Since the beginning of time, herbs have been important for man. As early people foraged for food, discovering which plants were edible, they also found plants with medicinal qualities. These medicinal plants were highly valued as they gave people a means of treating health problems. As people's experience with herbs grew they noted specific qualities of different herbs. For example, some herbs promoted sweating, which helped when a person was in the early stage of a cold. Some herbs had anti-rheumatic properties and eliminated pain in the joints, still other herbs had diuretic properties or were found to calm the spirit thus treating insomnia or mental disturbances.
One of the most common herbs available is ginseng. Ginseng has a long history in China as a tonic herb. In Chinese the name for ginseng is Renshen or man root because it look like a little man. The ginseng root was traditionally boiled in a tea but nowadays it is found in many products, such as prepared teas, capsules, liquid extracts, and in energy drinks. Ginseng is highly respected in the Orient and is a very important herb in the herb category of Replenishing and Tonifying herbs. In fact, it is the most important of the Qi tonifying herbs. Qi (pronounced “chee” as in cheese) is a term used to describe vital functions and/or substances of the body. Qi is said to animate all living beings. Qi tonifying herb's main action is to tonify or strengthen the Qi of the Lungs or Spleen, which in turn helps transform oxygen and food nutrients into usable energy.
There are two types of ginseng: wild and cultivated. The wild type is extremely rare, which makes it incredibly expensive if some is available. Roots selling for tens of thousands of dollars are not unheard of. Most of the world trade in ginseng consists almost exclusively of cultivated plants. Ginseng grows in China and Korea. In the United States there is a related plant called American Ginseng is grown in the northeastern part of the US. Wisconsin has some very good American Ginseng. Ginseng is a perennial plant. The root is collected in the spring or autumn, and is thoroughly dried before use.
The Chinese have given ginseng four traditional actions. They are: 1) Tonify Qi; it is indicated for patients after severe hemorrhage who have pallor, weak pulse, and cold extremities. 2) Tonify Qi and strengthen Spleen; it treats cough and asthma due to Lung Qi deficiency and diarrhea and abdominal distension due to spleen deficiency. 3). Relieve thirst; it treats body fluid deficiency. 4). Calms the Spirit; it treats insomnia and spontaneous sweating due to deficiency of Qi and Blood.
Research in China substantiates the traditional actions of ginseng and has given us more information on this herb. It has been shown that: a) Ginseng could increase thinking efficiency; b) It could relieve fatigue, improve appetite and sleep. A small dose could speed up the rate of the heart; c). It can promote the production of blood cells; d). It could treat high cholesterol in the blood; e). It is effective to increase the ratio of albumin/globumin in certain diseases; and f). The leaf and stalk of the ginseng plant can treat Addison's Disease.
The common dose of ginseng is 1.5 to 9 grams. It can be taken in many ways. The most common way is as a tea. To make ginseng tea, take a giseng root or part of a root and put it in a pot with four cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then boil vigorously for ten minutes. Then lower to a medium boil for about 35 minutes. When done, you should have about two cups of concentrated tea left. Drink one-half to one cup. Be careful not to use too much as ginseng can be very stimulating and it may interfere with your sleep. Ginseng can also be chewed. You can cut a ginseng root into small pieces (you need to soften it first to cut it) and then put a small piece in your mouth. It will slowly dissolve as it mixes with your saliva until it is all gone.
Ginseng cannot be used for just any problem. It is contraindicated when someone gets hot easily, has an irritable or angry nature or has high blood pressure, also don't use it if you are sick with a cold.
In summary, ginseng is a strong tonic for general use, vitalizing and calming the mind and the functions of the body.
Where to get ginseng: One of the best sources of Chinese herb products, including ginseng is East Earth Trade Winds (www.eastearthtrade.com). Established in 1985 they have a good reputation for quality products and good service. They are listed as a source of Chinese herbs in over 60 books. On their website you can buy whole ginseng roots (American ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, and semi-wild Yi-sun ginseng). You can also buy Korean, American, or Siberian Ginseng in capsules. They also have hundreds of other Chinese herb products for treating minor health complaints or to be used as tonics.