Ginseng is a species of plant that grows a thick, fleshy root resembling the shape of a human figure, hence its nickname, the “man root". Some people confuse it with ginger, which also produces a thick root, but they are two entirely different herbs.
Ginseng roots are known to have many health benefits and are frequently used in herbal medicine to treat illness and improve overall health. They have been used in both traditional Native American medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for hundreds of years.
While the wild plants are an endangered species due to poaching and overharvesting, it can still be found in Appalachia and other temperate forests across North America. However, ginseng is also cultivated across central Wisconsin due to the region’s ideal soil and climate. This supplies the growing demand without driving the plant to extinction. It is highly recommended to avoid purchasing wild ginseng to conserve the plant in its natural habitat.
Ginseng refers to two different plants which are found in the Panax genus. These species are American ginseng (L. Panax quinquefolius) and Korean or Asian ginseng (L. Panax ginseng). While there are some slight differences in the compounds found within American ginseng roots compared to Korean ginseng roots, the primary difference between these two plants is the location in which they grow and how they are prepared after harvesting. Korean ginseng is steamed in large steaming warehouses after it is harvested. This transforms some of the compounds found within the roots and gives them a reddish hue. This is why Korean ginseng is often called "red" ginseng while American ginseng is referred to as "white" ginseng. American ginseng is chilled after harvest and then is air dried. The chilling and drying process preserves the natural compounds found within the roots. In order to get effects similar to Korean ginseng from dried American ginseng, the roots can be steamed at a high temperature to transform the naturally occurring ginsenoside compounds.
In Greek, the definition of the word Panax means “all-healing". Only the species of plants classified under the genus Panax can be referred to as true ginseng. Some plants use the word “ginseng" as a nickname such as “Siberian ginseng", which is truly named eleuthero (L. Eleutherococcus senticosus), or “Indian ginseng" which is actually called ashwagandha (L. Withania somnifera). While these plants do have some health benefits, it is important to note that they are not true ginseng plants and do not contain the same health beneficial compounds.
Due to the large amount of nutrients found in the ginseng root, consuming it on a regular basis can greatly improve health. It contains a variety of trace minerals which many people lack in their diets. These minerals include potassium (K), phosphorus (P), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), silicon (Si) and selenium (Se). Ginseng is also known to contain vitamin E and B vitamins such as vitamin B7 and B12. Most importantly, the plant produces unique gintonin and ginsenoside compounds which are responsible for the majority of the plant’s health benefits.
American ginseng is used to treat a variety of conditions, improve stress response and improve mental performance while promoting overall health and wellbeing. Scientific studies have shown many potential health benefits of ginseng which are listed in the next section. In tradtional medicine, consuming American ginseng is thought to have a cooling effect on the body which helps with excess heat, stress, physical exertion and overstimulation.
The older a plant gets, the more potent the root becomes. However, it is important to note that ginseng is often mislabeled as being older than it actually is. Typically, the maximum age for cultivated roots is 3 to 5 years. Wild ginseng can be older, but it is significantly more expensive since it is an endangered species that is at risk of extinction due to overharvesting.
It is a common misconception that larger ginseng roots are more potent than smaller roots. This is because larger ginseng roots tend to be older, however this is not always the case. In reality, all roots that are the same age and from the same location have the same strength, regardless of size or thickness. This is why it is always recommended to check the age and origin instead of purchasing based on size.
American ginseng falls into one of three categories based on how it is grown. These categories are wild, wild-simulated (which is also called woodsgrown), or cultivated.
Wild grown American ginseng plants are those which have not been tended to by humans. Since it is an endangered species due to overharvesting, it can be incredibly expensive and difficult to find. Many ginseng roots are falsely advertised as wild when they are actually cultivated or woodsgrown.
Harvest of wild ginseng is strictly regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in addition to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the United States. Wild ginseng harvesters, also known as “hunters" or “diggers", are required to attain special permits in order to harvest the plant and are only allowed to do so during a specific harvest season. If you are purchasing wild ginseng, be sure to check that it is ethically harvested and the seller follows all laws regarding the sale of an endangered species.
Wild-simulated or woodsgrown ginseng are plants which have been artificially propagated in a forest. This means growers plant the seeds and allow them to grow in the natural shade provided by trees.
