One of the most famous and valued herbs used by mankind, Asian Ginseng is an energy tonic that regulates the human energy system. It has been shown to be stimulating and regulatory to both the central nervous system and to the endocrine system. It is the primary Qi tonic of Chinese Tonic herbalism.
Ginseng helps a person to adapt to all kinds of stresses, and enhances endurance and resilience under stressful conditions. It has thus been termed an “adaptogenic” substance by scientific researchers. Ginseng is also used to tonify digestive and respiratory functions. In Chinese health practice, there is a theory of Li Qi, which literally means balance of energy. It is a term often used to describe the ability of Ginseng to balance the system at a fundamental level. In modern terms, this concept refers to the ability of Ginseng to help regulate body functions, or to strengthen the functions that regulate other body functions. On the basis of its pharmacological properties, Ginseng has been classified as and adaptogen.
Ginseng contains many active ingredients, but the most important are thesaponins called ginsenosides. Ginsenosides specifically improve adaptabilityand are believed to help build muscle and endurance. Therefore Ginseng isvery popular with athletes. Asian Ginseng generally has a “warm” energy.
Ginseng increases physical and mental efficiency, and has been shown toimprove the accuracy of work by promoting concentration. Ginseng preventsoverfatigue. High quality Ginseng is not a stimulant like amphetamines orcaffeine, and it does not create nervousness or disturb sleep, yet it increasesalertness.
Ginseng is used by Chinese traditional doctors as a tonic for general weakness,poor appetite, low marital drive, shortness of breath, cold limbs, spontaneoussweating and premature aging.
Ginseng is a superb herb for aged people. It has a mental stimulant effectin elderly persons and it improves memory and cognitive power, and can oftenreverse intellectual and mental deterioration. It quickens thinking and improvesphysical energy, often to a startling degree. Ginseng is very effective inhastening the recovery from illness and surgery.
There are in fact many varieties of Ginseng, all of which have distinctcharacteristics. Most high quality ginseng is good for men and women alike.Wild and semi-wild Ginseng is generally far superior to the cultivated, commercialvarieties. The higher the quality, the more Shen (Spirit) a ginseng root is said to contain. There are also a number of superb sources of cultivated Ginseng, which have long traditions of excellence.
Generally, Ginseng is used with other herbs. However, Ginseng is often used by itself or with just one or two other herbs. Several varieties of Ginseng may be blended to create remarkable adaptogenic formulations.
Other Common Names
Page Number In Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs
Panax Ginseng C.A. Meyer
Qi, Spirit and Jing
Sweet, Slightly Bitter,
Organ Meridian Systems
Spleen and Lungs
Part Used and Form
Root (leaves are sometimes used as a tea)
Tonify Qi, Adaptogenic, immune modulator, prolong life, overcome fatigue, increase blood volume, aid in recovery from illness or trauma, sharpen and
calm the mind, stabilize the emotions, counteract stress and enhance wisdom
On the basis of its pharmacological properties, Ginseng has been classified as and adaptogen. It is a powerful anti-stress agent. In Chinese health practice, there is a theory of Li Qi, which literally means balance of energy. It is a term often used to describe the ability of Ginseng to balance the system at a fundamental level. In modern terms, this concept refers to the ability of Ginseng to help regulate body functions, or to strengthen the functions that regulate other body functions.
Ginseng is used by Chinese traditional doctors as a tonic for general weakness,poor appetite, low marital drive, shortness of breath, cold limbs, spontaneoussweating and premature aging. Generally, Ginseng is used with other herbs.However, Ginseng is often used by itself or with just one or two other herbs.
Ginseng increases physical and mental efficiency, and has been shown toimprove the accuracy of work by promoting concentration. Ginseng preventsoverfatigue. Ginseng is not a stimulant like amphetamines or caffeine, yetit increases alertness. However, it does not provoke subjective excitation(nervousness) nor does it disturb sleep. It is, in fact, used in a great many sleep-aid formulations. In China, there is an almost universal practice by high school and college students to consume Ginseng during examination periods. The practice is generally to chew several pieces a day while preparing for examinations and to chew Ginseng constantly during the examination period.Students claim that it makes them more alert, helps them stay awake for dayson end with little sleep and improves memory and reasoning ability.
This great herb has a mental stimulant effect in elderly persons. It improvesmemory and cognitive power and can often reverse intellectual and mental deterioration. It quickens thinking and improves physical energy, often to a startling degree. Ginseng is very effective in hastening the recovery from illness and surgery. Ginseng is a superb herb for aged people.
The tonic benefits of Ginseng are long lasting. When Ginseng is taken foran extended period of time, the physiological changes that take place as a result of the Ginseng last for a long period of time after the Ginseng is discontinued (if it is discontinued). Studies indicate, for example, thatincreased work efficiency is retained from one to two months after a one month course of Ginseng administration. People who take Ginseng to help regulatetheir blood sugar level will maintain normal blood sugar for several weeksafter they discontinue Ginseng.
Many people claim that Ginseng has powerful aphrodisiac effects. The reputationas a marital tonic goes back to very ancient times. To this day, Ginseng maintainsa reputation in this regard. I have known many men and women who have usedGinseng either for a short time or over long periods of time who claim thattheir marital lives improved noticeably after using Ginseng. Red Ginseng is mosthighly revered for its marital-stimulating qualities. Korean Ginseng in particularhas a reputation for this. Ginseng certainly can help to improve marital functionby making both men and women stronger and more athletic. It improves enduranceand muscular strength. By improving respiratory functions, marital intercoursecan be significantly lengthened. Sex is not merely a function of the gonads.The whole body must be healthy to enjoy marital to its fullest. However, Ginsengis believed to have gonadal effects as well. Men and women alike claim thatGinseng increases the urge for marital and intensifies marital response.
