Ginseng, Red - Ren Shen
Products Featuring This Herb:
Panax Ginseng Extract Powder
8 Immortals Drops
Activated Minor Bupleurum
Gecko Rockclimber Drops
Ginseng Drops, House
Ginseng Sublime Drops
Super Pill No.2
Super Yang Jing Drops
Tao in a Bottle
Resilient Warrior Teapills
Tonify Lung Decoction Teapills
Warm Cycle Teapills
Alive Bee Power
Alive Energy Elixir
Positive Energy Capsules
Royal Jelly, Pollen, Propolis & Ginseng
Royal Rush Powder
Triple Bee Complex & Ginseng
Other Common Names
Page # In Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs
Panax Ginseng C.A. Meyer
Qi, Shen and Jing
Sweet, Slightly Bitter
Organ Meridian Systems
Spleen and Lungs
Part Used and Form
Root (leaves are sometimes used as a tea)
Tonify Qi, Adaptogenic, immune modulator, prolong life, overcome fatigue, increase blood volume, aid in recovery from illness or trauma, sharpen and calm the mind, stabilize the emotions, counteract stress and enhance wisdom
One of the most famous and valued herbs used by mankind, Asian Ginseng is an energy tonic that regulates the human energy system. It has been shown to be stimulating and regulatory to both the central nervous system and to the endocrine system. It is the primary Qi tonic of Chinese tonic herbalism.
Ginseng helps a person to adapt to all kinds of stresses and enhances endurance and resilience under stressful conditions. It has therefore been termed an “adaptogenic” substance by scientific researchers. Ginseng is also used to tonify digestive and respiratory functions.
Ginseng contains many active ingredients, but the most important are the saponins called ginsenosides. Ginsenosides specifically improve adaptability and are believed to help build muscle and endurance. Therefore, Ginseng is very popular with athletes. Asian Ginseng generally has a “warm” energy.
Ginseng is a superb herb for aged people. It has a mental stimulant effect in elderly persons and it improves memory and cognitive power and can often reverse intellectual and mental deterioration. It quickens thinking and improves physical energy, often to a startling degree. Ginseng is very effective in hastening the recovery from illness and surgery.
There are in fact many varieties of Ginseng, all of which have distinct characteristics. Most high quality ginseng is good for men and women alike. Wild and semi-wild Ginseng is generally far superior to the cultivated commercial varieties. The higher the quality, the more Shen (Spirit) a ginseng root is said to contain. There are also a number of superb sources of cultivated Ginseng which have long traditions of excellence. Several varieties of Ginseng may be blended to create remarkable adaptogenic formulations.
On the basis of its pharmacological properties, Ginseng has been classified as an adaptogen. It is a powerful anti-stress agent. In Chinese health practice there is a theory of Li Qi which literally means balance of energy. It is a term often used to describe the ability of Ginseng to balance the system at a fundamental level. In modern terms, this concept refers to the ability of Ginseng to help regulate body functions or to strengthen the functions that regulate other body functions.
Ginseng is used by traditional Chinese doctors as a tonic for general weakness, poor appetite, low sex drive, shortness of breath, cold limbs, spontaneous sweating and premature aging. Ginseng is generally used with other herbs. However, Ginseng is often used by itself or with just one or two other herbs.
Ginseng increases physical and mental efficiency and has been shown to improve the accuracy of work by promoting concentration. Ginseng prevents overfatigue. Ginseng is not a stimulant like amphetamines or caffeine, yet it increases alertness. However, it does not provoke subjective excitation (nervousness) nor does it disturb sleep. In fact it is used in a great many sleep-aid formulations. In China there is an almost universal practice by high school and college students to consume Ginseng during examination periods. The practice is generally to chew several pieces a day while preparing for examinations and to chew Ginseng constantly during the examination period. Students claim that it makes them more alert, helps them stay awake for days on end with little sleep and improves memory and reasoning ability.
This great herb has a mental stimulant effect in elderly persons. It improves memory and cognitive power and can often reverse intellectual and mental deterioration. It quickens thinking and improves physical energy, often to a startling degree. Ginseng is very effective in hastening the recovery from illness and surgery. Ginseng is a superb herb for aged people.
The tonic benefits of Ginseng are long lasting. When Ginseng is taken for an extended period of time, the physiological changes that take place as a result of the Ginseng last for a long period of time after the Ginseng is discontinued (if it is discontinued). For example, studies indicate that increased work efficiency is retained from one to two months after a one month course of Ginseng administration. People who take Ginseng to help regulate their blood sugar level will maintain normal blood sugar for several weeks after they discontinue Ginseng.
