Since ancient times, ginseng has been considered to be the “king of herbs.” In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ginseng is said to have a unique and highly nourishing effect, and that it holds many benefits for both the body and the mind, which has made it quite popular in China and abroad for the same reasons.
“Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.” — Chinese Proverb
Ginseng root has been used as a medicinal supplement and a natural remedy for a long time, especially in Asia. In the Chinese language, ginseng is called “rénshēn” due to its peculiar shape, often resembling a human (rén in Chinese). China is the oldest recorded country in the world known to have discovered, applied, cultivated, and processed ginseng for medical purposes.
According to the point of view of Western science, the immune system strengthening abilities of ginseng are due to the high concentration of polysaccharides, which are strong immune system modulators that make the body very resistant to certain diseases. This is also why, in the West, ginseng was given the botanical name Panax, which means “all healing” in Greek.
The varieties of ginseng
There are two types of ginseng — those considered to be the real herb. They are distinguished by which medical effect they have.
One is Panax ginseng, grown in Asia and often referred to as “true ginseng,” and the other is Panax quinquefollus, which is grown in North America.
Panax ginseng, the Asian variety, has a warming effect on the body and is considered by some to be more potent, while Panax quinquefollus, it’s American brethren, has a cooling effect on the body.
Anyone who is into ginseng and wondering what insiders consider to be the “crème de la crème” of ginsengs will generally be directed to Jilin ginseng, which is recognized as one of the finest cultivated varieties of Panax ginseng in the world. Even though this ginseng is bred for mass consumption, it is regarded to be of a highly reputable quality.
Jilin ginseng falls into two categories — one being cultivated ginseng, the other being wild ginseng. Wild ginseng is regarded as having a better medicinal value. The wild ginseng that is formally grown in the Changbai mountains of China is said to be the most valuable.
Depending on the area of cultivation, cultivated ginseng will also be categorized into two kinds — namely, Ji’an Lu and Fusong Lu ginseng.
How to consume ginseng
Ginseng can be consumed in a variety of ways. It can be dried and used in teas, tonics, concoctions, and soups. When in its dry form, it can be ground into a powder. Ginseng can also be used fresh and “pickled.”
“In TCM, Asian ginseng was used as a tonic that was believed to replenish energy.”
Fresh ginseng apparently is not only delicious, but also holds many benefits sought after by those who know of the ancient plant’s medicinal properties. Korean ginseng is said to have a crunchier texture and richer flavor than other ginsengs.
Ginseng remedy properties
If consumed consistently, experts claim that ginseng may have the effect of nourishing the spleen, the stomach, and the lungs. It may also improve immunity. Its wide range of benefits make it a popular ingredient for tonics and recipes.
Ginseng’s value determined by its age
A prominent aspect about ginseng is the time it takes to grow it, which determines the ginseng’s price and quality as judged by sellers on the ginseng market.
Some exemplars of the root, which are claimed to have grown under the soil in the wild for several decades, can sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars, like the example of a 65-year-old ginseng root, which is priced at 3,580,000 RMB, or roughly US$545,000.