Ginseng, (Panax Ginseng) May 11 2017
This is a re-print from the Herb Blurb Column I am writing in Equine Wellness Magazine, one of the largest publications in North America focused on natural and alternative therapies for horses. This is from their May/June 2017 issue.
Most commonly seen in energy drinks and memory enhancing supplements, did you know that ginseng is also a wonderful support herb for your performance horse? Ginseng is part of a family of herbs called adaptogens, which are herbs that help the body cope with external mental and physical stressors, such as stress that horses constantly on the road and subject to heavy physical demands may face.
One of the most popular herbs in North America, ginseng is easily recognized by its gnarled beige roots with long root hairs. Both American and Korean Ginseng are used for their medicinal properties, given to them by ginsenosides, while Siberian Ginseng, which is also used for similar treatments, gets its medicinal properties from eleutheroside compounds, and is generally considered less potent.
Due to the shape of the plant’s roots, ginseng was known as the “man root”, and its medicinal uses can be traced to eastern China over 4,000 years ago. Chinese lore indicates that the Chinese revered the plant for its strengthening and rejuvenating powers. Similarly, Native Americans used American Ginseng for its medicinal purposes. This demand from China created international trade for the root, and in the 1700s, Canadian and American settlers began exporting American Ginseng to China. However, by the end of the 19th century wild forms of the root were nearly extinct due to over-harvesting and habitat destruction, so Korea began the first commercial cultivation of the plant in the 1900s.
Plant Parts and Uses
Ginseng is one of the most popular adaptongenic herbs on the market and most of its health benefits can be found in the plant’s roots. The roots have a high concentration of saponins and flavonoids that assist with the immune support and anti-inflammatory response provided by this herb. However, more generally speaking, the medicinal properties of Ginseng are found in the ginsenosides found in the plant- many of these are still being studied and are not well understood within the scientific community, but have been identified as having beneficial biological effects.
Among those effects identified is cortisol regulation in response to exercise or stressful situations. Ginseng is also a potent immune support herb, featuring a large amount of anti-oxidants and Cox-2 inhibitors that assist with anti-inflammatory response. In 2015, University of Guleph conducted a study where Ginseng was shown to have increased antibody titers in horses that were recently vaccinated.
Most Common Uses for Horses
Ginseng is an important herb to support a horse that is exposed to a lot of stress including stress created by a heavy exercise schedule and frequent travelling. Mentally, it can support the immune system response and calm a horse’s nerves by regulating cortisol, and physically, its anti-inflammatory properties can help with recovery.
You can top dress your horse’s feed with dried ginseng root, however be sure to consult a veterinarian on appropriate dosage. It is generally suggested that you do not mix ginseng with popular equine Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs), including phenylbutazone (Bute), flunixin meglumine (Banamine), and firocoxib (Equioxx).
Ginseng is a very difficult plant to grow yourself, unfortunately, and takes a very long time to mature. Seeds need to be stored for two years in appropriate conditions before they will sprout or you can purchase whole roots and plant them. The plants, however, will not be ready for harvest until 7-10 years after planting. However, Ginseng is beautiful when in bloom and is ideal for those who live in wet, cool, forested climates with shady, rich loamy soil covered in leaves.
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