Many people claim that Ginseng has powerful aphrodisiac effects. The reputation as a sex tonic goes back to very ancient times. To this day, Ginseng maintains a reputation in this regard. I have known many men and women who have used Ginseng either for a short time or over long periods of time who claim that their sex lives improved noticeably after using Ginseng. Red Ginseng is most highly revered for its sex-stimulating qualities. Korean Ginseng in particular has a reputation for this. Ginseng certainly can help to improve sexual function by making both men and women stronger and more athletic. It improves endurance and muscular strength. By improving respiratory functions, sexual intercourse can be significantly lengthened. Sex is not merely a function of the gonads. The whole body must be healthy to enjoy sex to its fullest. However, Ginseng is believed to have gonadal effects as well. Men and women alike claim that Ginseng increases the urge for sex and intensifies sexual response.
Constituents: The main active constituents of Ginseng are its saponins, known as ginsenosides. Thirty-five ginsenosides have been isolated and identified from Panax Ginseng cultivated in the northeast of China. Thirty of these have been found in the root and six have been isolated from the stems and leaves. Five polysaccharides have also been isolated.
Analytical studies done in the United States indicate that the steam processing used to make red Ginseng is less destructive to ginsenoside content than sun drying. The studies also found that wild roots contain the most ginsenosides.
Cultivated White Korean Ginseng is dominated by ginsenoside, just as is cultivated white American Ginseng.
Ginseng contains the following constituents:
- Panaxin (C23H38010) and several related compounds, which act generally as stimulants to the midbrain, the heart and the blood vessels.
- Panax acid, which is a stimulant for the heart and general metabolism.
- Panaquilin, which acts as a stimulant for internal secretions.
- Panacen and other volatile oils, which stimulate the central nervous system.
- Ginsenin, which lowers blood sugar
- Vitamins A, B1, B2 and C.
- Bio-organic Germanium (Ge), which is a powerful immuno-stimulant.
Panax Ginseng also contains a glycoside fraction which has been demonstrated to possess significant antioxidant activity.
There is no doubt that other active constituents exist in Ginseng which have not yet been identified or studied, but which undoubtedly contribute to its pharmacological make-up.
A very large number of pharmacological studies have been conducted on Radix Ginseng. It is one of the most studied substances on earth. Yet, due to its extraordinary complexity, a great many questions remain. Unlike any single drug, Ginseng contains dozens of powerful active compounds. Different varieties have different constituents inherently and different preparation methods alter the constituents even within the same variety. This remarkable herb has been demonstrated to have many significant pharmacologically significant activities which influence the health and well-being of animals and humans who consume it.
In general, the pharmacological action of Ginseng is not only dependent upon its own constituents, but varies according to the condition of the organism consuming the Ginseng. Ginseng shows bipolar, biphasic activity at virtually every level of its action. This is undoubtedly why Ginseng has become so highly revered as a tonic and medicinal herb. It is also the basis of its classification as an “adaptogenic” substance. There are hundreds of examples of Ginseng’s double direction adaptogenic action. For example, numerous studies have shown that it elevates blood pressure in cases of hypotension or in case of shock, but restores blood pressure to a normal level in cases of hypertension. It normalizes white blood cell counts in cases of either excess or deficient white blood cell counts. It can inhibit ACTH to cause adrenal hypertrophy, but can inhibit cortisone to cause adrenal atrophy.
Even short term administration of Radix Ginseng increases the adaptability of the organism consuming it. Numerous studies have shown that short or long term administration of Ginseng can increase the non-specific response to various noxious influences, whether they are physically, chemically or biologically induced. Even very short term administration of Ginseng promotes the reestablishment of normal function of the organism. Ginseng is indeed the king of adaptogens. Longer term use of Ginseng appears to cause numerous physiological changes in the animal or human consuming it, resulting in improved functioning which become more or less permanent.
Ginseng has been demonstrated in numerous animal studies, as well as in human studies and therefore proven to have powerful anti-fatigue effects. Moderate doses of Ginseng have endurance enhancing effects. Ginseng can therefore prevent fatigue when consumed prior to exertion. In addition, certain ginsenosides in Ginseng can promote the recovery of animals and humans from fatigue. The anti-fatigue effects of Ginseng are the result of complex metabolic regulatory activities. , However, it primarily involves significantly improved utilization of glycogen and the reduced accumulation of lactic acid and acetoacetic acid.