Cultivated ginseng requires more labor to grow than wild-simulated ginseng, but wild-simulated ginseng is not enough to meet the market demand. This is because ginseng can only be grown once on a plot of land and it is impossible to grow a future ginseng crop in the same location. Other species of plants are still able to grow, but older ginseng plants prevent younger ginseng plants from growing nearby even decades after a crop is harvested. This is thought to be due to a phytochemical that older plants excrete into the soil. As a result, it is not viable to produce wild-simulated ginseng on a large scale.
Since the ginseng plant must be grown in shade, cultivated ginseng is artificially propagated under wooden slats or shade cloths which are suspended over the fields. Cultivated ginseng can be planted closer together which allows for more efficient use of land. When buying ginseng, always inquire about the growing practices used and try to purchase directly from the farm where it is grown.
Ginseng has many potential health benefits which are supported by scientific research. One of the most commonly cited benefits is reducing fatigue and providing smooth energy. Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that ginseng significantly reduced fatigue in cancer patients undergoing chemo radiation treatment. Check out the results of this study here. Ginseng also works to combat overstimulation which can occur from consuming too much caffeine. This is why it is often taken in combination with tea or coffee.
Evidence has also shown that ginseng may improve focus and short term memory. This is thought to be due to improving dopamine production and regulation in the brain. The study related to ginseng and dopamine can be found here. This means that ginseng may be helpful in treating a variety of neurological conditions such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Further research about treating these neurological disorders using the neuroprotective effects of ginseng is linked here.
Another great benefit is improving immune system function. Ginseng is known to stimulate immune fuction and may help the body fight against a variety of viruses or other illnesses. Research showed ginseng could both prevent and reduce the severity of upper respiratory illnesses including colds and flu when compared to a placebo. Read the full study here.
Ginseng is also a known adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens are compounds that mitigate the negative effects of stress. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditional Research, consuming ginseng lowered levels of stress cortisol which is a hormone released when undergoing stressful experiences. Cortisol can impair cognitive function and glucose metabolism as well as increase blood pressure. Cortisol can also have long term effects such as increased abdominal fat, lowered immunity and even decreases in bone density and muscle tissue. Since ginseng can reduce cortisol levels and improve glucose metabolism, it may also promote weight loss.
Recently, there have been promising studies which have shown that ginseng may help in the fight against cancer. One study showed that those who used ginseng had a significantly decreased risk of cancer. This study can be found here. Another study showed that, when used during cancer treatment, it improved the results of chemotherapy. Check out the research report at this link.
In addition, ginseng contains many antioxidants which are known to scavenge free radicals and reduce inflammation. Inflammation can often be the cause or symptom of many illnesses. This includes joint inflammation associated with arthritis as well as inflammation of the digestive system or other internal organs. These anti-inflammatory effects were investigated in the Journal of Translational Medicine which can be found here.
A variety of compounds found within the ginseng plant are responsible for these health benefits. In addition to many essential vitamins and minerals, over 20 different biologically active compounds have been identified such as gintonin and ginsenosides Re, Rb1, Rb2, Rg1, Rg2, Rg3, Rh1, Rh2 and Rh3. Since the effects of each one of these compounds is not directly linked to a specific health benefit, it is important to take a full spectrum extract that is made using whole ginseng roots.
Research has shown that ginseng may help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce instances of hypoglycemia (high glucose) in both diabetics and pre-diabetics. This is because ginseng can significantly reduce insulin resistance which is the root cause of diabetes. Many diabetics have tried supplementing with ginseng and reported more stabilized blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Ginseng is frequently used as an aphrodisiac to enhance desire and increase libido because it may increase the body’s ability to produce testosterone in men or estrogen in women. It is most commonly used for this purpose by men because it is also known to improve longevity and male performance. This is because ginseng can potentially boost nitric oxide (NO) production in the body. Nitric oxide (NO) is a vasodilator which means it widens blood vessels and allows for more blood flow just like prescription medications such as sildenafil, which is the generic name for Viagra, or tadalafil, the generic name for Cialis. Ginseng can be used as a natural alternative to these erectile dysfunction (ED) medications. When using ginseng to enhance male sexual performance, it is recommended to take higher doses every day for a period of a few weeks to achieve the full effect. The best way to do this is by supplementing with a 500 to 1000 mg dose of concentrated liquid extract up to 3 times per day.
