An umbel of small, greenish-white or yellow-green flowers, scented like Lily-of-the-valley, rises from the center of 3 large compound leaves arranged in a circle.
Flowers: About 1/12 inches wide, with 5 petals. Ginseng flowers
Leaves: 5 to 12 inches long, each with 5 leaflets, pointed and toothed.
Fruit: Cluster of red berries.
Height: 8 to 24 inches.
Family: Araliaceae (Ginseng family)
Flowers: June – July
Parts Used: Root
Habitat: Rich woods. Maine to Georgia; Oklahoma to Minnesota.
Other Names: Man root, life root, root of immortality, tartar root, heal-all,
History: The American Indians learned about ginseng from the Jesuits and used it to combat fatigue, stimulate appetite, and aid digestion. Some tribes mixed it into love potions.
America’s 19th century Eclectics called ginseng a stimulant for “mental exhaustion from overwork” and prescribed it for loss of appetite, indigestion, asthma, laryngitis, bronchitis, and tuberculosis.
Contemporary herbalists echo the Chinese, recommending ginseng as a tonic stimulant that promotes vitality and longevity. They also suggest it for fever, inflammations, colds, coughs, respiratory problems, depression, menstrual difficulties, childbirth, and immune stimulation.
Wild American ginseng is no longer plentiful. In Appalachia, collectors still forage for the herb. Wild ginseng sells to export agents for about $200 per pound.
Properties: Alterative, Aphrodisiac, Carminative, Demulcent, Nervine, Stimulant, Stomachic, Tonic.
Main Uses: Research suggests that ginseng may increase mental efficiency and physical performance, aid in adapting to high or low temperatures and stress (when taken over an extended period). Ginseng’s effect is called “adaptogenic”.
It is mildly stimulating to the central nervous system and to various glands, accounting perhaps for its reputation as a rejuvenator. As a demulcent, ginseng is helpful for coughs, colds, and various chest problems.
Preparation And Dosages:
The root is collected after flowering. Use only thoroughly dried root. Make it into a tea according to your taste and use as needed.
Tincture: Root, (1:5), 70% alcohol. Take 20 to 40 drops up to 3 times a day.
Cultivation: Root cuttings are often diseased, so most growers start with seeds. Plant ginseng seeds in early autumn in well-prepared, humus-rich beds at a depth of 1/2-inch with 6-inch spacing. Ginseng grows poorly in sandy or clay soils. Maintain soil pH in the range of 5.0 to 6.0.
Be patient. Germination can take a year. Plants must be shaded, ideally under trees, but covered frames work.
Harvest roots after six years, digging carefully to prevent breaking root limbs. Dry them for one month.