Korean ginseng

Panax ginseng

A perennial herb growing to 1m (3ft) in height. The pink flowers stand atop a simple erect red stem. Mature plants bear five-lobed palmate leaves which circle the stem, growing from a tap root. During the fourth year it produces a small, greenish-white umbel-shaped flower cluster at the junction of the leaves and stem. These go on to produce red berries. The root is harvested between 4-6 years of age (this age can be determined by the number of wrinkles around the neck of the root). The light beige root appears similar to the shape of the human body. The lateral root and root hairs are used to make the medicine.

Family: Araliaceae

Which probiotic is it in?: Korean ginseng is a key herb in Women

Habit and cultivation: Indigenous to the mountainous regions of Eastern Asia, cultivated in China, Korea and Japan. Grows in deep woodland or semi light, preferring a moist soil.

Actions (known for): Adaptogen, anti-arrhythmic, cardioprotective, circulatory stimulant, hepatoprotective, hepatotonic, hypoglycaemic, immunostimulant, male tonic and thymoeptic tonic.


Panax derives its name from Panacea, the Greek ‘goddess of all healing’. In Chinese gin (shin, jen), means ‘human being’ and seng or shen describes the fleshy bitter roots. Together the meaning is ‘bitter root in the shape of a human being’. First described in the Chui Zhang, and has been held in highest esteem for more than 2,000 years. In accordance with Traditional Chinese Medicine the root prolongs life, cools fever, strengthens the spleen and stomach, supports the lungs, opens the heart and increases knowledge. It was banned in Europe during the Middle Ages as being ‘devil’s stuff’. Since 1972 such places as the Ginseng Research Institute have been trying to break down the plant’s efficacy and constituents.

Parts used:


Constituents (bio available chemicals):

Ginsenosides (at least 13 have been isolated Ra, Rb, Rg-1, Rg-2 etc). Glycans. Volatile oils containing b-elemene and two acetylenic compounds.

Nutritional constituents:


Alcoholism, arrhythmia, asthma, cancer, depression, drug abuse, impotence, improving resistance to infection, chronic inflammation, myocardial infarction, low sperm count and a tonic for the elderly.


Liquid extract: 7-14ml per week.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia

Depressive states associated with sexual inadequacy.

Cautions for therapeutic doses

May aggravate insomnia, acute asthma, and acute infections. Contra-indicated for hypertension, hypokalaemia, oedema.

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