Long known as a whole-body tonic (the root plant, precious for centuries in Asian countries, is shaped like a person) new evidence validates and explains some of ginseng’s healing actions.

In Chinese medicine, ginseng (Panax ginseng) has long been used as a general tonic or an adaptogen to promote longevity and enhance bodily functions. It has also been claimed to be effective in combating stress, fatigue, oxidants, cancer and diabetes mellitus.

Most previous studies have claimed that the pharmacological effects of ginseng are attributed to its bioactive constituents such as ginsenosides, saponins, phytosterols, peptides, polysaccharides, fatty acids, polyacetylenes, vitamins and minerals. In this new research, the focus was the recent advances in the studies of ginsenosides on the formation of blood vessels, which is a common denominator of many diseases, such as cancer and some cardiovascular disorders.

Specifically, the root has been shown to inhibit new blood vessel growth in rapidly growing tissue: that is, tumors. The medical term angiogenesis means the creation of new blood vessels, which is a critical aspect of how a tumor will successfully establish in, and invade, healthy tissue.

Paradoxically, other components of ginseng have been found to enhance nitric oxide (a vasodilator) levels by promoting new vessel growth, enhancing wound healing, slowing dementia, slowing hair loss and reducing morbidity from various other diseases caused by poor circulation. The current research suggests that ginseng works as an adaptogen, that is, if new vessel growth is necessary, ginseng will promote that, but if new vessel growth would be harmful (such as in supplying a tumor) then such vascular growth would be inhibited.

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