Constituents: The main active constituents of Ginseng are its saponins, known as ginsenosides. Thirty-five ginsenosides have been isolated and identified from Panax Ginseng cultivated in the northeast of China. Thirty of these have been found in the root and six have been isolated from the stems and leaves. Five polysaccharides have also been isolated.
Analytical studies done in the United States indicate that the steam processingused to make red Ginseng is less destructive to ginsenoside content that sun drying. The also found that wild roots contain the most ginsenosides.
Cultivated White Korean Ginseng is dominated by ginsenoside Re, just asis cultivated white American Ginseng.
Ginseng contains the following constituents:
1. Panaxin (C23H38010) and several related compounds, which act generallyas stimulants to the midbrain, the heart and the blood vessels.
2. Panax acid, which is a stimulant for the heart and general metabolism.
3. Panaquilin, which acts as a stimulant for internal secretions.
4. Panacen and other volatile oils, which stimulate the central nervoussystem.
5. Ginsenin, which lowers blood sugar
6. Vitamins A, B1, B2 and C.
7. Bio-organic Germanium (Ge), which is a power immunostimulant.
Panax Ginseng also contains a glycoside fraction which has been demonstratedto possess significant antioxidant activity.
There is no doubt that other active constituents exist in Ginseng whichhave not yet been identified or studied, but which undoubtedly contributeto its pharmacological make-up.
A very large number of pharmacological studies have been conducted on RadixGinseng. It is one of the most studied substances on earth. Yet, due to itsextraordinary complexity, a great many questions remain. Unlike any singledrug, Ginseng contains dozens of powerful active compounds. Different varietieshave different constituents inherently and different preparation methods alter the constituents even within the same variety. This remarkable herb has been demonstrated to have many significant pharmacologically significant activities which influence the health and well being of animals and humans who consume it.
In general, the pharmacological action of Ginseng is not only dependentupon its own constituents, but varies according to the condition o the organismconsuming the Ginseng. Ginseng shows bipolar, biphasic activity at virtuallyevery level of its action. This is undoubtedly why Ginseng has become so highly revered as a tonic and medicinal herb. It is also the basis of its classification as an “adaptogenic” substance. There are hundreds of examples of Ginseng’s double direction, adaptogenic action. Numerous studies have shown that it, for example increases, elevates blood pressure in cases of hypotension or in case of shock, but restores blood pressure to a normal level in cases of hypertension. It normalizes white blood cell counts in cases of either excess or deficient white cell counts. It can inhibit ACTH to cause adrenal hypertrophy, but can inhibit cortisone to cause adrenal atrophy.
Even short term administration of Radix Ginseng increases the adaptabilityof the organism consuming it. Numerous studies have shown that short or longterm administration of Ginseng can increase the non-specific response to various noxious influences, whether they be physically, chemically or biologicallyinduced. Even very short term administration of Ginseng promotes the re-establishmentof normal function of the organism. Ginseng is indeed the king of adaptogens.Longer term use of Ginseng appears to cause numerous physiological changesin the animal or human consuming it, resulting in improved functioning whichbecome more or less permanent.
Ginseng has been demonstrated in numerous animal studies, as well as inhuman studies, and thus proven to have powerful anti-fatigue effects. Moderatedoses of Ginseng have endurance enhancing effects. Ginseng can thus preventfatigue when consumed prior to exertion. In addition, certain ginsenosidesin Ginseng can promote the recovery of animals and humans from fatigue. Theanti-fatigue effects of Ginseng are the result of complex metabolic regulatoryactivities. Primarily, however, it involves significantly improved utilizationof glycogen and the reduced accumulation of lactic acid and acetoacetic acid.
The total saponin fragment of Panax Ginseng has been found to have bothhypertensive and anti-hypertensive activity. This has been determined to be due to the co-existence of agonistic and antagonistic saponins in the total saponins. These exist in varying proportions depending on the geographicaland anatomical sources of the Ginseng plants. Overall, however, this co-existenceseems to explain the regulatory capacity of Ginseng on blood pressure. Sovietscientists have reported that Ginseng normalized the level of arterial pressureand that it was clinically effective in the treatment of both hypo and hypertension,with the exception of severe forms of hypertension.
Panax Ginseng has shown the following important pharmacological activities:1. enhancement of swimming time; 2. prevention of stress-induced ulcers; 3. proliferation of endoplasmic reticulum and ribosomes in rat hepatocytes, 4. inhibition of glycogen utilization in rat skeletal muscle during exercise,and 5. inhibition of adrenaline induced lipolysis in fat cells.
Ginseng has been found to significantly facilitate the depletion and therestoration of ascorbic acid in the adrenal gland of test animals exposedto stress. Thus both the initial stress reaction and the recovery processwere improved by the administration of Ginseng.
Ginseng is believed to have a regulatory effect on blood production functions.Certain ginsenosides appear to increase erythrocytes, hemoglobin and leukocytes.Yet in humans who consume Ginseng, these cells tend to be normalized. Thisis believed to be due to components with mutually antagonistic activity—someincreasing and some decreasing these cells, with the end result of balancedmaintenance.
Ginseng both stimulates and inhibits the higher nervous activity. However,the stimulatory action appears to be stronger. A wide range of experimentshas thoroughly proven that the learning ability of laboratory animals is significantly improved when they are fed Ginseng. A double-blind experiment involving Chinese students over a 33 day period proved that Ginseng improved their responses. In a famous experiment, Ginseng reduced the rate of errors in telegraph operators’ transmissions and improved their decoding ability. Ginseng has been shown to improve the concentration of writers and elderly persons.
