By Feature Editors Kim Hyung-dae, Lee Sam-sun
According to the Korea Ginseng Association (KGA), Ginseng is a mysterious elixir plant loved by the successive kings of the Korean Peninsula and, for that matter, by the leaders of many other countries of the world, especially in Asia.
The greatest dreams of the ancient kings were eternal youth and immortality, and they tried to get an elixir plant from nature. Having long been recognized as a miracle drug to extend the life span in the Asian region, Ginseng was an essential restorative in the royal family of Joseon and China.
An interesting article by Ok Sung-jong as introduced by the KGA, sheds clear light on the medical efficacy and other good effects of Korean ginseng.
Ginseng was the best medicine loved by kings as can be seen from the following: A legend that China’s Qin Shi Huang sent Bangsa Seobok who practiced a hermit’s magic and 3000 young boys and girls to Three God Mountain, Minh Mang who is a reformist monarch of the 19th century in Vietnam is known to be a ginseng lover. Many people around the world, especially the Oriental peoples, regarded ginseng as an important medicine of the royal families of Korea and other countries of the Orient.
Greatly loved due to its medicinal and other health-promoting efficacy, Korean ginseng has been transformed into various forms of food that many people can easily eat and has become a must-buy of foreigners visiting Korea and a representative food in Korea.
The efficacy of ginseng described in the ancient medical and pharmacological records can be described as follows:
It helps both men and women recover from the feelings of physical weakness and protects and promotes the functions of the internal organs.
It calms the nerves for those who suffer from anxiety and pounding of the heart and those who engage in vigorous physical activities.
It promotes resistance against viruses and influenzas, etc.
It helps improve eyesight and brain functions.
It effectively treats the symptoms of diabetes such as thirst, polyphagia and polyuria.
It mitigates severe vomiting.
It strengthens the stomach, thereby promoting its digestive functions and treating hyperacidity.
It is effective on chronic gastritis patients who constantly vomit and suffer from diarrhea.
It eliminates the gas building up inside the stomach and colon.
It prevents and helps treat physical weakness resulting from exhaustion or undesirable dietary habits.
It is used for hemiplegia (unable to use one’s hands and feet properly) due to cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral thrombosis, etc. or for indigestion resulting from high heat, or for cold stomach and intestines.
Prolonged intake makes the body feel lighter and promotes longevity.
It is used in case of breathing difficulties resulting from indigestion.
It destroys various types of tumors, inclduing cancerous tumors in the body and promotes recovery.
It promotes the discharge of sputum and exudates from the respiratory system.
It effectively relieves indigestion resulting from fever caused by colds.
It is used to treat poisoning caused by misuse of mineral-based herbal medicine.
It reinforces the pulmonary functions when there are symptoms of inconsistent respiratory function and low lung capacity.
It promotes secretion of bodily fluids when there is lack of bodily fluids resulting from physical activities.
It is used to treat the various types of pre- and post-partum conditions, and it has blood protection and hemostasis functions for patients suffering from hemoptysis, hematuria, uterine hemorrhage, colon hemorrhage and gastric hemorrhage.
It effectively lowers the body temperature in case of a fever resulting from physical weakness or exhaustion that exerts extreme stress on the heart, lungs and/or digestive system.
It is used to treat severe cases of diarrhea and colitis.
It effectively mitigates the symptoms of headache and dizziness/vertigo.
It prevents ischemia resulting from consumable heat, etc.
It is used to treat polyuria and oliguria.
When used on patients suffering from neuralgia or paralysis of the four limbs, it helps promote the metabolic activity and blood circulation.
Seven efficacies of Ginseng:
Bogigutal: Ginseng protects the body’s qi (energy) and effectively treats temporary atelectasis and physical weakness caused by various types of acute and chronic diseases. In other words, it helps promote stamina and vigor.
Ikhyeolbongmaek: It promotes the generation of blood, thereby enhancing the functions of the lungs, intestines and spleen. It also improves metabolic syndromes caused by anemia, and promotes hemocytopoiesis and blood circulation.
Yangsimansin: It calms the mind and the nerves, and alleviates anxiety arising from hypofunction of the heart or impaired blood circulation. In other words, it helps alleviate various types of stress on the body and mind.
Saengjinjigal: Ginseng improves the functions of the lungs, spleen and stomach, thereby enhancing the functions of the entire body. It also ensures that there are sufficient bodily fluids that the body needs at all times to prevent the feeling of thirst. In other words, it effectively treats the symptoms of diabetes.
Bopyejeongcheon: It relieves the symptoms of asthma and chronic cough resulting from weakened function of the lungs and enhances the qi. In other words, it stabilizes breathing and effectively treats respiratory diseases.
Geonbijisa: It strengthens the intestinal canal to prevent diarrhea and reinforces the digestive system to promote its functions.
Takdokhapchang: It removes and discharges toxins from the body, and boosts the resistance against diseases that can easily result from hypometabolism. It also normalizes the skin function and has an effect against tumors.
There have been many reports also published by leading Korean-language news media such as Dong-A Ilbo.
According to their reports, as vaccinations speed up in Korea, hopes are growing in the country that the Korean people will soon be able to overcome the woes of COVID-19 pandemic.
However, even if the pandemic is resolved, it is viewed that interest in health and the importance of immunity will become stronger.
This is because the fact that our body's ability to defend itself, that is, a strong immune system, can maintain health against any virus or pathogen has been clearly shown.
The excellent pharmacological effects of ginseng have been known for hundreds of years, but recently, as interest in immunity has increased, it is attracting more attention.
RNA viruses such as influenza and coronavirus, which became prevalent around the world in the 2000s, have various mutations and therefore the treatment effect using current medicines is considered to be not very high.
Infection with these viruses weakens the innate immune system and increases susceptibility to bacteria.
According to Korean-languge news reports, Professor Oh Se-gwan of Ewha Womans University College of Medicine held a lecture at the '11th Global Healthcare Forum' held at the Kensington Hotel in Yeouido, Seoul in May.
At the meeting, Professor Oh emphasized the efficacy of Saponin, an active ingredient in ginseng, and announced that ginseng has effects such as promoting the immune system, suppressing inflammation, and activating cell survival pathways.
At an academic symposium hosted by the Journal of the Ginseng Research (JGR) last year, Professor Lee Dong-kwon of Sungkyunkwan University (Department of Pharmacy) announced that red ginseng exhibited preventive efficacy against influenza (flu) and pneumococcal sepsis by inhibiting inflammation, promoting the immune system, and activating cell survival pathways.
As a result, it was reported that the saline-administered group survived only 50% of the pneumococcal infection, while the red ginseng-administered group survived 100%.
Professor Kang Sang-mu of the Center for Inflammation, Immunity and Infection at the Institute of Life Sciences at Georgia State University in the U.S. said that, through a study using mice, red ginseng extract increased the survival rate of lung epithelial cells infected by respiratory syncytial virus and suppresses virus proliferation by exerting an anti-inflammatory effect.
The main active ingredient of ginseng is a complex carbohydrate called saponin or ginsenoside. Even plants of the same species may have different patterns of saponin content depending on the cultivation environment.
According to Korean-language news media reports, the ‘2022 Yeongju World Punggi Ginseng Expo’ will be held from September to October this year in Yeongju, a representative ginseng producing region in Korea
In addition, following the splendid achievement of being designated as a national intangible cultural property for the first time in the agricultural field, ‘cultivation of ginseng and medicinal use’ at the end of last year, anticipation is growing for the inclusion of Korean ginseng as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.