The total saponin fragment of Panax Ginseng has been found to have both hypertensive and anti-hypertensive activity. This has been determined to be due to the co-existence of agonistic and antagonistic saponins in the total saponins. These exist in varying proportions depending on the geographical and anatomical sources of the Ginseng plants. Overall this co-existence seems to explain the regulatory capacity of Ginseng on blood pressure. Soviet scientists have reported that Ginseng normalized the level of arterial pressure and that it was clinically effective in the treatment of both hypo and hypertension, with the exception of severe forms of hypertension.
Panax Ginseng has shown the following important pharmacological activities:
- Enhancement of swimming time
- Prevention of stress-induced ulcers
- Proliferation of endoplasmic reticulum and ribosomes in rat hepatocytes
- Inhibits glycogen utilization in rat skeletal muscle during exercise
- Inhibits adrenaline induced lipolysis in fat cells.
Ginseng has been found to significantly facilitate the depletion and the restoration of ascorbic acid in the adrenal gland of test animals exposed to stress. Therefore both the initial stress reaction and the recovery process were improved by the administration of Ginseng.
Ginseng is believed to have a regulatory effect on blood production functions. Certain ginsenosides appear to increase erythrocytes, hemoglobin and leukocytes. Yet in humans who consume Ginseng, these cells tend to be normalized. This is believed to be due to components with mutually antagonistic activity — some increasing and some decreasing these cells, with the end result of balanced maintenance.
Ginseng both stimulates and inhibits the higher nervous activity. However, the stimulatory action appears to be stronger. A wide range of experiments has thoroughly proven that the learning ability of laboratory animals is significantly improved when they are fed Ginseng. A double-blind experiment involving Chinese students over a 33-day period proved that Ginseng improved their responses. In a famous experiment, Ginseng reduced the rate of errors in telegraph operators’ transmissions and improved their decoding ability. Ginseng has been shown to improve the concentration of writers and elderly persons.
Ginseng can have both tranquilizing and exciting effects on the nervous system. The extract of Ginseng has been shown to have mild tranquilizing, analgesic and muscle relaxant action. The ginsenoside Rb1 has been shown to be tranquilizing, as is the total saponin fraction extracted from Ginseng leaves. The water extract of Ginseng has been shown to have anticonvulsant effects. It can antagonize convulsions caused by cocaine and strychnine for example. However, at a different dose and with different fractions and different preparation, Ginseng can be stimulating. It has been shown to weaken the effects of strong sedatives. Again, typical aqueous extracts of Ginseng tend to have a normalizing action, therefore helping the body and mind attain optimum nervous activity for whatever action the body and mind are being used for.
Other experiments have shown that Ginseng not only effects the central nervous system, but also effects both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, therefore having a regulatory influence on involuntary activities of the body such as bowel movements, etc.
Ginseng has demonstrated a double direction influence on the heart in various laboratory animals, increasing heart rate at the outset of use, followed by an inhibiting effect. Ginseng has a beneficial effect on the functions of diseased hearts in laboratory animals, reducing or eliminating cardiac arrhythmia induced by ephedrine and improving weak heart beats in animals with ventricular fibrillation. Ginseng appears to dilate the coronary arteries, allowing increased blood supply to the heart muscle. It also dilates the blood vessels of the brain and the eye. Ginseng has shown both hypotensive and hypertensive effects on animals, however, dose plays a large role. Ginseng given at normal therapeutic doses did not significantly influence the blood pressure of human subjects. In fact, it has now been shown that ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, Rg and Rg1 have a biphasic action on blood pressure. A mild elevation in blood pressure is followed by vasodilation and subsequent depression of blood pressure.
And in a very illuminating study, Ginseng helped restore dogs in a critical state due to hemorrhage or asphyxia to health, which parallels claims made by many that Ginseng can be a life-saving herb. Ginseng greatly reduced the degrees of shock in laboratory animals.
The effects on the endocrine system have been studied by hundreds of researchers. Studies have clearly demonstrated that Ginseng is devoid of corticosteroid-like activity. However, it does have a profound and potent influence on the pituitary-adrenal system and this is one reason why it so profoundly changes the stress reaction in animals and humans. Ginseng is capable of significantly reducing the pathological processes due to stress in animals and humans. Ginseng directly influences the pituitary and probably the hypothalamus, the virtual regulatory centers of the entire hormonal system in higher animals and man. Ginseng appears to influence both the anterior and posterior pituitary.
Ginseng does appear to have profound influence on the gonads of animals. Experiments suggest that Ginseng has no sex-hormone-like action itself, but does appear to have gonadotropin-like action. Many animal experiments have illustrated Ginseng’s ability to stimulate sexual behavior. Ginseng is widely touted as a sexual tonic, however, no serious double-blind clinical studies have been conducted to study the validity of this claim. However, castrated rats given Ginseng enter into a mating frenzy. Ovariectomized female rats, given Ginseng in their food, go into sexual mode and are even capable of attracting male rats out of mating season. Queen bees experience increased ovulation after being fed Ginseng. Rabbit sperm counts increase when they are given Ginseng. Human clinical studies have shown that Ginseng is an effective agent for the treatment of impotence and some types of infertility.
