What You Might Not Know About Panax Ginseng
Posted by Nootropics Depot on 16th Aug 2016
What is Panax Ginseng?
Ginseng is one of the most well known herbs in the world. It’s immensely important in traditional Chinese use, and has slowly but steadily rooted itself in the Western world. Speaking of roots, what we have come to know of as ‘Ginseng’ is the fleshy fork shaped root of the plant Panax ginseng. This is just one of 11 species in the genus ‘Panax’. The species in the genus Panax are characterized in part by the presence of ginsenosides in their leaves and roots. There are over 30 ginsenosides; each of which have a unique effects in the body. Due to this, it is not surprising that Carl Linnaeus named the genus ‘Panax’ in order to capture the concept of ‘panacea’, a substance that is all-healing.
Not all Panax Ginseng is created equal.
The fact that there are 11 different species in the genus panax brings us to one of the first, and arguably most crucial, facts about panax ginseng that is often overlooked. Since all panax species contains at least one of the 30 ginsenosides, it is very easy for species to get mixed up through conventional analytical methods; such as UV-VIS. This means that not all “panax ginseng” is actually panax ginseng. It could very well be that what is being sold as panax ginseng is actually the much cheaper to produce panax quinquefolius; which is better known as American ginseng. In fact, many of the panax ginseng products on the market, either knowingly or unknowingly, are mislabeled American ginseng. Some companies do it to save money, while others are just not knowledgeable enough to be able to tell the difference.
There is only one truly accurate way to be sure whether or not we are dealing with real panax ginseng, and that is to run a sample of suspected panax ginseng through HP-TLC, or high performance thin layer chromatography.
Even though every species of panax contains ginsenosides, all of the species have a unique ‘fingerprint’, which can be accurately picked up with HP-TLC. First a reference ‘fingerprint’ is created for panax ginseng. Then a sample of suspected panax ginseng is run through HP-TLC. Afterwards, the sample fingerprint is compared to the reference fingerprint. If they match, then we are dealing with genuine panax ginseng. If they do not, then we are either dealing with one of the other 11 species of ginseng, or a completely different plant altogether. In addition to species analysis, HP-TLC is able to tell which part of the plant was used to make the extract. So you can determine if leaf, root, or stem materials were used. This is extremely crucial, as the types, amounts, and ratios of active ingredients differs wildly between the parts of the plant.
However, the amounts and ratios are very different; which is why we offer both a leaf and root extract separately. Here at Nootropics Depot all of our panax ginseng is evaluated with HP-TLC, so you can be absolutely certain that you will consistently receive genuine panax ginseng.
Panax Ginseng Ginsenosides
So you’ve made it this far into the article and are probably starting to wonder: if all panax species contain ginsenosides, and these ginsenosides are what I’m after, then why do I care which panax species I’m consuming? To answer that question, we’ll first have to examine the variance of effects between the six main ginsenosides, and their metabolites.
Ginsenosides mainly exist as either 20(S)–protopanaxadiols (PPDs) or 20(S)–protopanaxatriols (PPTs). The main chemical difference between them is the presence of sugar side chains at C3, C6 and C20. Variations in these side chain sugars determine where the ginsenosides will bind in the body, and how they will eventually be metabolized. In general, it has been found that PPD’s tend to bind to estrogen receptors (ER) and metabolize to Rg3, whilst PPT’s tend to bind to the glucocorticoid receptors (GR) and metabolize to Rh1.
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