While periodic use may provide some of the benefits, the best way to use ginseng is to take it consistently. Ginseng is an adaptogen that takes time to build up in the body before its full effects are reached. It is recommended to take 500 to 1000 mg 1 to 2 times per day for at least 30 days. Some like to cycle on and off of ginseng every few months, but this process is not necessary to retain the effects. However, taking it continuously without cycling may require slightly increasing the dosage over time.
Side effects from ginseng are rare and typically occur when it is taken in very large doses. These side effects include headache, indigestion and insomnia. Other possible side effects include agitation, increased risk of bleeding and changes in blood pressure. Ginseng is known to lower blood sugar, so diabetics should start with small dosages and carefully monitor blood sugar levels while using ginseng.
Since ginseng can cause the immune system to become more active, do not take ginseng after an organ transplant or if you have been diagnosed with an auto-immue disease without first consulting a doctor. Consult a doctor before using ginseng if you have been diagnosed with a severe heart condition. It is not recommended to take ginseng during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Even though ginseng can help the body relax from stress, it can also increase alertness so higher doses may disrupt sleep. When first starting to use ginseng, it is recommended to start with a smaller dose and take it in the morning. As you learn how it affects your body, you can increase the dosage and take it later into the day. To ensure restful sleep, abstain from taking ginseng right before bed.
Ginseng works best when the ginsenoside and gintonin nutrients are dissolved into a liquid. This is because liquids are much easier for the body to absorb compared to solid roots, powder, pills or capsules. Studies have shown that the digestive system is able to absorb up to 50% more nutrients from a liquid extract when compared to a solid supplement.
The easiest and most effective way to take ginseng is to use a liquid extract, but the same benefits can also be achieved by drinking ginseng tea.
The best temperature to make sure all of the ginsenoside and gintonin nutrients are extracted is to use hot, but not boiling, water at temperature of 208 °F or 98 °C. At this temperature, all of the compounds naturally found within the American ginseng roots are preserved. However, if you want effects similar to Asian or Korean ginseng, it is recommended to steam the root at a high temperature for at least 30 minutes.
The smallest recommended dose is 500 mg or ½ of a gram. This is about ¼ to ⅓ of a teaspoon of ginseng powder. This is equivalent to 30 drops or 1.5 ml of our liquid American ginseng extract. While this is the minimum recommended dosage, a more typical dose is 2 to 3 grams a day. This can be taken all at once in the morning or spaced out into 2 or 3 separate doses. It is recommended not to take ginseng too late into the evening as it may disrupt sleep.
Since each body can respond differently, it is recommended to start with a lower dose. First, take 1-2 grams per day. This can then be increased until the desired effects are achieved. While there have been very few reported problems from taking too much ginseng, the maximum recommended dosage is about 6 grams per day as taking more than this is unlikely to yield any additional benefits.
Making ginseng tea is easy! Tea can be made using tea-cut ginseng, pre-made tea bags, whole roots or powder. Simply steep the ginseng in water that is 208 °F or 98 °C. Powder only takes a minute to steep, tea-cut takes 2-3 minutes and whole roots can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on thickness.
Ginseng works great in combination with other adaptogenic herbs. This causes a synergistic effect meaning that it can enhance the effects of both herbs when taken together. Herbs which work together with ginseng to enhance brain function and improve immune system health are rhodiola rosea (also called golden root), astragalus (referred to as huáng qí in TCM), elderberry and echinacea.
Another herb which is often used with ginseng to improve memory, increase focus and enhance mental performance is ginkgo biloba which is also known as the maidenhair tree. Some studies have even shown that the combination of ginseng and ginkgo biloba leaves may be an effective treatment for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Ginseng has a bittersweet flavor that many people love, however it can be an acquired taste. If you are trying to enhance the flavor of your ginseng tea, honey is the answer! Not only is the combination of ginseng and honey delicious, but honey can also provide additional health benefits. Honey is rich in nutrients and antioxidants which can help improve heart health alongside ginseng by lowering triglycerides and balance cholesterol levels.
If you are trying to improve the taste of liquid ginseng extract, the flavor can be easily covered by mixing it into a flavored beverage like apple juice. This can also be a great way to maintain focus and energy by sipping the infused beverage throughout the day.
Dried roots and powder must be kept dry in a low humidity environment. They can be stored in an airtight plastic bag or container, but the best way to store ginseng is in a glass jar since this forms the tightest seal against moisture. It is also important to keep it away from bright light as this can degrade some of the fragile nutrient compounds after a long period of time.
