Ginseng has been revered in Asia for thousands of years. Modern research is just beginning to show the many amazing qualities and properties of ginseng.
There are lots of ways you can use ginseng to improve your health. The easiest way is to buy some sliced, dried ginseng root from your local Asian grocery store. Then put a pinch of it in a cup and steep in hot water for an energising alternative to tea and coffee. Or put a few slices in with the next soup or stew that you make. Call the Clinic if you want to use ginseng in a herbal formula for your health problems. For a delicious and revitalising chicken ginseng soup, see the recipe below.
Healing properties of ginseng
Ginseng is used in Chinese medicine to strengthen the Qi (energy). Ginseng works on many of your body’s systems as well as providing all-over benefits. Here are just some of the properties of ginseng that have been revealed by modern science:
- Cardiovascular system: Stimulates the heart at low doses, slows the heart at high doses. Dilates (widens) vessels in the heart and brain. Stimulates production of white and red blood cells.
- Nervous system: Sedative and tranquillising effects. Significantly improves alertness, relaxation, appetite and vitality.
- Endocrine: Stimulates production of hormones that deal with stress and reproduction.
- Metabolism: Lowers blood glucose. Improves protein metabolism, appetite, body weight and growth rate. Lowers cholesterol.
- General: Regulates immune system to increase disease resistance. Anticancer activity. Anti X-irradiation activity. Anti-ageing effect. Anti-inflammatory.
- Adaptogen: Helps the body to deal with stress.
- Ginseng is a source of the trace element Germanium. Germanium foods and supplements are used as cancer remedies and to generally strengthen the immune system.
Types of ginseng
There are several different types of ginseng and each type has its own properties in Chinese medicine.
- Standard ginseng is called Ren Shen (Panax Ginseng) which means “human root” in Chinese. It strengthens the body’s core energy as well as the energy of the lungs, digestion and heart. It is calming and generates fluids to stop thirst. The best quality is wild ginseng from Ji Lin province, called Ji Lin Shen.
- There are two types of ginseng that have a stronger property for generating fluids and nourishing Yin. One is cultivated ginseng from China called Sheng Shai Shen. The other is American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolia) – Xi Yang Shen. These types are cooler and are better for people with “heat” (eg red face, thirst, feeling hot, night sweating or constipation).
- When cultivated ginseng is cured by steaming, it changes colour from white to red and is called Hong Shen (“red root”). Most Korean ginseng is cured in this way. Red ginseng is warmer than other ginsengs and is good for people with “cold” signs (cold hands and feet, fluid retention, feeling cold or sluggish digestion).
Ginseng recipe – Samgyetang (Korean chicken & ginseng soup)
This is a wonderful soup to strengthen the body’s energy and combat the effects of stress.
1/3 cup glutinous rice
5 dried Chinese red dates (Hong Zao)
4 dried chestnuts
2 fingers dried ginseng
1 whole organic chicken
Salt and pepper
- Wash rice and soak in water for ½ hour
- Rinse dates, chestnuts and ginseng
- Clean the chicken and place the rice, jujubes, chestnuts, ginseng and six cloves of whole peeled garlic into the cavity. Tie the cavity shut with string to keep the ingredients inside while cooking.
- In a very large pot, boil water and place the chicken carefully in the water. Return the water to the boil then simmer for around three hours. Skim the top to keep the broth clear.
- To serve, place some broth and meat into bowls and garnish with stuffing ingredients (eg dates). Salt and pepper to taste. Serve the rice stuffing in a separate bowl.
This post is brought to you by Lois Nethery, acupuncturist and Chinese medicine herbalist at Ocean Acupuncture in Curl Curl on Sydney's Northern Beaches.
Ocean Acupuncture is a natural medicine centre of independent health practitioners. The views expressed in this blog are the author's only and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other Ocean Acupuncture practitioners.
The information presented in this blog, and on the Ocean Acupuncture website, is for interest and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for health or medical information or advice. For health or medical advice, please consult your health professional.