Ginseng can have both tranquilizing and exciting effects on the nervoussystem. The extract of Ginseng has been shown to have mild tranquilizing,analgesic and muscle relaxant action. The ginsenoside Rb1 has been shown to be tranquilizing, as is the total saponin fraction extracted from Ginsengleaves. The water extract of Ginseng has been shown to have anticonvulsanteffects. It can antagonize convulsions caused by cocaine and strychnine forexample. However, at a different dose and with different fractions and differentpreparation, Ginseng can be stimulating. It has been shown to weaken the effects of strong sedatives. Again, typical aqueous extracts of Ginseng tend to have a normalizing action, therefor helping the body and mind attain optimum nervous activity for whatever action the body and mind are being used for.
Other experiments have shown that Ginseng not only effects the central nervous system, but also effects both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, thus having a regulatory influence on involuntary activities of the body such as bowel movements, etc.
Ginseng has demonstrated a double direction influence on the heart in variouslaboratory animals, increasing heart rate at the outset of use, followed by an inhibiting effect. Ginseng has a beneficial effect on the functions of diseased hearts in laboratory animals, reducing or eliminating cardiac arrhythmia induced by ephedrine and improving weak heart beats in animals with ventricular fibrillation. Ginseng appears to dilate the coronary arteries, allowing increased blood supply to the heart muscle. It also dilates the blood vessels of the brain and the eye. Ginseng has shown both hypotensive and hypertensive effects on animals, however, dose plays a large role. Ginseng given at normal therapeutic doses did not significantly influence the blood pressure of human subjects. In fact, it has now been shown that ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, Rg, and Rg1 have a biphasic action on blood pressure. A mild elevation in blood pressure is followed by vasodilation and subsequent depression of blood pressure.
An in a very illuminating study, Ginseng helped restore dogs in a criticalstate due to hemorrhage or asphyxia to health, which parallels claims madeby many that Ginseng can be a life-saving herb. Ginseng greatly reduced thedegrees of shock in laboratory animals.
The effects on the endocrine system have been studied by hundreds of researchers.Studies have clearly demonstrated that Ginseng is devoid of corticosteroid-likeactivity. However, it does have a profound and potent influence on the pituitary-adrenalsystem and this is one reason why it so profoundly changes the stress reactionin animals and humans. Ginseng is capable of significantly reducing the pathologicalprocesses due to stress in animals and humans. Ginseng directly influencesthe pituitary, and probably the hypothalamus, the virtual regulatory centersof the entire hormonal system in higher animals and man. Ginseng appears to influence both the anterior and posterior pituitary.
Ginseng does appear to have profound influence on the gonads of animals.Experiments suggest that Ginseng has no marital-hormone-like action itself, butdoes appear to have gonadotropin-like action. Many animal experiments haveillustrated Ginseng’s ability to stimulate marital behavior. Ginseng is widelytauted as a marital tonic, however, no serious double-blind clinical studieshave been conducted to study the validity of this claim. However, castratedrats given Ginseng enter into a mating frenzy. Ovariectomized female rats,given Ginseng in their food, go into marital mode, and are even capable ofattracting male rats out of mating season. Queen bees experience increasedovulation after being fed Ginseng. Rabbit sperm counts increase when theyare given Ginseng. Etc., etc. Human clinical studies have shown that Ginsengis an effective agent for the treatment of impotence and some types of infertility.
Ginseng has shown clear hypoglycemic action in laboratory animals. It canpromote the lowering of the blood glucose level, but it appears that Ginsengalone cannot prevent or treat diabetes. American Ginseng, it should be noted,has demonstrated a much stronger hypoglycemic effect than Asian Ginseng.
It has been proven that ginsenosides promote the synthesis of cholesterolbut decreases the cholesterol in animals with high cholesterol. It has likewisebeen proven that a peptide in the water extract of Ginseng has anti-fat formingaction.
Ginseng has shown significant anti-viral activity in laboratory animals.It has shown protection against a lethal challenge viral infection. In addition,Ginseng can magnify antiviral resistance induced by an interferon inducer.In vitro studies indicate that Ginseng can induce interferon production andaugment natural killer and antibody dependent cytotoxic activities in humanperipheral blood lymphocytes. Animal studies also indicate that Ginseng enhancesantibody forming cell response.
Panax Ginseng has been found to induce the production in human beings ofb and g-interferon. It augments natural killer and antibody dependent cytotoxicactivities in human blood lymphocytes. Ginsenoside Ra1 has a very strong effect on the cells of HL-60; and Ginsenoside Rh2, 20(R)-Rh2 and panaxadiol have stronger cytotoxicity effects on many kinds of tumor strains. Ginsenoside-Rb1and Rg1 both inhibited kidney, brain and liver microsome Na+, K+-ATPase activity.Ginsenoside-Re has the anti-lipid peroxidation effect, the prevention andcure effects during myocardial ischemia/reperfusion damage and protectiveeffect on cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury. Ginseng polypeptides and polysaccharides have been demonstrated to decreases the levels of blood sugar and liver glycogen in mice or rats without affecting total blood lipids. Ginseng volatile oil was shown to have an inhibitory effect on gastric cancer cell growth in vitro. Ginseng has been found to have a moderate but consistent inhibiting effect in vitro on human breast cancer when combined with Royal Jelly.
