Plant Profile: Chinese Ginseng

Botanical Name:Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, Panax
Panax ginseng

Family:
Araliaceae

Common Name:
Chinese or Korean Ginseng, these names refer to the same plant grown in different countries.

Part Used for Medicine:
Root

Habitat in Which it is Found/ Harvesting Season/ Special Considerations:
There are wide variations in both cost and quality on the ginseng market along with less than honest advertising.
Ginseng quality: the best – wild, then woods grown, then cultivated.
Quality is also determined by the age of the root. A three year old root is lower in accumulated chi than a seven year old root. The younger root is correspondingly cheaper.
The average consumer will never be exposed to an authentic wild root on the market as these are quite rare. In my experience, woods grown offers the best value. Cultivated is the most common and affordable and also has the lowest therapeutic value.
At the very least, purchase whole roots. Powders, liquids and other forms are notorious for adulteration.
One source I have used in the past is here.

Energy & Taste:
Warming, drying, sweet
Red ginseng has been processed to increase its heating energy
White ginseng is unprocessed and is less warming than the red roots.
Red and white ginseng are the same species. Only the processing is different.

Indications:
A strong Chi & Yang tonic
Use for general ‘old age’ deficiency
Increases libido
Regulates HPA axis
Strengthens immune system

Combinations:
Ginseng is traditionally combined with other tonic herbs to create a more balanced formula. A quality source of ginseng formulas in tablet form is available here.

Safety Issues:
The heating and stimulating effects of ginseng can cause health problems if it is taken in too large a dose, for too long, or too often.
Ginseng has a reputation as an ‘energy herb’ and an aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, people who are already too hot and dry and overstimulated are often drawn to this herb. In excess, it has been linked to insomnia, irritability, muscle tension, rashes and headaches.
When used in the right amount and with someone who has the appropriate energetics, ginseng is considered very safe.

Preferred Method of Preparation:
There are several. If making one’s own herbal pharmacy, purchase whole roots as the powder is often adulterated. My personal favorite is to powder the roots and mix with honey, then take a spoon tip amount each day.

The Plant Profiles are brief materia medica summaries of plants encountered during plant walks or introduced during class on our longer programs. They are presented here to help students organize plant info on an ongoing basis. Although the Profiles are not meant to be comprehensive, they are offered here to the public in the hope that others find these pages useful.

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