(Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer)
Ginseng is a small perennial plant originating from the Araliaceae family.
There are several types of ginseng. Ginseng proper, or Chinese ginseng, also known as Asian or Asiatic ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer), is found in mountain forests of eastern Asia, as is Korean ginseng (Korean Panax ginseng). Other popular ginseng varieties include Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and Japan ginseng (Panax japonicum), found in Japan, India and southern China.
Probably everyone has some idea of what ginseng root looks like, but how about the remaining part of this plant?
Ginseng proper is a small perennial plant. It develops a fleshy, thickened root that is not very branched, and from there, a hollow stem grows, reaching up to 70cm in height. Ginseng leaves are cauline, long-petiolate and arranged in a circle. Its yellow-green flowers are united in umbels.
Ginseng develops very slowly, and consistently, after 8-10 years of germination from a seed, the root reaches a weight of only 10g, and it needs 20-25 years to reach a weight of 20g. In plantations, its rate of growth is somewhat faster, but the fact remains that ginseng is one of the most expensive herb in the world.
In autumn, during the ginseng fruiting period, whole roots are dug out when they reach a weight of at least 10 grams.
Roots from cultivation are harvested from plants aged 4-6 years; to enhance the durability of the root, it is sterilised by steam, and then dried. Because it is so valuable, counterfeit ginseng is often offered as raw material.
Ginseng root offers versatile benefits for the human body.
Ginseng owes its properties to active substances called ginsenosides. It is thanks to them that ginseng has so broad a spectrum of benefits for the human body. Not only does ginseng exert a calming effect, it also lowers blood pressure and contributes to the proper functioning of blood vessels and the heart. It also stimulates the immune system, promotes normal cholesterol levels and helps normalise blood sugar levels.
Ginseng root is a valuable adaptogen.
Adaptogens are defined as substances that help the body regain balance. Constant stress and fatigue is what marks the present age. It is a good idea to reach for substances that naturally help the body adapt to the challenging conditions of everyday life. In nature, there is a large number of plant components that demonstrate an adaptogenic effect. One of them is ginseng root. Due to its properties, ginseng root is used as a toning and strengthening agent to help cope with fatigue and weakness, reduced productivity and poor concentration. It is also used during convalescence. It supports the body’s adaptability to the changed conditions, including stress.
Ginseng owes its generic name – Panax (from Greek panakes – ‘all-healing’), to Carl Linnaeus, who named the plant in 1763.
The name ginseng derives from the Chinese words Zhen-Czien, translated to mean ‘man-root’, for how the shape of ginseng root often resembles the shape of a human body. It is one of the oldest plants used in folk medicine. It is believed that in the countries of East Asia it has been known for 5,000 years and had a range of common names including ‘root of life’, ‘man-root’, ‘cure-all’, ‘divine herb’, ‘elixir of life’, and many others.