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Root Up

By Christina Waters

FOR UNTOLD thousands of years the root of Panax ginseng has been used by Asian healers as an all-round tonic, said to increase the potency of one's Qi, which probably best equates with what Westerners might call life force. A great deal of 100 percent owl puckie has been slung concerning the powers of this unglamorous groundcover.

As you can guess, most of them centered on sexual potency, and it was as an alleged aphrodisiac that ginseng made fortunes for its savvy traders.

Sexual potency aside, alternative practitioners classify it as an adaptogen and provide anecdotal support for ginseng as an energy booster (that's why those vials of Tiger Ginseng are sold at gas stations and 7-Elevens), as a stress fighter, and to restore youthful vigor.

In a controversial 1995 study conducted by Consumer Reports, 10 different ginseng products were found to have wildly varying amounts of the active ingredient--ginsenoside--and at least one of the brands contained none at all. Soviet studies support ginseng's powers as an immune system stimulant and a protector of liver function. And ginseng may reduce cholesterol levels.

Ginseng is on the FDA list of "safe" herbs. I wouldn't start the morning without 10 drops of Siberian and 10 drops of Korean ginseng in my orange juice.

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From the January 16-22, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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