Glorious Ginseng


Across centuries, cultures and countries, ginseng has been prized for its attributes. HAIR finds out why that is…

An ancient Korean legend states that a young boy in Geumsan, South Korea, anxious about his mother’s failing health, climbed to a mountain cave to pray to the local spirit. Moved by the boy’s predicament, the spirit manifested before him with a ginseng plant and told him how to use its root to prepare a medicine for his mother and how to grow the plant. The boy followed the spirit’s advice and his mother recovered. Since then local farmers started cultivating ginseng, that is now one of Korea’s most famous herbs!

An Ancient Panacea
Ginseng comprises plants belonging to the genus Panax like American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng). Their fleshy roots are valued for their medicinal properties and are sold unprocessed, dried, as well as steamed and dried. Interestingly the word Panax, draws from Greek words that mean ‘to cure’! Ginseng contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals and ginsenosides that have health-giving properties. It is also credited with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-stress properties, and is said to improve immunity, cellular health, provide energy and vitality and prevent fatigue. A few other species of plants, though not botanically related to ginseng, are referred to as ginseng as they are credited with imparting similar health-giving attributes. These include Siberian ginseng, Indian ginseng and Brazilian ginseng.

Indian Ginseng
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), a shrub native to India and called Indian ginseng, offers many health-giving benefits. It is available in the form of powder, capsules, tables and liquids like Ashwagandharistha. “In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is a rasayana or rejuvenation tonic as it gives strength to the body and works on vital parts of the body like the brain, heart, skin and immune system,” says Pune-based Ayurvedic physician, Dr. Tushar Sukalikar.

Topical Application
Ginseng and Ashwagandha may be used for topical application either in its fresh form or using a skincare product with ginseng as an ingredient. “The root helps cell renewal, tissue repair and boosts collagen synthesis, which is helpful in the treatments for pigmentation, spots and acne. It cancels out the harmful effects of free radicals which play a major role in skin ageing”, says Dr. Neena Chopra, Director, Beauty and Technical, Just Herbs Organic Skincare.

“When applied topically Ashwagandha has a direct effect on skin. It helps heal wounds, treat dryness and roughness of the skin, and various types of skin disease. The paste of different parts of the Ashwagandha plant — its leaves, stem and roots — can be applied on the skin to reduce inflammation”, says Dr. Sukalikar.

While Ashwagandha can be applied by itself, it is recommended that one uses it along with other ingredients for a synergistic blend. “For instance, Ashwagandha, fennel and vetiver rejuvenate ageing skin to give it a firm and a youthful appearance whereas the combined anti-inflammatory action of Aloe Vera, Ashwagandha and Holy Basil protects from free radical damage to reveal soft, supple skin”, says Dr. Chopra. Further, when used in a formulation, the medium of application helps absorb the active ingredients better and faster into the skin. For drier skins a vehicle like cold pressed oils or natural waxes is better, while for oilier skin a gel base is better. Ginseng is suitable for all skin types, and for young and mature skins, making it an easy ingredient to get healthy skin!

(All Images: shutterstock)

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Brinda Gill