Scientific name: Panax quinquefolius (American Ginseng)
Ginseng has been used for a wide variety of health issues throughout history. There are 11 species of ginseng, so we will be talking mainly about American here.
Historically, ginseng has been used as a remedy for headaches, infertility, fever, calming period problems… and indigestion. Beyond those amazing uses, it’s also known to aid with concentration, memory, and endurance. It can balance your mood by helping with cases of depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and can boost the immune system, fight infections, and even helps men with erectile dysfunction.
The roots are where most of the health benefits are found in this plant.
- Ginsenosides (acidic)
- Polyphenolic compounds
- Acidic polysaccharides
- Reduces blood sugar levels: ginseng has been shown to be one of the most helpful herbs for diabetes management
- Reduce signs of aging; improves hair & skin health: high levels of antioxidants
- Anticancer: can potentially reduce effects of free radicals, decreasing chances of heart disease and types of cancer! Esp. colorectal cancer
- Improves concentration and overall brain activity: Combined with ginkgo biloba, not only is this a natural remedy for ADD and ADHD, this is very useful for older people (a preventative care for Alzheimer’s and dementia)
- Weight loss helper: suppresses appetite
- Stress reliever
- Improves period problems: lessens cramps and can help with mood swings
- Lessens menopause side effects: from hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, depression, etc
While we mostly see ginseng in tea form, it can be used in soups, smoothies, and even lightly stir fried. Some people will even dice it up and put it on a salad raw.
Ginseng is a strong herb and can cause side effects if misused eg. upset stomach, allergic reaction, sleep issues, headaches, etc.
(consult a doctor if experiencing any serious conditions)
- Ginseng tea: for many of the issues mentioned, drinking a simple ginseng tea every day can be extremely beneficial. If you make tea out of dried ginseng, eat the soaked pieces after for added health benefit.
Ginseng has become endangered, and so has started to be grown on farms to prevent any more over-harvesting from the wild. It takes about 6 years before you can harvest your ginseng root, so get planting now to enjoy your own plant in a few years!
Where do you live?
American Ginseng grows best in the eastern US in the hardwood forests, but it thrives well just about anywhere that isn’t too hot and with not too much direct sunlight.
Put em in the ground
- Moist, well drained soil, 5-6 pH, but not entirely important
- Little direct sunlight – north facing slope, with some leaf coverage on top (but not too much so there’s still air flow). A wooded area would be best.
- Order seeds or roots to start
- Plant in late fall or early winter
- Put seeds or roots directly into the ground, ensuring there are at least 2 inches of space beneath without hitting rock.
- Cover and put up to 3 inches of leaf debris
- Don’t harvest the root for a good 5-6 years – the older the root, the more potent it’s medicinal value becomes
- When you dig them up, be careful not to damage them. If they’re too close to younger roots, don’t attempt to harvest.
- Check for pests and fungus once in awhile