What's the Deal with Ginseng??

Updated: Oct 15, 2021


Here's what you need to know about the medicinal herb that's in high demand:

View our Youtube Video about Ginseng here.

Featured Photographs: American Ginseng Panax Quinquefolius

American Ginseng is proposed to offer many medicinal benefits, causing it to be in high demand, with a big sellers market. Dried Ginseng root is what is particularly sought after, and can go for as much as $600 a pound! This makes the plant attractive to harvesters to the point where in some states in the US, it has become an endangered species - causing local law enforcement to crack down on the harvesting and selling of Ginseng. There was even a TV show through the History Channel called Appalachian Outlaws all about Ginseng harvesters in the Appalachian Mountains.


But... in reality, more studies need to be conducted in order to further solidify these claims.


According to WebMD...

"People take American ginseng by mouth for stress, to boost the immune system, and as a stimulant. American ginseng is also used for upper airway infection, for diabetes, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses."

As far as what we do know, American ginseng does in fact contain chemicals called Polysaccarides which "serve as sources and storage of energy and form the supporting tissue of plants and some animals." Additional chemicals, Ginesenosides, which have been shown to affect insulin levels in the body and even lower blood sugar.


According to folklore, Native Americans used the root as a stimulant and to treat headaches, fever, indigestion, and infertility.


Additionally, it has been proven that a specific extract of American Ginseng is possibly effective at the prevention of upper airway infections! With the spread of COVID-19, that's enough information for my ears to perk up for sure. Learn more about this here.


Common Misconceptions:

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefoliusis) a different species than the popular Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) and therefore has a different chemical makeup and with different proposed benefits.


Where it Grows:

After I did my research I realized Ginseng is true to its specified habitat. Sure enough if you find yourself walking on a north-facing wooded hillside in the Appalachian mountains you're bound to run into this illusive plant. If you see lots of undergrowth, it may be too bright/warm for these plants, so they're more likely to grow in thick canopied forests with only ferns and a few other low-lying plants around. During the late summer months they can be easier to spot as they flower and eventually grow bright red berries, or seed pods, where the flowers once were.


Look-Alikes:

If you're looking for Ginseng it won't take long to realize just how many look-alikes enjoy the exact same cool and shaded environment. Virginia Creeper is perhaps the most abundant look-alike, but here's how you can quickly differentiate these two: Virginia Creeper is a woody vine with jagged edges where American Ginseng lacks the woody stem and has leaves with serrated edges.


Interested in a side-by-side comparison? View our Youtube Video about Ginseng here.


If You Choose to Harvest for Personal Use:

  1. Be aware of the LAWS in your area as some states do not allow harvesting or have specific rules and guidelines to follow regarding harvesting.

  2. Be RESPECTFUL of the plant If harvesting, be sure to only harvest a mature plant (at least 3 prongs ending in leaflets of 5) + only harvest if you see other healthy Ginseng plants in the same area.

  3. Harvest During BERRY SEASON In the late summer (August-September) their flowers will turn to red berries which allow for easier sightings of Ginseng + these berries hold seeds for new plants. If harvesting, be sure to spread the berries in soil to allow future growth.


Accredited studies on medicinal benefits of Panax Quinquefolius:


 

Sources:


WebMD


Polysaccharides in Human Health Care


As Ginseng Prices Soar...


American Ginseng Mount Sinai


 

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