Thursday, November 6, 2008
Meet The Herbs: Xi Yang Shen
Pin Yin: Xi Yang Shen
Pharmaceutical: Panacis quinquefolii Radix
English: American ginseng root
Vietnamese: Hoa Kỳ Sâm
Categorized by Bensky et al as a yin tonifying herb, Xi Yang Shen is like Ren Shen's heat clearing cousin. It's cold and bitter, slightly sweet, and enters the Heart, Kidney, and Lung channels. Some modern studies conducted in China comparing the constituents of Xi Yang Shen and Ren Shen have concluded that they are equivalent in effectiveness. This makes the herb useful when you want to tonify qi without the warmth of Ren Shen.
Because of this, Xi Yang Shen is an excellent herb to use in the treatment of diabetes. The symptoms of excessive thirst and hunger are indicative of heat in the Lungs and Stomach. The cold nature of the herb can cool the fire, while it generates fluids to replenish the yin burned up by heat and lost through excessive urination. Individuals with diabetes require tonification, due to the nature of chronic illness burning up qi and yin.
There have been several studies conducted to test the efficacy of Xi Yang Shen in the treatment of diabetes. One recent study showed that this herb increases production of insulin and reduces the death of pancreatic beta cells (which make and release insulin). It was also shown to benefit immunity, mitochondrial function (cellular energy production), and improve blood sugar levels taken after eating.
The best way to cook this herb is by double boiling it for several hours - here's a good explanation of the process on this retail website (just to let you know, you can buy a ginseng cooker for less at your local Asian market). The longer it cooks, the more potent the tea will be.
Another way to extract the goodness of the herb is by making a tincture. Simply put the herb in a glass container and cover it with vodka. Keep the container out of direct light, and shake it up once a day. If the herbs expand above the level of the alcohol, just add more to keep the herbs covered. The longer the herb is extracted, the more potent the tincture will be, but definitely do it for at least two weeks.