All About Ginseng

by Melissa Chichester

It’s time to test your knowledge about an ancient herb that was first written about in China. 

In 196 AD it was written about in the Shen-Nung Pharmacopoeia. In ancient times, it was relied upon in many traditional wellness practices.* Throughout history, it has remained a prized herb and one of its nicknames is “King of Herbs.” Can you guess what it is? If you guessed ginseng, you’re right! Let’s learn more about ginseng benefits.

In Eastern cultures, ginseng is not just reserved for food and wellness.* It is also used in consumer products such as toothpaste, candy, and chewing gum. Ginseng is also still used today in traditional Chinese practices. The reason for this is because of naturally occurring ginsenosides and flavonoids, the active compounds in ginseng. These bioactive factors play a vital role in the well-being of your body.* Ginseng is also gaining a reputation as an immune support herb.*

There are many types of ginseng grown all over the world. Let’s take a look at some of them. 

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What is ginseng?

The word “ginseng” is Greek for “universal remedy.” Ginseng roots are shaped like the human body. Surprisingly, older ginseng roots are prized because of their longevity. Although there are actually 11 different varieties of ginseng, the three most common are Korean, Siberian (Eleuthero), and American ginseng. Ginseng plants have forked roots, a long stalk, and green, oval-shaped leaves. 

Ginseng root is very fleshy and more frequently used than the leaves of the plant. The roots contain naturally occurring ginsenosides and flavonoids traditionally used for overall wellness.*

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Korean ginseng 

Korean ginseng is a perennial plant that grows in the mountains of Eastern Asia, native to Eastern Russia, the Korean peninsula, and Northeastern China. Korean ginseng has the unique ability to revitalize the body.* It is also known as an immune support herb.* 

American ginseng

American ginseng is one of the most popular types of ginseng available as a supplement. In North America, ginseng is native to deciduous forests in the United States. It previously grew throughout Maine and all the way down to Alabama. It was also found in many Midwestern states and today, more than 90% of American ginseng is grown in Wisconsin. Ginseng crops take three years to produce high-quality ginseng herbs for use. In addition, American ginseng root is exported more than any other native plant species, with most of it heading to China. 

Native American tribes have used American ginseng for centuries. It is especially revered in the Ojibwa culture, even to this day.  

Red ginseng 

Depending on what method is used to process ginseng, you may see supplements or ginseng products labeled as “red ginseng” or “white ginseng.” Red ginseng is processed with the traditional Korean process of steaming and drying. As the process repeats, the plant changes into a reddish color. This process was originally done to preserve the plant, but it may also preserve some of its nutrients. Because of its color and processing method, red ginseng is considered a “warming” herb in traditional practices.

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What is your preferred version of ginseng?