What Is Ginseng?
There are 11 species of ginseng, all belonging to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae; the botanical name Panax means “all heal” in Greek. The name “ginseng” is used to refer to both American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng). The true ginseng plant belongs only to the Panax genus, so other species, such as Siberian ginseng and crown prince ginseng, have distinctively different functions.
The unique and beneficial compounds of the Panax species are called ginsenosides, and they’re currently under clinical research to investigate their potential for medical use. Both Asian and American ginseng contain ginsenosides, but they include different types in different amounts. Research has varied, and some experts aren’t yet convinced that there’s enough data to label the medical capabilities of ginseng, but for centuries people have believed in its beneficial compounds and results.
01 Improves Mood and Reduces Stress
02 Improves Brain Function
03 Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
04 Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
05 Anti-fatigue and Anti-aging
06 Treats Sexual Dysfunction
07 Improves Lung Function
08 Prevents Cancer
09 Boosts Immune System
Ginseng Nutrition Facts
American ginseng isn’t ready for use until it’s grown for about six years; it’s endangered in the wild, so now it’s grown on farms to protect it from overharvesting. The American ginseng plant has leaves that grow in a circular shape about the stem. The flowers are yellow-green and shaped like an umbrella; they grow in the center of the plant and produce red berries. The plant gets wrinkles around the neck with age — older plants are more valuable and more expensive because ginseng benefits are more abundant in aged roots.
Ginseng contains various pharmacological components, including a series of tetracyclic triterpenoid saponins (ginsenosides), polyacetylenes, polyphenolic compounds and acidic polysaccharides.
Ginseng History & Interesting Facts
Ginseng was originally used as an herbal medicine in ancient China; there are even written records about its properties dating back to about 100 A.D. By the 16th century, ginseng was so popular that control over the ginseng fields became an issue.
In 2010, nearly all of the world’s 80,000 tons of ginseng in international commerce was produced in four countries — South Korea, China, Canada and the United States. Today, ginseng is marketed in over 35 countries and sales exceed $2 billion, half coming from South Korea.
Korea continues to be the largest provider of ginseng and China the largest consumer. Today, most North American ginseng is produced in Ontario, British Columbia, and Wisconsin.
Ginseng cultivated in Korea is classified into three types, depending on how it’s processed:
- Fresh ginseng is less than four years old.
- White ginseng is between four and six years old and is dried after peeling.
- Red ginseng is harvested, steamed and dried when it’s six years old.
Because people consider the age of the ginseng roots important, a 400-year-old root of Manchurian ginseng from the mountains of China sold for $10,000 per ounce in 1976.