Ginseng is used in hundred of formulations. However, certain basic combinations are common. Combine with:
1. Atractylodes, Poria and Licorice Root to tonify qi
2. Astragalus, Atractylodes and Licorice Root to tonify qi more stronglyand with an emphasis on defensive qi
3. Jujube Dates to tonify the Stomach and Spleen and to build qi
4. Dioscorea to tonify Kidney and Spleen qi
5. Steamed Ginger to tonify the Spleen and Stomach
6. Deer Antler to tonify primal qi and yang
7. Rehmannia (steamed) to tonify the Kidney and Lungs
8. Aconite to tonify yang
9. Schizandra to tonify the Lungs and to build endurance
10. Dang Gui to tonify qi and blood
11. Dang Gui, White Peony, Rehmannia (steamed) and Ligusticum for completetonification of qi and blood
12. Cordyceps to tonify qi and blood, yin and yang
13. Gecko to tonify Kidney yang and Lung yin
14. Ophiopogon and Schizandra to regulate blood sugar balance and to tonifyqi
Varieties and Grading
In selecting a Ginseng root, or Ginseng product, the primary considerations are: the source of the root, the age and the method of processing of the root. Size, shape and aroma are also important criteria.
In general it can be assumed that the wilder, the older, and richer in flavor and aroma a root is the better. The source can make all the difference in the world and proper processing is essential. Authenticity is another important issue, as there are numerous ways to fake high quality ginseng and counterfeiting is rampant in the Ginseng market. Ultimately, however, the only real criterion is efficacy, the is, the bioactivity of the Ginseng and its various components. This is often subjective and may be overt or subtle. In general, Ginseng which grew in the best locations, that is old and wild, or semi-wild, or at least has been grown from superior seed stock, is older than eight years old and is rich in aroma is the kind you are looking for and will be profoundly efficacious.
Wild Ginseng Roots: Chinese wild Ginseng grows in deep shaded forests andhillsides of northeastern China ,Korea and Russia. It is a shy plant thattends to grow under other plants out of sight of humans. It is never foundnear stagnant water. Wild Ginseng is much more expensive than cultivated Ginseng. Virtually everybody believes that wild roots are more potent and more chemically balanced than cultivated roots, no matter how carefully the cultivation was handled. However, this is only partially true. First is the issue of authenticity. There is an ancient craft in China whereby skilled farmers can create what is known as “Art Ginseng.” Art Ginseng is created by hand crafting semi-wild Ginseng to look just like old mountain wild Ginseng. Artists are, of course, of different skills. In general, art Ginseng is sold more cheaply than real wild Ginseng. But whenever you are buying wild Ginseng, you should examine the roots and their heads very carefully to be sure that pieces have not been pasted together to give the appearance of an older root.
True wild Ginseng is not always perfectly shaped. It may be straight orit may be tortuously contorted. I have found that more contorted roots havemore potency. It is standard belief, now scientifically confirmed, that rootsthat have experienced extreme hardship, have themselves produced more adaptiveconstituents and are more potent adaptogenically.
Almost all wild Chinese Ginseng still has the rootlets attached. Chinesepeople call these rootlets the “beard.” The beard is very rich in ginsenosidesand germanium and should not be taken for granted, and certainly should neverbe discarded. There should be small nodules every inch or so along the rootlets.They feel like little pearls. No nodules—not wild.
There should be numerous striations circling the root, and the tighter the striations, the better. The striations indicate the hardship the root had to overcome to survive. A root without striations or with weak striationswill be weak, or may not in fact be wild at all. Typical cultivated Ginseng,for example, does not have striations. In determining the quality of a root,I look at the striations first, whether the root is large or small and nomatter what its source.
The head, or Ginseng rhizome, is the next thing to look at. The head isvery important because it tells you a great deal about the history of theroot. Supposedly, the number of notches in the head tell you how many yearsold a root is. This is probably true to a degree, but is not a perfect gauge.There is no way to judge the exact age of a Ginseng root. However, it is certain that the number of notches is a good approximation. Therefore the more notches the better, since older wild roots are considered to be better. Heads with more than twenty notches are premium—more than forty are awesome. There are roots on the market that are apparently as old as 150 years old. These are worth a fortune. An authentic one hundred year old root would certainlyearn its owner somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 in Hong Kong, Taiwanor Japan, and perhaps more if it came from a premium location such as ChangBai Mountain in China or the Diamond Mountain in North Korea. The head isthe main way that people judge the age of a Ginseng root, so it is also themain way that Ginseng Art is created. These “artists” skillfully paste togethertwo or three (or more) heads so that the head appears to be older than itreally is. Careful observation, however, can always reveal this type of counterfeiting.All you have to do is look carefully. I always look at the heads of very expensive roots with a magnifying glass. In fact, I look at all the details of expensive roots with a magnifying glass.
Red Ginseng: There are many kinds of red Chinese Ginseng. Ginseng can betreated with hot water, then steamed in a closed room, and finally dried,in the process of which it turns a glossy reddish brown. This is known asRed Ginseng. Some preparers add herbs to the steam water, which changes thequality of the Ginseng. Though North Korean Ginseng is prepared by a secretprocess, for example, it is widely assumed that the secret involves addingcertain herbs which add to the potency of the Ginseng. North Korean Ginsengis very yang and thus has a hot energy. It is probable that not only is thisthe result of harsh conditions during growth, but also to Yang herbs beingadded to the steam water.
There are several kinds of premium Red Ginseng grown is Asia. These include:North Korean Red, South Korean Red, Chinese Shih Chu Red, Korean semi-wildred and Chinese Emperors’ Tribute Red. All of these are absolutely great.
