The word ginseng is Chinese for man root, probably because the plant itself looks so much like a pair of legs. Ginseng has long been a very important herb in traditional Chinese medicine, and with the rise of New Age treatments in the West, it has become more popular here too. It is also known as Panax, the plants Greek name, which literally means cure-all like panacea.
The Chinese are not the only ones who made use of ginseng historically, however the plant also grows in America, and Native Americans have eaten it for centuries, also using it as a medicine. As there is no way that the two groups could have been communicating with each other, either this is a huge co-incidence, or there must be some health benefits to ginseng.
America and China are the worlds two largest producers of ginseng, but the Chinese believe that American ginseng is very different to their own. They say that their ginseng is Yang, while the Americans is Yin. As the Chinese traditionally believe that Yin and Yang must be balanced, there is a lot of demand for American ginseng.
Ginseng can be eaten raw or prepared in various ways, but one of the most popular varieties is red ginseng. This is ginseng that has been heated up in the sun until it has gone red, and is then marinated in herbs. All sorts of extra health benefits are claimed for red ginseng, and many people also find that it tastes better.
One thing you should be aware of if youre thinking of buying some ginseng is that many non-ginseng products are often labelled as ginseng Siberian ginseng, for example, is not actually ginseng at all the same goes for Indian, Peruvian and Brazilian ginseng. Although they are labelled as ginseng in the hope that they will sell better, they are really completely different plants.