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Used and revered in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, the root of the ginseng (Panax ginseng) plant has become increasingly popular in the West for use as an herbal medicine, as its adaptogenic and longevity-promoting properties have become more widely recognized around the world.
However, due to overharvesting in the wild, questionable sourcing practices, and the fact that it is difficult to grow, it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain a good source of ginseng for personal use.
Enter gynostemma (Gynostemma pentaphyllum), a vining herbaceous Chinese plant that exhibits comparable qualities to those of ginseng, but is much easier to grow yourself, and is considered to be one of the top anti-aging longevity herbs of Asia. For starters, let’s take a look at the health benefits of consuming gynostemma.
There are many health benefits of gynostemma:
- Contains many important nutrients that the body needs, including selenium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese and phosphorous.
- Helps to rid the body of toxins, waste and harmful microorganisms.
- Supports a healthy immune system.
- Helps to bring overall balance to the body, and can aid the body in dealing with a number of different health conditions, including heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure and acute and chronic inflammation (fights the free-radical damage that leads to aging of the body’s cells).
- Helps to maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Supports healthy digestion.
- Reduces stress.
- Reduces pain.
- Supports a healthy liver and nervous system.
- Helps to significantly increase the body’s production of superoxide dismutase, one of the most powerful antioxidants produced within the body.
Gynostemma can be taken as a tea, powder, tincture and in capsules. The tea is very tasty, making it a pleasure to consume. Both the leaves and the stems can be used medicinally.
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Gynostemma is considered to be quite safe for most people and can be consumed on a daily basis for overall health and wellness. In fact, there is a large group of people in China that consume gynostemma tea daily and typically live to be more than 100 years old!
The gynostemma plant can be grown from seed or from starter plants, and is an easy-to-grow herbaceous (non-woody) perennial. The leaves and stems are tender to frost. It will grow perennially in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10, although it can be kept in a pot indoors during the winter in colder climates. Once established, it is root-hardy to at least 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gynostemma needs rich, moist soil, and sunny or partial shade conditions. The plant’s tendrils allow it to grow more than 20 feet up a trellis, and it also can grow onto shrubs or trees, or as ground cover.
Spread by rhizomes, gynostemma can become invasive once established, especially in warmer areas, where it can grow year-round. Plant it in a larger container to keep it from running amok within and beyond your landscape.
The plants are dioecious, having separate male and female plants that are needed in order to produce seeds. The seeds need to be soaked for 24 hours in warm water and then sown 2-3 per pot in rich compost, thinning the seedlings once it can be determined which one is the strongest. The seedlings can be planted outside once the danger of frost has passed.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or to treat any particular medical condition. Always consult with a qualified health practitioner when considering the addition of any herbs or supplements into your health and wellness routine, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.
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