Dried ginseng can last for over 5 years as long as it is kept dry and stored in a dark place like a cupboard. If it is kept longer than this, it may lose some flavor and potency. Fresh ginseng can last for a few weeks as long as it is kept refrigerated.
Our liquid ginseng extract can be stored at room temperature (below 72 °F or 22 °C) for up to 12 months after the manufacturing date that is listed on the bottom of the bottle. Refrigerating is not necessary as long as it is kept at or below room temperature. Do not allow the extract to freeze as this may cause the liquid to separate when it is thawed.
Dried ginseng roots and powder do not need to be refrigerated, however fresh ginseng roots should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent them from spoiling.
While storing dried ginseng roots or powder in the freezer is not necessary, it does not hurt and it keeps the roots away from sunlight. Make sure to seal it in an airtight bag or container before it is placed in the freezer. Do not freeze liquid ginseng extract.
American ginseng is native to temperate deciduous forests throughout North America. It is primarily found in the midwest, Ozark and Appalachian regions of the United States as well as eastern Canada. However, cultivated ginseng is most commonly grown in central Wisconsin due to its ideal growing conditions.
The best place to buy ginseng is directly from the farm where it is grown. This avoids any possibility of false advertising and ensures it is authentic and high quality. Our farm has been growing roots for decades and now offers our product directly to consumers through our website. This allows us to provide the best prices for our customers by eliminating retail markup while maintaining the highest quality standards. Ordering farm-direct is the best option for both the farm and the customer.
Wisconsin ginseng is simply American ginseng that is grown in Wisconsin. It is well known throughout the world because ginseng grown in Wisconsin is often much higher quality than ginseng grown in any other location due to a variety of factors.
Central Wisconsin is the ideal place to grow American ginseng due to the perfect soil and temperate climate. Due to these conditions, American ginseng grown in Wisconsin is known to have higher levels of ginsenosides than ginseng grown anywhere else in the world.
The soil in Central Wisconsin is rich in nutrients, but is also sandy enough to drain quickly after heavy rains. This is essential because ginseng plants do not grow well in a moist environment. Fields that stay too wet for too long allow fungus to grow on the plants which cannot be stopped without the application of fungicides.
In addition, in order to reach maximum potency, ginseng roots must be subjected to long and cold winters. The frozen soil causes the ginsenosides, vitamins and minerals to accumulate in the roots at higher concentrations which produces a crop with more health benefits.
Ginseng is a very difficult to cultivate due to fungus and other blights which can kill the plants. Therefore, it is almost impossible to cultivate ginseng without the use of some compounds to prevent disease and improve plant health. While this means our ginseng is not organic certified, we do follow all growing practices including testing to make sure that our products are 100% safe for consumption.
There are multiple reasons that ginseng sells for such a high price compared to other herbs. First, ginseng is an incredibly temperamental and labor intensive crop to produce. Since it grows best in shade, large shaders must be constructed over the ginseng gardens. In addition, to avoid using fungicide, these shaders must be periodically moved to allow the fields to vent moisture after rain to prevent the growth of fungus. Next, in order to keep the plants alive without using herbicide, the plants must be weeded by hand multiple times per year. Finally, when the crop is harvested, the roots must all be sorted by hand to remove any roots which are damaged or discolored before they are dried and sorted by size.
These high costs for construction supplies and labor are further compounded by the fact that ginseng can only be grown once on a plot of land and takes at least 4 years to reach maturity. Once a field has been harvested, the land can be used to grow other crops, but it is impossible to grow another crop of ginseng. It though that a phytochemical excreted by older plants into the soil is what prevents the growth of younger ginseng plants even decades later. Farmers have tried to plant new ginseng fields on top of old fields that haven’t been planted in nearly 100 years, but this phytochemical is still present and causes the crop to grow so poorly that it is not worth the effort of planting.
Can ginseng be brought into China?
There is a rumor that American Ginseng cannot be taken back to China. This is just a rumor. As long as it is for gifts or personal use, American Ginseng can be carried along when traveling. It is rare that when taking ginseng when traveling to China, it will be detained but taking the following precautions, will minimize this from happening.
- Packing quantities of five pounds or less
- It is suggested to pack ginseng in your carry-on luggage