Ginseng has shown clear hypoglycemic action in laboratory animals. It can promote the lowering of the blood glucose level, but it appears that Ginseng alone cannot prevent or treat diabetes. American Ginseng has demonstrated a much stronger hypoglycemic effect than Asian Ginseng.
It has been proven that ginsenosides promote the synthesis of cholesterol but decreases the cholesterol in animals with high cholesterol. It has likewise been proven that a peptide in the water extract of Ginseng has anti-fat forming action.
Ginseng has shown significant anti-viral activity in laboratory animals. It has shown protection against a lethal-challenge viral infection. In addition, Ginseng can magnify antiviral resistance induced by an interferon inducer. In vitro studies indicate that Ginseng can induce interferon production and augment natural killer and antibody dependent cytotoxic activities in human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Animal studies also indicate that Ginseng enhances antibody forming cell response.
Panax Ginseng has been found to induce the production in human beings of b and g-interferon. It augments natural killer and antibody dependent cytotoxic activities in human blood lymphocytes. Ginsenoside Ra1 has a very strong effect on the cells of HL-60; and Ginsenoside Rh2, 20(R)-Rh2 and panaxadiol have stronger cytotoxicity effects on many kinds of tumor strains. Ginsenoside-Rb1 and Rg1 both inhibited kidney, brain and liver microsome Na+, K+-ATPase activity. Ginsenoside-Re has the anti-lipid peroxidation effect, the prevention and cure effects during myocardial ischemia/reperfusion damage and protective effect on cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury. Ginseng polypeptides and polysaccharides have been demonstrated to decrease the levels of blood sugar and liver glycogen in mice or rats without affecting total blood lipids. Ginseng volatile oil was shown to have an inhibitory effect on gastric cancer cell growth in vitro. Ginseng has been found to have a moderate but consistent inhibiting effect in vitro on human breast cancer when combined with Royal Jelly.
Ginseng is used in hundreds of formulations. However, certain basic combinations are common.
- Atractylodes, Poria and Licorice Root to tonify Spleen Qi
- Astragalus, Atractylodes and Licorice Root to tonify Qi more strongly and with an emphasis on defensive Qi
- Jujube Dates to tonify the Stomach, Spleen and to build Qi
- Dioscorea to tonify Kidney and Spleen Qi
- Steamed Ginger to tonify the Spleen and Stomach
- Deer Antler to tonify primal Qi and yang
- Rehmannia (steamed) to tonify the Kidney and Lungs
- Aconite to tonify yang
- Schizandra to tonify the Lungs and to build endurance
- Dang Gui to tonify Qi and blood
- Dang Gui, White Peony, Rehmannia (steamed) and Ligusticum for complete tonification of Qi and blood
- Cordyceps to tonify Qi and blood, yin and yang
- Gecko to tonify Kidney yang and Lung yin
- Ophiopogon and Schizandra to regulate blood sugar balance and to tonify Qi
Varieties and Grading
In selecting a Ginseng root, or Ginseng product, the primary considerations are: the source of the root, the age and the method of processing of the root. Size, shape and aroma are also important criteria.
In general it can be assumed that the wilder, the older and richer in flavor and aroma a root is the better. The source can make all the difference in the world and proper processing is essential. Authenticity is another important issue, as there are numerous ways to fake high quality ginseng and counterfeiting is rampant in the Ginseng market. Ultimately, however, the only real criterion is efficacy, that is, the bioactivity of the Ginseng and its various components. This is often subjective and may be overt or subtle. In general, Ginseng which grew in the best locations, that is old and wild, or semi-wild, or at least has been grown from superior seed stock, is older than eight years old and is rich in aroma is the kind you are looking for and will be profoundly efficacious.
Wild Ginseng Roots: Chinese wild Ginseng grows in deep shaded forests and hillsides of northeastern China,Korea and Russia. It is a shy plant that tends to grow under other plants out of sight of humans. It is never found near stagnant water. Wild Ginseng is much more expensive than cultivated Ginseng. Virtually everybody believes that wild roots are more potent and more chemically balanced than cultivated roots, no matter how carefully the cultivation was handled. However, this is only partially true. First is the issue of authenticity. There is an ancient craft in China whereby skilled farmers can create what is known as “Art Ginseng”. Art Ginseng is created by hand crafting semi-wild Ginseng to look just like old mountain wild Ginseng. Artists are, of course, of different skills. In general, art Ginseng is sold more cheaply than real wild Ginseng. But whenever you are buying wild Ginseng, you should examine the roots and their heads very carefully to be sure that pieces have not been pasted together to give the appearance of an older root.