It is not legal to import North Korean Ginseng into the United States. However, it is widely distributed throughout the rest of the world and is sometimes available in America. Genuine North Korean Ginseng is considered by many connoisseurs of Ginseng to be the finest cultivated Ginseng in the world. It is very, very powerful. It is also very expensive, even in distributioncenters such as Hong Kong. North Korean Ginseng is very hot and very yang.It is generally used to provide increased physical power, especially physicaland marital power. North Korean Ginseng comes in three grades: Heaven, Earthand Man. Heaven Grade is the best and the most expensive. It also comes ina variety of sizes: 10, 15, 20, 25 and so on up to 45. The number representsthe number of roots that fit into a Chinese “pound” or “catty.” A catty weighs1.6 U.S. pounds. The description “Heaven Grade 15” Ginseng root means that15 Heaven Grade roots make one catty. In other words, the smaller the number,the larger the root. If you’re going to buy North Korean Ginseng, only buyHeaven Grade roots and don’t bother with a root smaller than a 30. I personallydon’t bother with roots smaller than a 20. Because larger roots are more potent, they therefore cost more—but it’s worth the cost.
As with all Ginseng, beware of counterfeits. North Koreans Ginseng is widelyimitated. Far more fake North Korean is sold than the real thing, especiallyin Hong Kong and in the United States. Real North Korean roots come out ofa metal can that has been neatly painted in the factory. It has a red labelwith art on both faces. Counterfeits have a paper label wrapped around thecan. I never buy a Ginseng root that came out of a tin can with a paper label.They’re virtually always counterfeit. Real North Korean Heaven Grade rootsare very tasty while imitations taste much more bland.
South Korean Red: South Korean Ginseng is of very high quality. The Koreanshave put enormous effort into making their Ginseng the best in the world.Recently, more and more, experts are saying that South Korean Ginseng is beginning to genuinely rival North Korean Ginseng. And South Korean Ginseng is legal in the United States. Therefore it is easy to obtain. It is not inexpensive, but it is less expensive than North Korean.
Just like North Korean, South Korean Ginseng is divided into Heaven, Earthand Man grades and is graded by size. Again, only Heaven Grade is truly great,and larger roots are better. If you buy a South Korean Heaven Grade 15 or20 root, you will appreciate its obvious potency.
Though South Korean Ginseng is widely counterfeited, there is also plentyof the real stuff around. Just check to make sure the root came out of a painted can and not a can wrapped in a paper label.
Semi-Wild Korean Red: Very rare and awesome. That says it all.
Semi-wild Korean Red Ginseng is virtually the same product as Shih Chu Ginseng grown in China, which I will describe next. It is grown in forest beds from wild seed and allowed to grow for at least ten years. It is harvest under exacting conditions and steamed. Generally, the beard is allowed to remain.
This is what Ginseng is all about. It is extremely effective. It gives you lots of energy that lasts and lasts. It effects your mind, too. You becomeclear, sharp, peaceful and optimistic. When I take this Ginseng, my confidencegrows and I feel smarter and wiser. It is not as physical as North KoreanRed, but that is not to say that it is not energizing. It is just smoother.It’s the best.
It does not come graded. All these roots tend to be large and truly beautiful.If they were graded, they would be 10’s or 15’s. And they have great heads—almostidentical to the heads on Shih Chu Ginseng. But semi-wild Korean red is extremelyrare. But don’t despair. There is some around—you just have to find thesource. Good luck in finding it.
Chinese Shih Chu: Many people in Asia consider this to be the finest redGinseng in the world. It is virtually the same as the semi-wild Korean Red.Again, wild seeds are collected and planted in forest beds, where the rootsare allowed to develop for a minimum of ten years before harvesting. Thistechnique is only practiced in one place in China, in the Shih Chu Valleyin Jilin near Korea. Supposedly, Shih Chu Valley has the best soil for growingGinseng in China.
Shih Chu Ginseng has precisely the same feel as semi-wild Korean Red. Itis powerful yet mild. It effects body and mind. It lifts the spirit and sharpensthe intellect. It is the perfect red Ginseng. However, there is a major caveat.Only large Heaven Grade Shih Chu is really good. Shih Chu, like Korean cultivated,comes in the three grades of Heaven, Earth and Man. Only Heaven Grade is grown from wild seed and allowed to remain in the ground for ten years. Only buy Heaven Grades 16, 20 or 24. Anything smaller is of less potency. It is always sold with the beard removed. And as always, watch out for counterfeit. Real Shih Chu Red Ginseng comes either in a painted metal can or a similarly designed cardboard box. If it comes in a tin can with a paper label, forget it—it’s fake.
This is probably the best Red Ginseng for the majority of people. It isnot as yang as the Korean reds, which is good for most people, and it is readily available. It is a stunning product and I personally find it to be the perfect tonic herb.
Chang Bai Mountain Red Ginseng: Ginseng is grown throughout the northeasternareas of China. The main province where Ginseng grows is Jilin Province, though some Ginseng comes from Heilongjiang, which is north of Jilin. This whole region was formerly known as Manchuria. It is widely believed that Ginseng originated in Manchuria. The finest Ginseng in the world comes from this region, and particularly from the Chang Bai Mountain area. Chang Bai Mountain is a spectacular volcanic mountain range which borders on North Korea. The last time that I visited Chang Bai Mountain, I was able to stop along the road and buy thirty-seven genuine wild roots from peasants who were hoping that a Ginseng-loving traveler might stop and buy their treasure. To me this was Ginseng Heaven! I was also able to stop on the mountain roads of Chang Bai Mountain and pick wild-growing Schizandra and observe Atractylodes, Peony and Acanthopanax (Siberian Ginseng) growing in their natural habitat.
Throughout the valleys surrounding Chang Bai, Ginseng is cultivated on a large scale. This Ginseng is of fine quality, though it is not as fine as Shih Chu. This Chang Bai Mountain Ginseng is highly favored by the Chineseand is the most common Ginseng used in China by Chinese connoisseurs. In Hong Kong, where the people are much richer, Shih Chu is far and away the favorite Chinese red Ginseng.
