervous system.
In fact vetivert acts as an overall tonic that tones up every system functioning in the body; rejuvenating the body, giving strength and boosting immunity.
It is beneficial in cases of mental and physical exhaustion; when stress and overwork have depleted the body’s natural defences by revitalising the body and fortifying the red blood corpuscles that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
Vetivert balances the activity of the sebaceous oil glands, so it is useful in treating both oily and dry skin and helps to clear acne. It replenishes moisture in dry and dehydrated skin and has a rejuvenating effect on mature skin that has lost tone and elasticity.
Vetivert is cicatrisant and helps heal wounds as well as cuts, irritated and inflamed skin, preventing infection by inhibiting growth of microbes such as staphylococcus aureus on the wound site. It promotes growth of new tissues and thus helps to diminishes scars and other marks from the skin. This is also useful for post delivery stretch-marks and after spots left by pox, burns etc.
The oil is non-toxic and thereby quite safe to be applied externally on wounds or taken orally (under supervision), to protect wounds and internal organs from infection.
This oil is also anti- inflammatory with a cooling and soothing effect on all sorts of inflammations. It is found to be an appropriate treatment for inflammations caused by sun stroke and dehydration.
When locally applied in rheumatism, lumbago, headache and sprain it is a relieving treatment, quelling aches and pains. For women it is recommended in baths and massage to balance hormones during menopause. As a tonic for the glands it is helpful for oestrogen and progesterone insufficiency and the corresponding problems such as PMT.
Vetivert is a perennial, scented grass with long narrow leaves and an extensive network of underground, aromatic roots and is mainly cultivated in the tropics, such as India, Tahiti, Java and Haiti.
It is grown in India to protect against the erosion of soil during the tropical season where it rains heavily, but the rootlets have been used since antiquity in the East for their fragrance.
The dried grass and its roots are woven into mats and used for thatching, awnings, blinds and sunshades which keep simple huts cool, fragrant and naturally repellent to insects. The powdered root protects Indian muslin from moths and it is a popular ingredient for soaps, toiletries and perfumes. For home use, the oil may be used effectively for its insect repellent properties. Recent research reveals that certain components of vetivert oil are useful in repelling termites. Sprinkle cotton balls with vetivert and put them throughout your wardrobe and linen cupboards to protect from moths.
COMMON USES FOR VETIVERT
Burners and vaporisers: Vetivert oil can be used for nervous complaints, dispelling hysteria, anger and irritability and also to relieve insomnia.
Blended massage or bath oil: Can help ease mental and physical exhaustion, nervous complaints, rheumatism and arthritic pain.
Cream or lotion: Vetivert can be used to moisturise and nourish the skin and is specifically beneficial for dry, irritated and dehydrated skin.
Vetivert’s calming properties have been used effectively to help some people ease off tranquilisers. Emotionally, vetivert is very grounding and balancing and is helpful in overcoming depression, insomnia, anxiety, stress, tension and nervousness.
Vetivert oil helps to dispel anger, hysteria and irritability; neurotic behavior can also be reduced, as stress and tension is relieved.
Massage vetivert into the solar plexus area, just below the bottom of the sternum to treat nervous anxiety and confusion. Vetivert is nurturing, supporting the body’s anabolic functions and is recommended in treatments for anorexia.
Vetivert acts as a tonic for the reproductive system that has an aphrodisiac effect enhancing libido and arousal. It tends to work more psychologically than on the physiology, reducing underlying tension for sexual disorders such as frigidity and impotence.
Vetivert helps prevent being blinded by wrong ideas and promotes the realisation of ideals. It also confers composure and tolerance.
The scent of vetivert will help us forgive our own short-comings and those of others and assist us in disregarding the temptations along the way that hinder our spiritual growth. Vetivert is good for enhancing meditation and facilitating inner wisdom and insights.
Massage vetivert on the soles of the feet to support grounding the physical form. Associated with the root chakra, vetivert restores insecurity with our real identity and imbues us with a deep sense of belonging with the reassuring power of Mother Earth.
Vetivert reconnects us to our vital source, replenishing and nourishing us and developing our appreciation for nature and connecting the heart with nature’s sacred rhythmic cycles.
Deeply inhale the oil while visualising your feet growing roots into the earth to help open and expand the root chakra and restore a robust zest for life.
Latin name: Vetivera zizanoides.
Scent: A deep, earthy and musky smell – reminiscent of a damp forest floor, even a bit smoky in scent. It is amber to olive in colour and honey textured; one of the thickest essential oils, it is a useful base note to anchor a blend, smoothing and sweetening it, without dominating as most other base notes tend to do. It is extracted from the washed, chopped, dried and soaked roots and rootlets by steam distillation. Vetivert yields a very low percentage of oil, about 0.5 per cent, but is found in huge quantities in the tropics. This oil is moderately expensive because the older the roots, the better the oil percentage is. Therefore, older plants are sought out.
Therapeutic properties: antiseptic, anti depressive, anti inflammatory, aphrodisiac, cicatrisant, nervine, sedative, general tonic, immune tonic, sedative and vulnerary.
Vetivert oil blends well with: benzoin, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, rose and ylang-ylang. It is an excellent fixative in perfumes because its molecules are large and less volatile; creating an enduring, rich and woody mood.