True wild Ginseng is not always perfectly shaped. It may be straight or it may be tortuously contorted. I have found that more contorted roots have more potency. It is standard belief, now scientifically confirmed, that roots that have experienced extreme hardship, have themselves produced more adaptive constituents and are more potent adaptogenically.
Almost all wild Chinese Ginseng still has the rootlets attached. Chinese people call these rootlets the “beard”. The beard is very rich in ginsenosides and germanium and should not be taken for granted and certainly should never be discarded. There should be small nodules every inch or so along the rootlets. They feel like little pearls. No nodules — not wild.
There should be numerous striations circling the root and the tighter the striations, the better. The striations indicate the hardship the root had to overcome to survive. A root without striations or with weak striations will be weak, or may not in fact be wild at all. Typical cultivated Ginseng, for example, does not have striations. In determining the quality of a root, I look at the striations first, whether the root is large or small and no matter what its source.
The head, or Ginseng rhizome, is the next thing to look at. The head is very important because it tells you a great deal about the history of the root. Supposedly, the number of notches in the head tell you how many years old a root is. This is probably true to a degree, but is not a perfect gauge. There is no way to judge the exact age of a Ginseng root. However, it is certain that the number of notches is a good approximation. Therefore the more notches the better since older wild roots are considered to be better. Heads with more than twenty notches are premium — more than forty are awesome. There are roots on the market that are apparently as old as 150 years. These are worth a fortune. An authentic one hundred year old root would certainly earn its owner somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japan and perhaps more if it came from a premium location such as Chang Bai Mountain in China or the Diamond Mountain in North Korea. The head is the main way that people judge the age of a Ginseng root, so it is also the main way that Ginseng Art is created. These “artists” skillfully paste together two or three (or more) heads so that the head appears to be older than it really is. Careful observation, however, can always reveal this type of counterfeiting. All you have to do is look carefully. I always look at the heads of very expensive roots with a magnifying glass. In fact, I look at all the details of expensive roots with a magnifying glass.
Red Ginseng: There are many kinds of red Chinese Ginseng. Ginseng can be treated with hot water, then steamed in a closed room and finally dried, in the process of which it turns a glossy reddish brown. This is known as Red Ginseng. Some preparers add herbs to the steam water, which changes the quality of the Ginseng. Though North Korean Ginseng is prepared by a secret process, for example, it is widely assumed that the secret involves adding certain herbs which add to the potency of the Ginseng. North Korean Ginseng is very yang and therefore has a hot energy. It is probable that not only is this the result of harsh conditions during growth, but also to Yang herbs being added to the steam water.
There are several kinds of premium Red Ginseng grown is Asia. These include: North Korean Red, South Korean Red, Chinese Shih Chu Red, Korean semi-wild red and Chinese Emperors’ Tribute Red. All of these are absolutely great.
It is not legal to import North Korean Ginseng into the United States. However, it is widely distributed throughout the rest of the world and is sometimes available in America. Genuine North Korean Ginseng is considered by many connoisseurs of Ginseng to be the finest cultivated Ginseng in the world. It is very, very powerful. It is also very expensive, even in distribution centers such as Hong Kong. North Korean Ginseng is very hot and very yang. It is generally used to provide increased physical power, especially physical and sexual power. North Korean Ginseng comes in three grades: Heaven, Earth and Man. Heaven Grade is the best and the most expensive. It also comes in a variety of sizes: 10, 15, 20, 25 and so on up to 45. The number represents the number of roots that fit into a Chinese “pound” or “catty”. A catty weighs 1.6 U.S. pounds. The description “Heaven Grade 15” Ginseng root means that 15 Heaven Grade roots make one catty. In other words, the smaller the number, the larger the root. If you’re going to buy North Korean Ginseng, only buy Heaven Grade roots and don’t bother with a root smaller than a 30. I personally don’t bother with roots smaller than a 20. Because larger roots are more potent, they therefore cost more — but it’s worth the cost.
As with all Ginseng, beware of counterfeits. North Koreans Ginseng is widely imitated. Far more fake North Korean is sold than the real thing, especially in Hong Kong and in the United States. Real North Korean roots come out of a metal can that has been neatly painted in the factory. It has a red label with art on both faces. Counterfeits have a paper label wrapped around the can. I never buy a Ginseng root that came out of a tin can with a paper label. They’re virtually always counterfeit. Real North Korean Heaven Grade roots are very tasty while imitations taste much more bland.
