The popularity of herbal medication has become very apparent in the recent years as people become more acquainted with various medicinal herbs and their natural healing properties. The two most widely-known of these medicinal plants are Ginseng and Jiaogulan. Proponents of both Ginseng and Jiaogulan firmly believe that their respective herbal medication is more effective than the other.

What is Ginseng?

Ginseng is a traditional herbal medicine derived from fleshy roots of different slow growing, perennial plants belonging to genus Panax of the Araliaceae (ivy) family, specifically, that of Panax or Korean ginseng. Varieties of ginseng are generally found in areas with cooler climates such as northeast China, eastern Siberia, Bhutan, Korea and parts of North America. These ginseng varieties include Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), Panax japonicus (Japanese ginseng), and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng). Many other plants are referred to as ginseng by various cultures but only those of the genus Panax are said to be the true ginseng.

Panax ginseng is often referred to as red ginseng due the reddish color of its roots when the plant ages six years or more. It is also widely believed that reddish roots are more potent than those of younger white roots. Moreover, ginseng roots are highly valued due to the long period needed to grow the plant. Ginseng is available in dried form, capsules, pills, and in the form of ginseng-infused liquor of Korea.

What is Jiaogulan?

Jiaogulan or Gynostemma Pentaphyllum, on the other hand, is a climbing vine of the Cucurbitaceae or cucumber family. Jiaogulan is known as “southern” or “cheap ginseng.”  Jiaogulan is also called Xiancao—immortality herb‚ Amachazuru, Dungkulcha, and many other names.

Jiaogulan grows abundantly in western and central part of Southern China as well as in Japan, Korea, and in many parts of India and Southeast Asia wherein Jiaogulan leaves are consumed as tea. Jiaogulan is also prepared as health supplement in the forms of pills and capsules for public consumption.

Ginseng vis-a-vis Jiaogulan

Both Ginseng and Jiaogulan are known for their adaptogenic properties. The significant amount of a chemical compounds known as triterpenoid saponins that are found on both plants give both Ginseng and Jiaogulan their respective adaptogenic properties. According to two independent Japanese studies‚ Panax Ginseng and Jiaogulan contain four identical saponins along with seventeen other similar saponins. In Panax ginseng‚ the triterpenoid saponins are known as Ginsenosides or Panaxosides, while in Jiaogulan‚ the saponins are called Gypenosides. Moreover, both Ginseng and Jiaogulan share the following properties and attributes:

  • Antioxidant—both Ginseng and Jiaogulan are said to be antioxidants and both allow the body to produce antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD).
  • Anti-cancer—due to their antioxidant attributes, proponents from both camps believe that their respective medicinal plants could prevent cancer.
  • Improves stress resistance—as adaptogens, both Ginseng and Jiaogulan allow the human body to create non-specific response towards stress. Both herbs also potentially contain substances that treat brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s diseases as well as nervous system disorders.
  • Cholesterol buildup prevention—both Ginseng and Jiaogulan are known to control the buildup of bad cholesterol like the low-density lipoprotein or LDL.

The debate on which is the better herb between these two herbs would probably continue, and it would probably only stop until a thorough scientific study would conclusively indicate that one is better than the other.

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