Oriental or Asian ginseng has been classified as Panax pseudoginseng Wallich and Panax schinseng Nees. It is native to Korea. Reaching a height of 0.8 to 1 meter, the plant resembles American ginseng.
Korean ginseng is also known as Asian ginseng, Asiatic ginger and Chinese Ginseng. Korean ginseng is a deciduous perennial shrub whose fleshy root requires 4-6 years of cultivation to reach maturity.
Korea possesses all the prerequisites to produce the best quality ginseng in the world:
climate, soil and cultivation technology handed down from generation to generation that serve to obtain and maintain worldwide reputation as the Suzerain country of ginseng.
Cultivation of Korean ginseng started 1600 years ago by harvesting seeds from wild ginseng. However, mass production of Korean ginseng for commercial purpose was not possible until the late 16th century. During this period, artificial cultivation methods in flat fields were established by improving cultivation techniques slowly.
The ginseng plant produces one branch every year until the sixth year, when it attains its full maturation both in size and pharmacologically active ingredients. Cultivation of ginseng for more than four years is highly risky because the plant is very susceptible to soil-born pathogen and insects. That is why private enterprises prefer four year old ginseng root for the production of white ginseng.
Ginseng is known in many Asian countries as the king of all herbs. It is a knobby root light tan in color. Often the center part of the root resembles the human body, as string like shoots stem off from the root and can be seen as arms and legs.
Due to Korean ginseng's unique appearance, ancient herb doctors interpreted this perception to mean that ginseng was a cure-all for the entirety of human illness. Later many cultures started using ginseng to treat almost anything. Ginseng is used by the Chinese to cure nearly everything, and also as a symbol of longevity, strength and wisdom.
What is it used for?
- Ginseng is an herb that is used to support overall health and to give a boost to the immune system
- Lower blood glucose
- Control blood pressure
- Increase stamina
- Improve mental and physical performance
- Speed recovery from illness
- Increase energy
- Stimulate sexual function
- Enhance libido
How does it work?
The root of Korean ginseng, as well as other Asian and Panax ginsengs contain active chemical components called ginsenosides or panaxosides, which are believed to be responsible for ginseng's medicinal properties.
Is ginseng safe to consume?
Ginseng is classified as a "Generally Recognized As Safe" food or GRAS for short by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ginseng is not a drug and should not be taken like a drug.
What studies have been done on the effects of Ginseng?
- Studies done in 2001 have shown that red ginseng extract reduces the incidence of cancer, with heat treated or steamed ginseng having a greater effect
- Studies done in 2002 in a double-blind study on the effect of Korean red ginseng as a treatment for impotence reported that it can be effective in treating males for erectile dysfunction
- A study done in 2002 on the effect of red ginseng on postoperative immunity and survival in patients with gastric cancer that showed a significantly higher five-year disease free survival rate and overall survival rate in patients that took red ginseng powder
Can you overdose on ginseng?
Ginseng is considered generally safe to consume, even in large amounts, but this should be evaluated on a case by case basis with the evaluation of the individual's health at the time. Ginseng is known to lower blood glucose levels and treat type II diabetes, so if you are currently taking prescription medication to lower your blood glucose levels then it would be wise to consult with your physician and monitor your blood glucose levels regularly.
In what forms can I take it?
Korean ginseng is available dried as the normal root and also prepared in tablets, capsules, teas, drinks, extracts and creams as well as many other readily available forms.