Where the Ginseng Grows

“You have great physical powers and an iron constitution.”–fortune cookie

ginseng I recently received a gift of ginseng tea from my family. Ginseng’s genus is panax, coming from the Greek word for “all cure.” It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years.

A finicky plant, it doesn’t like being exposed to direct sunlight. That’s why growers will provide a shading structure for the sprouts, shrouding them in 75% shade. Ginseng also needs “virgin soil” because it utilizes all the minerals in the ground. When those micronutrients are depleted, the same soil cannot be used to produce ginseng again.

There is an Asian and an American version (the U.S. one is known as Panax quinquefolius). While the Eastern version has yang properties (stimulating qualities), the Western type offers yin traits (calming effects). Its numerous health benefits include:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Lowering blood sugar levels
  • Promoting weight loss
  • Treating indigestion
  • Increasing energy

In the United States, Wisconsin is a high producer of ginseng. It started when Paul Hsu decided to pursue the “green gold,” switching from social work into becoming the first Taiwanese ginseng farmer in the United States. In the 1970s, he started a mail order business to sell ginseng to Chinese people living in the States. Eventually, his business expanded overseas.

The recent gift I received was from Canada, where they offer wild ginseng. Canadian harvesting began in 1716 when a Jesuit priest heard about the healing root; he ended up scouring the forests for the plant and discovered some growing near Montreal.

Ginseng can be cooked in a soup, steeped for tea, or chewed on raw (I wouldn’t recommend the latter unless you’re a fan of medicinal root taste).

Have you ever tried ginseng? Gotten any health benefits from it?

 

 

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