South Korean Red: South Korean Ginseng is of very high quality. The Koreans have put enormous effort into making their Ginseng the best in the world. Recently, more and more experts are saying that South Korean Ginseng is beginning to genuinely rival North Korean Ginseng. And South Korean Ginseng is legal in the United States. Therefore it is easy to obtain. It is not inexpensive, but it is less expensive than North Korean.
Just like North Korean, South Korean Ginseng is divided into Heaven, Earth and Man grades and is graded by size. Again, only Heaven Grade is truly great and larger roots are better. If you buy a South Korean Heaven Grade 15 or 20 root, you will appreciate its obvious potency.
Though South Korean Ginseng is widely counterfeited, there is also plenty of the real stuff around. Just check to make sure the root came out of a painted can and not a can wrapped in a paper label.
Semi-Wild Korean Red: Very rare and awesome. That says it all. Semi-wild Korean Red Ginseng is virtually the same product as Shih Chu Ginseng grown in China, which I will describe next. It is grown in forest beds from wild seed and allowed to grow for at least ten years. It is harvest under exacting conditions and steamed. Generally, the beard is allowed to remain.
This is what Ginseng is all about. It is extremely effective. It gives you lots of energy that lasts and lasts. It effects your mind, too. You become clear, sharp, peaceful and optimistic. When I take this Ginseng, my confidence grows and I feel smarter and wiser. It is not as physical as North Korean Red, but that is not to say that it is not energizing. It is just smoother. It’s the best.
It does not come graded. All these roots tend to be large and truly beautiful. If they were graded, they would be 10’s or 15’s. And they have great heads — almost identical to the heads on Shih Chu Ginseng. But semi-wild Korean red is extremely rare. But don’t despair. There is some around — you just have to find the source. Good luck in finding it.
Chinese Shih Chu: Many people in Asia consider this to be the finest red Ginseng in the world. It is virtually the same as the semi-wild Korean Red. Again, wild seeds are collected and planted in forest beds, where the roots are allowed to develop for a minimum of ten years before harvesting. This technique is only practiced in one place in China, in the Shih Chu Valley in Jilin near Korea. Supposedly, Shih Chu Valley has the best soil for growing Ginseng in China.
Shih Chu Ginseng has precisely the same feel as semi-wild Korean Red. It is powerful yet mild. It effects body and mind. It lifts the spirit and sharpens the intellect. It is the perfect red Ginseng. However, there is a major caveat: only large Heaven Grade Shih Chu is really good. Shih Chu, like Korean cultivated, comes in the three grades of Heaven, Earth and Man. Only Heaven Grade is grown from wild seed and allowed to remain in the ground for ten years. Only buy Heaven Grades 16, 20 or 24. Anything smaller is of less potency. It is always sold with the beard removed. And as always, watch out for counterfeit. Real Shih Chu Red Ginseng comes either in a painted metal can or a similarly designed cardboard box. If it comes in a tin can with a paper label, forget it — it’s fake.
This is probably the best Red Ginseng for the majority of people. It is not as yang as the Korean reds, which is good for most people and it is readily available. It is a stunning product and I personally find it to be the perfect tonic herb.
Chang Bai Mountain Red Ginseng: Ginseng is grown throughout the northeastern areas of China. The main province where Ginseng grows is Jilin Province, though some Ginseng comes from Heilongjiang, which is north of Jilin. This whole region was formerly known as Manchuria. It is widely believed that Ginseng originated in Manchuria. The finest Ginseng in the world comes from this region and particularly from the Chang Bai Mountain area. Chang Bai Mountain is a spectacular volcanic mountain range which borders on North Korea. The last time that I visited Chang Bai Mountain, I was able to stop along the road and buy thirty-seven genuine wild roots from peasants who were hoping that a Ginseng-loving traveler might stop and buy their treasure. To me this was Ginseng Heaven! I was also able to stop on the mountain roads of Chang Bai Mountain and pick wild-growing Schizandra and observe Atractylodes, Peony and Acanthopanax (Siberian Ginseng) growing in their natural habitat.
Throughout the valleys surrounding Chang Bai, Ginseng is cultivated on a large scale. This Ginseng is of fine quality, though it is not as fine as Shih Chu. This Chang Bai Mountain Ginseng is highly favored by the Chinese and is the most common Ginseng used in China by Chinese connoisseurs. In Hong Kong, where the people are much richer, Shih Chu is by far the favorite Chinese red Ginseng.
