You’ve probably heard of ginseng and have an idea that it might be good for your health. But what exactly is ginseng, where does it come from and what does it do?
What is ginseng?
Ginseng is a slow growing plant with long, forked roots under the ground that can be found wild in shady forests in Asia and parts of America, where it is also cultivated. There are different varieties including Panax Ginseng which grows in parts of Asia has been used in traditional, herbal medicine for centuries.
The active ingredients in ginseng are saponin and ginsenosides which are powerful active compounds when combined.
Where does it come from?
This mysterious root is grown in places like China, Bhutan and Siberia and North-East Asia. Like all agriculture there are good and bad practises (Greenpeace exposed a cocktail of chemicals in ginseng from China).
Some of the very best red ginseng is grown in the Punggi region of South Korea where Riath, Balqees founder, visits at least once a year to meet with a cooperative of ginseng farmers. Their traditional skill and knowledge has been passed down for several generations as their families have been cultivating and processing the red ginseng since 1908.
They are regulated and commercially monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure strict quality control and safety of their crop (including no pesticides).
What’s the benefit of aging ginseng?
By leaving ginseng in the ground for 6 years, the amount of healthy goodness in the root is concentrated. Leaving it this long before harvesting it is an expensive process, most ginseng on the market is 3 years old or less, but the therapeutic benefits are much less powerful in younger ginseng. We believe it is well worth the wait.
The way our farmers process the ginseng is important too. Red ginseng is steamed without the skin being peeled, the heat creates a chemical reaction that makes the ginseng turn red. The steaming is a vital part of the whole process which concentrates and boosts the healing properties of the root. Steamed ginseng has around 32 kinds of saponins and ginsenosides.
What are the health benefits of ginseng?
You may have heard rumours that ginseng encourages manly vigour, but it also has many more therapeutic properties.
- Ginseng has anti-inflammatory properties which have been effective on many conditions from eczema to muscle ache.
- There are indications that ginseng could improve brain function in healthy people and also those with Alzheimer’s disease, plus it has a positive effect on mood, making people calmer and less stressed.
- Ginseng boosts the immune system in healthy people, so helps fight off viruses like the flu; early studies show there could be a positive impact in cancer patients too.
- There is evidence that ginseng boosts energy and lowers fatigue; it’s used by many athletes as a natural way to improve endurance and performance.
- People with Type 2 diabetes may benefit from taking ginseng as tests have shown that red ginseng could help increase insulin production and enhance blood sugar uptake in cells.
Are the health benefits of ginseng proven?
Even though ginseng has been used for thousands of years, it’s only recently been tested so there is more work to be done. Early studies indicate that the anecdotal evidence is sound plus there are additional health-promoting benefits being discovered every day.
How to take ginseng
At Balqees we use ginseng in some of our most popular fusions to combine its potent properties with those of raw honey (plus it’s delicious). Choose from raw honey and ginseng fusion and herbal honey fusion.
The highest quality, most potent ginseng available in the UAE is Ginciana. This is superior Korean 6 Year Red Ginseng from the Punggi region. The ginseng farmers are part of a cooperative who for generations have been cultivating and processing the red ginseng traditionally since 1908. Balqees are exclusive stockists in the UAE. Read more about it here and order here.
How much you have depends on the benefits you want or the condition you would like to treat. Taking ginseng 2-3 times a day and 200–400 mg daily is the general advice.