The name ‘ginseng’ is derived from the Chinese word ‘jen-shen’ (human plant) due to the shape of its root which is similar to a human body. There are other varieties of Ginseng such as Canadian ginseng, Asian ginseng, Korean ginseng, and Siberian ginseng. However, the two most famous types are American ginseng (prevalent in the Appalachian and Ozark regions) and the Asian ginseng.
American Ginseng – Fact Sheet
|Scientific Name||Panax Quinquefolius|
|Plant Family||Araliaceae family|
|Country of Origin||Northeastern America, Canada & China|
|Plant Height||0.75 to 1.5 feet (20 inches max)|
|Length of Leaves||25cm (10inches)|
|Years Nurtured before Harvesting||5 years|
|Years to Mature||8 to 10 years|
|Parts of the Plant Used||Roots|
|Best Time to Grow||Mid-august to mid-December before the temperatures dipped and the ground freezes|
Many Native American tribes used American ginseng for all types of problems relating to digestive disorders and everyday sexual issues. The Chinese began to use American ginseng after it was imported in the early part of the 18th century. The usage in China is significantly different than that of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and there is little knowledge about the uses by native groups. However, American ginseng is one of the five most essential medicines used by the aged for a variety of reasons.
The leaves are beautifully curled and usually, there are three leaves where each is divided into five leaflets. Their size varies between 0.75 to 1.5 feet and spreads around the same area. The flowers are up to 0.25 cm (0.1 inches) wide.
They first appear at the advent of summer followed by red berry-like fruits comprising of up to three seeds. The seeds may remain inactive for a year and stay dormant for several years under inclement weather conditions. The roots are generally fleshy white and are mostly tapped and well branched. As the aging process begins, the plant may produce an auxiliary root that can act as the supplementary root if the primary root is damaged due to some reason.
Medicinal Uses & Health Benefits
Strength & Stamina
The plant activates the endocrine system such as the adrenals and pituitary gland. It thereby increases the appetite leading to physical and mental strength. It is also useful to fight stress and fatigue.
It also has sedative effects on the nervous system thereby improving memory and concentration. It can also decelerate the growth of fatal mental diseases hence proving beneficial for depression and Alzheimer’s disease. People suffering from sleeping disorders (insomnia) also benefit from ginseng.
Cold & Cough
Its anti-inflammatory properties alleviate fevers including dry coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory problems.
Heart Health & Diabetes
The extracts of this plant can improve the flow of blood to the heart and cardiovascular activity to a large extent. Additionally, regular consumption can help in increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing the bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body. It can also control type 2 diabetes by maintaining blood sugar levels to its optimum levels.
American Ginseng has the power to dissolve malignant tumors. It is also capable of raising estrogen levels in women curing the effects of menopause. Other than that, it is used as an active ingredient in various medicines to treat erectile dysfunction in men.
Possible Side Effects
- Vision disorders
- Skin reaction
- Dry mouth
- Decreased heart rate
- Females might experience swollen breasts & vaginal bleeding too
Cultivation & Propagation
Ginseng is a native medicinal herb that is easy to cultivate under forest canopy type surroundings. It initially emerges at the beginning of summer and is easily identified in the fall when its red berries ripen. Wild ginseng roots are more valuable than the common field-grown roots as they take more time to mature. Good ginseng growth begins with a productive planting site.
The most suitable soil is moist and well-drained. It should also be rich in organic matter and contain high calcium content. Ginseng will not grow in congested areas, or waterlogged soil as the amount of moisture in the ground is vital for its growth. It should be ideally near the bottom of slopes because if the incline is too steep it cannot maintain fertile topsoil due to soil erosion. Excessive sunlight may damage the ginseng plant.
Best Time To Grow Ginseng Plant
The best time to plant them is somewhere between mid-august to mid-December before the temperatures dipped and the ground freezes. There are various planting methods employed based on capacity, conditions and the overall environment. Sow the seeds 0.5 to 1 inch inside the ground or scatter merely on bare soil and cover with leaves.
Health & Security
During the growth tenure, diseases, wildlife, and poaching are the major threats. Any of these risks are potent enough to destroy the entire crop in just a few weeks. However, these can be guarded by taking good care and planting them in areas where strangers are less likely to visit.
Harvesting & Storage
- Start digging immediately after rainfall as the soil is moist. However, one needs to be extremely careful not to damage the root while digging as it is the most precious part of the plant.
- Follow it up by washing (with low-pressure water flow and not scrubbing) and drying the ginseng roots to maintain a maximum number of root hairs and optimize its value.
- Wipe the roots at temperatures varying from 70 to 95 degree Fahrenheit in a well-ventilated area.
- Flip the roots after the first 36 hours to protect against the buildup of excessive moisture.
- The drying process is quite lengthy and may take a few days to weeks. The roots will reduce to one-third of its original green weight. Once dried store them in paper bags.
With minimal efforts, it is quickly sold in the US market to any one of the state’s certified ginseng dealers. The buying and selling are governed by The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and state, federal, and CITES rules. They keep on publishing a list of certified and genuine ginseng buyers on a periodical basis.
Ginseng prices fluctuate by season, environment, local area and year of purchase. The cost varies between from 30 to 40 percent. The ginseng root prices are also dependent on the stock market and increase or decrease with the trends in the general economy. Natural ginseng has historically sold for a value between $200-$400 per pound.