Jilin Red Ginseng: Throughout Jilin Province, Ginseng is grown. However, in general the lower the altitude above sea level and the further from Chang Bai Mountain, the lower the quality of the Ginseng. There is a considerable amount of medium to low grade Ginseng grown in Jilin that is used for commercial extractions and products. This Ginseng is a crap-shoot. Some is good, some is poor and some is useless. Most commercial products use this Ginseng. The only way to judge these products is by their overall efficacy. I try to avoid all commercial grade Ginseng since it may contain pesticides. Some manufacturers are very conscientious and use only pesticide-free Ginseng. These products tend to be more expensive.
Chinese Emperors’ Tribute Ginseng: During the Qing Dynasty, the emperors of China developed a passion for Ginseng to the point that they set up a Ginseng preserve in Jilin Province, therefore guaranteeing them and others of the imperial household an ample supply of premium Ginseng. This Ginseng became known as Emperors’ Tribute Ginseng. Though it disappeared after the Chinese revolution, it has again become available, but this time commercially — that is, to the public. A small quantity of Ginseng which is grown in the same location and by the same techniques is available. The brother of the Last Emperor has been personally involved in reviving this Ginseng. It is in very limited supply, but can be obtained from knowledgeable and very well connected Ginseng suppliers. This Ginseng was suitable for the Emperors of China and their wives and family. It is a connoisseur’s dream.
It is graded like Korean Red and Shih Chu: Heaven, Earth and Man. Again, forget Earth and Man grades — they’re for Chinese peasants who simply cannot afford good Ginseng. Find Heaven Grade 25 or better or buy a different Ginseng. Price: about the same as Shih Chu.
White Ginseng: Both South Korea and China export a great deal of white Ginseng. White Ginseng is dried Ginseng that has not been steamed. It is either peeled and allowed to sun dry, or it is left to sun dry with its skin still intact. Most white Ginseng has been peeled. It is very difficult for the average person to judge the quality of white Ginseng. However, there are a few rules of thumb that can help.
- Larger roots are usually better because they are probably older. Ginseng is not really mature until it is five years old. Larger roots were more likely in the ground longer.
- The roots should be clean looking and not too shriveled up. They should be a light, uniform cream color, which may appear slightly powdery.
- Roots with strings neatly binding the beard are usually of pretty good quality.
- Some excellent white roots do exist and these are usually sold in individual boxes or otherwise individually. They tend to be neatly prepared. In fact, it is possible to buy Shih Chu white roots, though they are rare.
- Korean white roots, in cans with government seals, are of good quality. I have always found that Korean white roots give good quality instant energy, but do not seem to provide the long term boost that you get from any of the red varieties described above. Korean white ginseng comes in different ages and sizes. Four year old roots are too young for my liking, but are widely used by Korean doctors and as an energy beverage. Six year old, large white South Korean roots are good. I like them and recommend them. However, they are in no way comparable to a Heaven Grade red root.
In general, the best roots are usually prepared as red roots in the Orient. White roots are milder and more yin than red roots. Red roots are simply more powerful, except for a few special varieties of white roots. Occasionally you can find semi-wild white roots. These of course are extremely powerful and match the power of semi-wild red roots. Semi-wild roots, be they white or red, are very similar to true wild roots.
Standardized Ginseng Products: In an attempt to come to grips with this incredibly wide range of Ginsengs and the unpredictability of dosage and results, the modern neutraceutical industry is attempting to set chemical standards by which Ginseng can be judged based on consistent chemistry. This is a superb idea, except that I do not believe that there is enough known yet about Ginseng’s chemistry to base everything on one chemical standard. For example, I believe it is impossible to say that a 4% standardized extract from one company has any relevance to a 4% standardized extract from another company. Different varieties of Ginseng will have different ratios of ginsenosides which will have an entirely different physiological effect. Ginsenosides extracted from Ginseng root are very different from the ginsenosides extracted from stems, rhizomes or leaves. Different extraction techniques will produce products with vastly different chemical make-ups. The resulting effects on one’s physiology will vary greatly.
Artificially standardizing Ginseng to a set level of ginsenosides is not an adequate means of judging the quality of the Ginseng you are consuming. Besides ginsenoside ratios and quantities, many other factors come into play, such as presence and quantities of other ingredients such as polysaccharides, germanium, etc. Though standardized Ginseng is consistent and undoubtedly beneficial, I do not believe it is the source of the best Ginseng experience you can obtain. Whole Ginseng extracts from the best sources, properly and caringly prepared, will always provide the best results, even if from batch to batch there may be some deviation of constituents.
