GINSENG, Panax quinquefolius

Ginseng Plant

Most herbs, trees and flowers grow throughout the world in great abundance. They make lush gardens and forests wherever they are planted. However, there are certain herbs that are very scarce throughout the world. Even when planted on farms or in forest groves, they grow very slow and are scarce. This kind of herb is very potent and will always be hard to find and hard to grow. One of these herb is ginseng. Through years of studying herbs, one thing has become very apparent: when nature grows an herb or plant in abundance, you should use that herb abundantly. However, if nature grows it sparingly, we should be wise enough to use it sparingly.

Ginseng grows very sparingly. Even when it is planted on farms or in groves, it still takes more than five years for the root to mature enough to use.

The Chinese claim the history of Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng) to be more than 5,000 years old. In some histories, it says that ginseng was only used by the emperor and his family because it was so scarce. Later, it was used by the wealthy merchants. One story I read said a very wealthy man wanted to buy a certain big ginseng root owned by a merchant. This root had seventy-two rootlets or scars, meaning it was at least 72 years old. Bargaining over the price of the root took over a month. Finally, the merchant agreed to sell the ginseng root. The price was to be the merchant’s weight in gold for the root. He was a big , fat man.

There is an historical account of a Jesuit priest named Father Petrus Jartoux who served in China in the late 1600s. He knew of ginseng and its worth. He was transferred to work with the Mohawks of Montreal Canada in the early 1700s. The climate and terrain were the same as they were in China. After a couple of years of searching, he found an American ginseng plant like the ones he had seen in China. A root was sent to China and they asked for more.

In 1773, fifty-five tons of American ginseng was shipped from Boston to Canton, China for the unheard of price of $5.00 a pound.

For hundreds of years, American ginseng has been pursued by “seng” hunters and sent to China. Today there is very little wild American ginseng left. A few years ago, I saw wild American ginseng offered for more than $700.00 a pound. Today, good wild roots are very expensive. Most American ginseng is grown on farms in Winconsin. It takes more than six years to grow a crop.

Ginseng must have shade and plenty of moisture. It grows from one to two feet tall. It has three main compound leaves each composed of five fine-toothed leaflets that grow on a straight stem. It has small white flowers that turn to bright red berries.

Ginseng is supposed to be a male herb. The root usually grows in the shape of a man. It is supposed to make a man more virile and is supposed to insure good health and long life. The Native Americans used the herb to overcome fatigue, help digestion, and increase endurance and to make love potions.

Ginseng is used in many herbal formulas, in very small amounts because it is so expensive. It is used to increase the appetite, help indigestion, overcome asthma, relieve laryngitis and bronchitis, and overcome tuberculosis. Ginseng is supposed to strengthen the immune system, reduce cholesterol, prevent heart attacks, protect the liver, strengthen the kidneys and help overcome cancer. If there was ever a wonder herb, ginseng is supposed to be it. Canaigre, Rumex hymenosepalus, is not ginseng. It is a dock plant that grows in the southwest desert. In the scriptures it says, “In all of your getting, get understanding.” So learn to understand the herbs.

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