Jilin Red Ginseng: Throughout Jilin Province, Ginseng is grown. However,in general, the lower the altitude above sea level and the further from ChangBai Mountain, the lower the quality of the Ginseng. There is a considerableamount of medium to low grade Ginseng grown in Jilin that is used for commercialextractions and products. This Ginseng is a crap-shoot. Some is good, someis poor and some is useless. Most commercial products use this Ginseng. Theonly way to judge these products is by their overall efficacy. I myself tryto avoid all commercial grade Ginseng since it may contain pesticides. Somemanufacturers, however, are very conscious and use only pesticide-free Ginseng.These products tend to be more expensive.
Chinese Emperors’ Tribute Ginseng: During the Ching Dynasty, the emperorsof China developed a passion for Ginseng to the point that they set up a Ginseng preserve in Jilin Province, thus guarantying them and others of the imperial household an ample supply of premium Ginseng. This Ginseng became known as Emperors’ Tribute Ginseng. Though it of course disappeared after the Chinese revolution, it has again become available, but this time commercially—thatis, to the public. A small quantity of Ginseng which is grown in the samelocation and by the same techniques as available. The brother of the LastEmperor has been personally involved in reviving this Ginseng. It is of coursein very limited supply, but can be obtained from knowledgeable and very wellconnected Ginseng suppliers. This Ginseng was suitable for the Emperors ofChina and his wives and family. It is a connoisseurs dream.
It is graded like Korean Red and Shih Chu: Heaven, Earth and Man. Again,forget Earth and Man grades—they’re for Chinese peasants who simply cannotafford good Ginseng. Find Heaven Grade 25 or better or buy a different Ginseng.Price: about the same as Shih Chu.
White Ginseng: Both South Korea and China export a great deal of white Ginseng. White Ginseng is dried Ginseng that has not been steamed. It is either peeled and allowed to sun dry, or it is left to sun dry with its skin still intact. Most white Ginseng has been peeled. It is very difficult for the average person to judge the quality of white Ginseng. However, there are a few rules of thumb that can help.
1. Larger roots are usually better because they are probably older. Ginsengis not really mature until it is five years old. Larger roots were more likelyin the ground longer.
2. The roots should be clean looking and not too shriveled up. They shouldbe a light, uniform cream color, which may appear slightly powdery.
3. Roots with strings neatly binding the beard are usually of pretty goodquality.
4. Some excellent white roots do exist, and these are usually sold in individualboxes or otherwise individually. They tend to be neatly prepared. In fact,it is possible to buy Shih Chu white roots, though they are rare.
5. Korean white roots, in cans with government seals, are of good quality.I have always found that Korean white roots give good quality instant energy,but do not seem to provide the long term boost that you get from any of thered varieties described above. Korean white ginseng comes in different agesand sizes. Four year old roots are too young for my liking, but are widelyused by Korean doctors and as an energy beverage. Six year old, large whiteSouth Korean roots are good. I like them and recommend them. However, theyare in no way comparable to a Heaven Grade red root.
In general, the best roots are usually prepared as red roots in the Orient.White roots are milder and more yin than red roots. Red roots are simply more powerful, except for a few special varieties of white root. Occasionally you can find semi-wild white roots. These, of course, are extremely powerful and match the power of semi-wild red roots. Semi-wild roots, be they white or red, are very similar to true wild roots.
Standardized Ginseng Products: In an attempt to come to grips with thisincredibly wide range of Ginsengs, and the unpredictability of dosage andresults, the modern neutriceutical industry is attempting to set chemicalstandards by which Ginseng can be judged based on consistent chemistry. Thisis a superb idea, except that I do not believe that there is enough knownyet about Ginseng’s chemistry to base everything on one chemical standard.For example, I believe it is impossible to say that a 4% standardized ginsengfrom one company has any relevance to a 4% standardized extract from anothercompany. Different varieties of Ginseng will have different ratios of ginsenosideswhich will have an entirely different physiological effect. Ginsenosides extracted from Ginseng root are very different from the ginsenosides extracted from stems, rhizomes or leaves. Different extraction techniques will produce products with vastly different chemical make-ups. The resulting effects on one’s physiology will vary greatly.
Artificially standardizing Ginseng to a set level of ginsenosides is notan adequate means of judging the quality of the Ginseng you are consuming.Many other factors come into play, besides ginsenoside ratios and quantities,such as presence and quantities of other ingredients such as polysaccharides,germanium, etc. Though standardized Ginseng is consistent and undoubtedlybeneficial, I do not believe it is the source of the best Ginseng experienceyou can obtain. Whole Ginseng extracts from the best sources, properly andcaringly prepared, will always provide the best results, even if from batchto batch there may be some deviation of constituents.
The obvious advantage of standardization lies in the ability to do controlledclinical testing. Ginsana has conducted such studies, and studies have beenconducted on their product between 1980 and the present which have proventheir standardized Ginseng extract to be safe and effective. Such clinicaltrials clearly demonstrated that their product (G115) improves the generalphysical condition, improves mental performance, including learning ability,and enhances the non-specific immunologic functions of the body, thus improvingresistance. All-in-all, seven European clinical studies involving standardizedGinseng (4%) were conducted in the 1980’s, with results that demonstratedshortening of time to react to auditory and visual stimuli, improved visualand motor coordination, increased alertness, improved grasp of abstract concepts,improved concentration, and increased respiratory quotient. All of this isvaluable to most people, and it could easily be said that this makes 4% standardizedGinseng an ideal herb for athletes.
All authentic, high quality Ginseng should at least match, if not surpass,these results. But of course, it is important to be taking authentic Ginseng,and this is what standardization guaranties.
