Ginseng — beyond being rather fun to say (go on, say it!) — is a powerful and popular herbal remedy, commonly used in Chinese medicine. We often see it promoted in drinks and supplements purported to increase energy, stamina, and longevity. You know those small glass vials you often see at the checkouts of gas stations and variety stores? Diluted ginseng! It’s available nearly everywhere, but, of course, quality and application will vary.
Though there are different types of ginseng, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is one of the most prevalent. It’s a perennial plant, part of the ivy family. It is native to North America but is often cultivated in China, and is a common medicinal plant in Chinese medicine. The roots are the most frequently used in herbal medicine, but the leaves carry some of the same magic, are easier to harvest and can have more far-reaching culinary applications.
The boost you’ve been looking for.
Feeling a bit tired? A little stressed? If you’re not then you know someone who is, so it’s no wonder ginseng has become such a popular herb. Though the different types of the herb can have different applications, the primary action is to boost energy without the jitters that too often come with caffeine. (But if you’re still craving caffeine, here are some pretty unexpected ways to make a healthier coffee.) But wait —there’s more!
Ginseng can also help reduce feelings of stress, boost the immune system, and improve brain function and heart health; it also has cancer preventative properties. Overall, regular, moderate use of ginseng has been shown to improve quality of life. Now, I know you want in on this club!
How to consume.
Though the vials at the gas station and those sugary energy drinks may be tempting, there is likely not enough herb in them for you to feel the benefits. The most effective way to enjoy ginseng is to take it as a supplement (either capsule or tincture). However, as I always love to go the culinary route, I recommend popping over to your local Chinatown or herb shop and getting the whole root to simmer up in a tea or to add to your chicken soup or stock.