Friday, February 10, 2006

Tonic Herbs

I have been mostly talking about herbs that are easily found, and have medicinal uses. My favorite herbs for my own use are the tonic herbs. I use the term "tonic" to mean a subset of the medicinal herbs (meaning all tonic herbs can be used as medicinal herbs, but not all medicinal herbs can be used as tonics,) which help increase or fortify the body's natural energies or processes, rather than focussing on relieving symptoms.

In Chinese medicine, they also consider certain herbs to be in a class above all others, and refer to them as Superior or Celestial Tonics. Ginseng is probably the tonic herb most people are familiar with, and it is one of the Superior Tonics.

There are different types of Ginsengs, the one ususally referred to simply the term "ginseng" is Panax Ginseng, sometimes called Oriental ginseng, or Korean Ginseng, or Chinese ginseng. They are all Panax Ginseng, and different processing methods produce red ginseng and white ginseng. (The term "Panax" is related to the word "panacea", and refers to the reputation ginseng has of being good for anything.)

Ginseng can produce symptoms called "false fire" symptoms, if your energy doesn't flow well, and can include feelings of heat, or tensinon in the shoulders and neck, or restlessness, so it's not one that I recommend for everyone.

Two other ginsengs are Siberian Ginseng, and American Ginseng.

Siberian Ginseng actually is a term used to refer to three separate herbs. Eleutherococcus Senticosus is the plant which has been most researched of the three, and may be the single most researched herb in the world. Soviet Cosmonauts and Athletes used to use this herb regularly, and it is good to improve endurance and stamina.

Siberian Ginseng belongs to a class of herbal remedies called adaptogens, which help the body adapt to stressors of any type. Some research even demonstrated that the greater the stress, the greater the effect from Siberian Ginseng. It has also been used as a tonic for the elderly.

I recommend Siberian Ginseng more frequently than Panax Ginseng, it tends to produce an improvement in energy levels while producing less of the tension or restlessness.

American Ginseng is the other major type of ginseng (there is also Prince Ginseng and Pseudo Ginseng, but that may be for another post) which I recommend to my clients. It is less drying than the Panax Ginseng, and has a cooler energy.

American Ginseng at one time grew wild all over the east coast, and was a major export of the early colonies. (Daniel Boone was actually a major American Ginseng trader.) Unfortunately, overharvesting has made it much more scarce in the wild.

Siberian Ginseng and American Ginseng are a good starting point to learning about tonic herbalism, and if your condition warrants, so is Panax Ginseng.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

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