Biotechnology Ginseng: Very strict surrounding conditions, such as soil,climate, etc. are required for cultivating Ginseng. Therefore, the cultivationof Ginseng is very much limited by numerous biological factors. With the advances of modern biological techniques, many scientists in China, Japan, Korea and Russia have been investigating “tissue cultivation” and “cell cultivation”of Ginseng. They are also investigating cell cultivation in order to produceGinseng saponins in large quantities sufficient for industrial production.Japan, China and Russia are all racing to industrialize Ginseng cell culturetechnology.
Based on over a decade of research, Professor Ding Jiayi of China PharmaceuticalUniversity has developed the cultivation method. Ginseng tissue can be grownin tanks from cell culture, without the need to grow in the ground. ProfessorDing has painstakingly developed hundreds of strains of Ginseng cell culture,each with their own attributes based on the genome of that particular strain.In general, Professor Ding feels that there are four primary advantages toGinseng cell culture technology.
1. The quantity of Ginseng saponins can be very high. The crude saponincontents in cultured Ginseng cells can reach 22%, in contrast to the 4% whichis standard for earth-grown, sun-dried Ginseng. However, based on the genomeselected and on the nutrients provided to the cell culture, any percentageof saponins desired can be produced on a mass scales and under the completecontrol of the technicians. Furthermore, within a few years, Professor Dingis certain that specific ginsenosides can be generated in pre-defined ratios,that creating designer Ginseng which can have clearly defined pharmacologicalactivity based on the amounts and ratios of its constituents.
2. The content of bio-organic germanium (GE) is controllable. Based on genome selection, certain bio-technological methods and on the amount of inorganic germanium provided as a nutrient, the content of cultured cells can reach 100 ppm. or higher, while earth-cultivated Ginseng contains about 2 ppm. Even wild Ginseng contains only about 5 ppm. Therefore, Ginseng cell culture can become an economical means of producing bio-organic germanium as a specific supplement. Germanium has been cleared linked to the positive functioning of the human immune system and has been recognized in Japan and China as a cancer preventative agent.
3. The polysaccharide content of Ginseng cell culture can be higher thanthat of cultivated Ginseng. It has been established that these polysaccharidesare responsible for much of Ginseng’s immune potentiating ability. However,normal cultivated Ginseng has a low quantity of polysaccharides. Ginseng cell culture can thus be bio-technologically manipulated to be a stronger immune potentiating agent.
4. The superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in the cultured cells is farhigher than that of cultivated Ginseng. Dried earth-grown Ginseng retainsalmost no SOD activity. However, even after lyophilization, the SOD activityremains unchanged. This SOD activity makes Ginseng cell culture an ideal ingredient in anti-aging cosmetics for topical application, since SOD has been shown to slow the aging of skin.
This is the ultimate in standardization, however, this type of technologyprobably will become common or even prevalent in the next couple of decadesas the neutriceutical industry matures. There will always be a mass of peoplewho want the real herb, out of the earth. There will be others who preferstandardization. Certainly, for some medical purposes, standardized extractswill be appropriate, but for pure life enhancement and the development ofthe three treasures, nature will always remain supreme
All authorities agree that Ginseng has a very low acute and chronic toxicity. Over the period of more than two thousand years of continuous use, Ginseng has gained a reputation as being a strong herb, but one which is free of real side effects when used moderately and appropriately. Italian researchers have shown that 2,100 mg/kg of Ginseng extract given orally in standard toxicity studies gave no indication of acute toxicity. Long-term, chronic toxicity studies likewise have proven Ginseng to have no side effects.
Excessive intake may cause headaches or muscle tension in people of a Yangconstitution. Yang varieties of Ginseng should be used with caution and moderatelyby people with a Yang constitution or by any one who is experiencing hot conditions. Ginseng is not to be used by anyone experiencing an acute fever, sore throat, or influences. It may be resumed
Ginseng has been known in Chinese ethnolpharmacology for more than 3000 years. In fact, it is commonly believed in China that the first Emperor, Huang Ti, also known as the Yellow Emperor (2698-2589 BC), used Ginseng. Written records of Ginseng reach back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). Ginseng described in the Spirit Farmer’s Pharmacopoeia, the original Chinese materia medica as follows:
“Ginseng is nourishing to the five internal organs, it is sweet in taste,it contains no toxicity, it calms and stabilizes the spirit, eliminates palpitations,prevents fright and stops terror, removes evil Qi (pathogenic factors), improveseyesight, opens the heart, brightens the mind, strengthens the memory, benefitswisdom and long-term administration of Ginseng will lighten the body and prolong lifespan.”
Ginseng was further established as the primary tonic herb of Chinese herbalismby the true father of Chinese medicinal herbalism, Zhang Zhong-Jing, in thethird century AD In his famous, remarkable and still-used herbal text, “Treatiseon Febrile Diseases,” Zhang used Ginseng in 20% of the formulas he createdand in most of these cases, Ginseng was the main ingredient of the formula.These formulations are still memorized and utilized to this day by all practitionersof Chinese Traditional Medicine.
From that time on, Ginseng became the object of great desire. It was collectedin the mountains as well as in open country by farmers and even by professionalGinseng hunters. It took little time for the natural wild supply to becomescarce. In “The Record of Shi Le,” written around 350 AD, there is a descriptionof how Shi Le first cultivated Ginseng. Mr. Shi, who lived in Shanxi province,recollected in this autobiography how he was selling wild Ginseng for a verygood profit. One day, he decided to transplant a small piece of wild Ginsengrhizome into his garden, where he cultivated it into a large root that hesold for a huge profit. Ginseng cultivation has thus been practiced for morethan 1700 years.
