Jeff’s thoughts on ginseng…
Years ago when I lived in Wisconsin, I frequented a well-known Madison co-op which was conveniently located on my walk home each day. It was a throwback, hippie sort of place complete with dusty old wood floors, a store cat and a collection of questionable vegetables, which were supposed to be organic and somehow better for you.
also had, behind the counter, a gallon jar full of powdered ginseng caps, which
they sold for 50¢ a cap. Whenever I stopped in I would buy a couple and pop
them on my way home. I never noticed any positive effect but to be fair I had no
idea of exactly what I was supposed to feel.
day I asked the clerk about the ginseng and he said that I wasn’t necessarily
supposed to feel anything, that the effects of ginseng were long-term and not
particularly noticeable. I took his word for it and continued to buy a couple of
caps now and then, thinking that at the very least it might counteract some of
the abuses I was inflicting on my young, carefree body. Some years later, while
living in Hong Kong, I rediscovered ginseng and began to learn more about it and
just what positive effects it could have.
I lived in Hong Kong, anyone could walk from their house to the shop of an
herbalist no matter where they lived but they might have to travel several miles
to find a drug store. All the herb shops strongly exuded the very same exact
smell. I can smell it right now just thinking about it. They tended to be open
onto the street so I could, to this day, find one blindfolded.
I went into one of these shops and showed an interest in ginseng, I would be
shown an amazing array of various sizes and grades of the dried roots. I could
also buy various ginseng extracts and thick, resinous concentrates or preserved
roots in glass jars, some being quite huge, quite man-like in appearance and
costing US$1,000 or more. I have never seen an herb so minutely doted upon and
presented in so many forms and grades.
ginseng is expensive. Unfortunately, while it is possible to pay a lot for
not-so-good ginseng, it is difficult, if not impossible, to buy good ginseng
cheaply. Especially in Asia, they know what they’re doing. They know what
they’ve got. They know what it’s worth.
day my friend Roger shared with me some Korean ginseng, which came in a little
black bottle. It came with a teeny plastic spoon and was a very thick, black goo.
I added it to a cup of hot water. I had to swish the spoon around a long time to
remove all the black goo from the teeny spoon. Almost from the first sip, I was
instilled with an energy, a clarity, a sense of well being that was unusual and
exhilarating. I knew in a flash that the smarmy little co-op had lied to me,
that the cheap, powdered, whatever they had in those capsules wouldn’t
have been any better if I had gobbled the whole gallon, that ginseng could
provide an immediate and very positive effect.
But again, to be fair, studies show – and ginseng is one of the most studied herbs – that there is a long-term effect attributable to it. Indeed, it’s positive effects on pulmonary function provide a vehicle to cause improvements in all the body’s systems.
learned that not all little black bottles of Korean ginseng extract are created
equal. Not even those from the same company. Not even those that looked to my
eye to be exactly the same and especially not any I have since found in America.
I found some once in Korea and it was relatively cheap. I bought all I could on
that trip but generally I bought it from a little Korean shop, a little
hole-in-the-wall shop in back of the Wing On store in Central Hong Kong run by
an elderly but friendly and quite talkative Korean woman. The price was not
always the same. I learned to arrive just at opening on Monday morning for the
best price. I bought lots. I loved the stuff. I am sure that woman missed me
when I left.
leaving Hong Kong, and returning to America, I discovered American Ginseng, panax
quinquefolium. I learned that while similar to the Chinese or Korean
Ginseng, panax ginseng, the American species was less heating in effect
and more suitable to my already hot western male physique. I even find myself
needing and using it more in the winter than in the hot and humid St. Louis
summer. I use it specifically for enhancing pulmonary function. I feel benefit
from this on both a short term and long term basis. I also feel it has benefit
for my immune system and is therefore helpful in allergy control. Finally, I
also find it useful for increasing my energy levels, although I feel this effect
is more pronounced the less often I use it. Maybe I just get used to feeling
I mostly use a liquid extract of ginseng. I know the herb that is used to make
it, know the process used to make it and I have seen the results tested. Mostly
I now know what to expect in terms of what I should actually feel when I use
good quality ginseng. I also occasionally enjoy a cup of ginseng tea using about
half a teaspoon of the powdered root in a cup of hot water. The powder never
totally dissolves in the water so one must stir it now and then and drink all
the powder too. I find ginseng to have a pleasant taste.
also have enjoyed chewing on little pieces of the red ginseng root. It is red
owing to steaming or boiling as a preserving process rather than merely drying.
The other day I popped into my mouth a teeny chunk of the root we use to make
our extract. It softened up as I chewed it and soon disappeared. It had a
fantastic taste. For the rest of the day I had great and unusual energy and only
later remembered popping that little teeny-weeny piece of ginseng. The next day
I did it again and noticed the same effect. I am watching for that batch of
liquid extract and eagerly await its appearance in 2 months or so.
studies are beginning to prove what the Chinese already accept as truth about
the efficacy of ginseng. An early study has suggested that ginseng, in
combination with ginkgo may be of value in helping treat ADHD. It has been shown
to be helpful in the treating of alcohol addiction, perhaps by speeding up the
metabolism of alcohol or by inhibiting its absorption in the stomach. Studies
also exist suggesting ginseng has a positive effect in the treatment of
Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes
(type 2), sexual performance, fertility, menopausal symptoms and stress.
root Ginseng products Cheryl’s Herbs offers include Chinese, Korean and
American Ginseng (whole or powdered dried roots) liquid extracts, capsules and
as ingredients in several products.
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