The obvious advantage of standardization lies in the ability to do controlled clinical testing. Ginsana has conducted such studies and studies have been conducted on their product between 1980 and the present which have proven their standardized Ginseng extract to be safe and effective. Such clinical trials clearly demonstrated that their product (G115) improves the general physical condition, improves mental performance, including learning ability and enhances the non-specific immunological functions of the body, therefore improving resistance. All-in-all, seven European clinical studies involving standardized Ginseng (4%) were conducted in the 1980’s, with results that demonstrated shortening of time to react to auditory and visual stimuli, improved visual and motor coordination, increased alertness, improved grasp of abstract concepts, improved concentration and increased respiratory quotient. All of this is valuable to most people and it could easily be said that this makes 4% standardized Ginseng an ideal herb for athletes.
All authentic, high quality Ginseng should at least match, if not surpass these results. But of course it is important to be taking authentic Ginseng and this is what standardization guaranties.
Biotechnology Ginseng: Very strict surrounding conditions, such as soil, climate, etc. are required for cultivating Ginseng. Therefore, the cultivation of Ginseng is very much limited by numerous biological factors. With the advances of modern biological techniques, many scientists in China, Japan, Korea and Russia have been investigating “tissue cultivation” and “cell cultivation” of Ginseng. They are also investigating cell cultivation in order to produce Ginseng saponins in large quantities sufficient for industrial production. Japan, China and Russia are all racing to industrialize Ginseng cell culture technology.
Based on over a decade of research, Professor Ding Jiayi of China Pharmaceutical University has developed the cultivation method. Ginseng tissue can be grown in tanks from cell culture, without the need to grow in the ground. Professor Ding has painstakingly developed hundreds of strains of Ginseng cell cultures, each with their own attributes based on the genome of that particular strain. In general, Professor Ding feels that there are four primary advantages to Ginseng cell culture technology.
- The quantity of Ginseng saponins can be very high. The crude saponin contents in cultured Ginseng cells can reach 22%, in contrast to the 4% which is standard for earth-grown, sun-dried Ginseng. However, based on the genome selected and on the nutrients provided to the cell culture, any percentage of saponins desired can be produced on mass scales and under the complete control of the technicians. Furthermore, within a few years, Professor Ding is certain that specific ginsenosides can be generated in pre-defined ratios, that creating designer Ginseng which can have clearly defined pharmacological activity based on the amounts and ratios of its constituents.
- The content of bio-organic germanium (GE) is controllable. Based on genome selection, certain bio-technological methods and on the amount of inorganic germanium provided as a nutrient, the content of cultured cells can reach 100 ppm or higher, while earth-cultivated Ginseng contains about 2 ppm. Even wild Ginseng contains only about 5 ppm. Therefore, Ginseng cell culture can become an economical means of producing bio-organic germanium as a specific supplement. Germanium has been clearly linked to the positive functioning of the human immune system and has been recognized in Japan and China as a cancer preventative agent.
- The polysaccharide content of Ginseng cell culture can be higher than that of cultivated Ginseng. It has been established that these polysaccharides are responsible for much of Ginseng’s immune potentiating ability. However, normal cultivated Ginseng has a low quantity of polysaccharides. Ginseng cell culture can therefore be bio-technologically manipulated to be a stronger immune potentiating agent.
- The superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in the cultured cells is far higher than that of cultivated Ginseng. Dried earth-grown Ginseng retains almost no SOD activity. However, even after lyophilization, the SOD activity remains unchanged. This SOD activity makes Ginseng cell culture an ideal ingredient in anti-aging cosmetics for topical application, since SOD has been shown to slow the aging of skin.
This is the ultimate in standardization, however, this type of technology probably will become common or even prevalent in the next couple of decades as the neutraceutical industry matures. There will always be a mass of people who want the real herb, out of the earth. There will be others who prefer standardization. Certainly, for some medical purposes, standardized extracts will be appropriate, but for pure life enhancement and the development of the three treasures, nature will always remain supreme.
All authorities agree that Ginseng has a very low acute and chronic toxicity. Over the period of more than two thousand years of continuous use, Ginseng has gained a reputation as being a strong herb, one which is free of real side effects when used moderately and appropriately. Italian researchers have shown that 2,100 mg/kg of Ginseng extract given orally in standard toxicity studies gave no indication of acute toxicity. Long-term, chronic toxicity studies likewise have proven Ginseng to have no side effects.
Excessive intake may cause headaches or muscle tension in people of a Yang constitution. Yang varieties of Ginseng should be used with caution and moderately by people with a Yang constitution or by anyone who is experiencing hot conditions. Ginseng is not to be used by anyone experiencing an acute fever, sore throat, or over heating influences.