This was the first act in the development of Ginseng cultivation in China.The history of Ginseng cultivation can be divided into three stages: 1. transplantationof wild-growing Ginseng and domestic cultivation of it; 2. the collectionof the seed of wild-growing Ginseng and artificial breeding of them; and 3. artificially breeding and purification of seeds and large scale production.In fact, all three stages still occur in China and Korea today.
Korea became knowledgeable of Ginseng about five centuries after China and Japan appears to have first made use of Ginseng seven centuries after China. It has been grown in South Habaluofska, in Eastern Russia, for at least 800 years. All Asian societies have developed strong Ginseng cultures through the centuries.
In 1274, Marco Polo, during his famous extended stay in China, found Ginsengto be widely used, and to be especially popular among the Chinese nobility,including the emperor and his family.
Among the very first descriptions of Asian Ginseng by a non-Asian was writtenby Father Joseph Petrus Jartoux. Father Jartoux was serving as a missionaryin China during the reign of Emperor Kang and in 1709 he was commissionedby the Emperor to draw a map of Manchuria. While on a surveying expeditionto Manchuria, which is now the northeaster frontier of China, he wrote thefollowing description of Ginseng in a report to his superior:
Peking, April 12, 1711
The map of Tartary, which we made by order of the Emperor of China, gaveus an opportunity to see the famous plant ginseng, so much esteemed in Chinaand so little known in Europe. Towards the end of July 1709 we arrived ata village not above four small leagues distant from the Kingdom of Korea,which is inhabited by those Tartars called Calca tatze. One of these Tartarswent and found upon the neighboring mountains four plants of the ginseng,which he brought us entire in a basket….
The most eminent physicians in China have writ whole volumes upon the virtuesand qualities of this plant and make it an ingredient in almost all remedieswhich they give to their chief nobility, for it is of too high a price forthe common people. They affirm, that it is a sovereign remedy for all weaknessesoccasioned by excessive fatigues either of body or mind, that it dissolvespituitous humors, that it cures weakness of the lungs and the pleurisy, thatit stops vomitings, that it strengthens the stomach and helps the appetite,that it disperses fumes or vapors, that it fortifies the breast, and is aremedy for short or weak breathing, that it strengthens the vital spiritsand increases lymph in the blood, in short, that it is good against dizzinessof the head and dimness of sight. and that it prolongs life in old age.
Nobody can imagine that the Chinese and Tartars would set so high a valueupon this root if it did not constantly produce a good effect. Those thatare in health often make use of it to render themselves more vigorous andstrong, and I am persuaded that it would prove an excellent medicine in thehands of any European who understands pharmacy….
It is certain that it subtilizes, increases the motion of, and warms theblood, that it helps digestion and invigorates in a very sensible manner.After I had illustrated the root, I observed the state of my pulse, and thentook half of the root, raw as it was and unprepared: an hour after I foundmy pulse much fuller and quicker, I had an appetite, and found myself muchmore vigorous, and could bear labor much better and more easily than before.
But I did not rely on this trial alone, imagining that this alteration might proceed from the rest that we had that day: but four days after, findingmyself so fatigued and weary that I hardly could sit on horseback, a mandarinwho was in company with us perceiving it, gave me one of these roots: I tookhalf of it immediately, and a half hour after I was not the least sensibleof any weariness. I have often made use of it since, and always with the same success.”
Jartoux went on in the report to tell how the Emperor sent out ten thousandmen on a wild ginseng hunt to assure that the imperial palace would have an ample supply.
Such massive Ginseng hunts and intensive hunting by Chinese peasants resultedin near exhaustion of the natural wild supply in northeast China. Wild Ginsengis now very rare. Emperor Kang and subsequent Ching Dynasty emperors createdlarge Ginseng preserves in what is now Jilin Province, where the punishmentfor hunting Ginseng could be death. The best Ginseng is believed to come from this region. To this day, the Ginseng grown in the area of the former preserves is considered especially fine and is the favorite of Ginseng connoisseursaround the world. Special Ginseng from this region, called “Emperor’s Tribute”Ginseng is sometimes available even today. This Ginseng is especially famousbecause it was the favorite of the last emperor of China.
Prior to 1949, very little Ginseng was grown for commercial use in China.Poor economic conditions made matters even worse. Mao Zi Dong, however, declaredherbs to be China’s “treasure house,” and from that time on the Ginseng industryhas been steadily growing.
All forms of Ginseng are highly treasured in Hong Kong, where it is bothheavily used and where it is a major trade item. A very substantial amountof the world’s Ginseng trade takes place in Hong Kong, which for nearly halfa century has been China’s main outlet to the rest of the world. From 1990through 1993, over 7 million pounds of Ginseng was imported into Hong Kong,most of which was re-exported. This represents a five-fold increase in theimportation of Chinese Ginseng in just a five year period, which coincideswith the opening up of China and development of China’s market economy. Asfor Hong Kong consumption of Ginseng, statistics indicate that between 50and 60% of Hong Kong residents consume Ginseng.
Ginseng has likewise been extremely important in the culture of Korea. The Ginseng industry is huge and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Ginseng is grown and exported each year. The Ginseng industry in South Korea is highly regulated by the government and has been developed into a world-class industry. However, no wild Ginseng still exists in Korea, or at least ever becomes available. My teacher, Sung Jin Park told me that in the mountains around Pusan, on the West coast of China, the and Buddhist hermits who still live there, routinely find wild roots, but that they are extremely well hidden and that it takes a true expert to find one. It is safe to say that they are too rare to consider obtaining in practicality, unless, of course, you are closely connected to a hermit living in the mountains of western South Korea.