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Herb Reference Guide

Korean Ginseng


Asian Ginseng is one of the most economically, historically, and medicinally important plants. It has been used for thousands of years and appears in the first known Chinese Materia Medica (thought to have been written during the Han Dynasty (220 BCE). Ginseng root is native to the northern mountainous regions of Korea, China, and parts of the Russian Federation. The plant was botanically named, as we now know it by Russian Botanist Carl Anton von Meyer in 1843. Cultivation of Panax ginseng in Korea started around 11 B.C. by transplantation of wild ginseng. Panax ginseng cultivated in Korea (Korean ginseng) is harvested after 4-6 years of cultivation, and it is classified into three types depending on how it is processed: (a) fresh ginseng (less than 4 yr old; can be consumed in it’s fresh state); (b) white ginseng (4-6 yr old; dried after peeling); and © red ginseng (harvested when 6 yr old, and then steamed and dried). For these purposes we will discuss the use of “white ginseng”. Panax is derived from the latin “Pan” or All, and “Akos” or Cure. The sound-Gin stands for the word Man in Chinese, and Seng for the term essence or that which underlies all outward appearances. Ginseng roots physically resemble the human body. According to Chinese beliefs, Ginseng is the representation of the essence of earth that dwells in a root.


This herb is a perfect example of the function of a “tonic” herb, an herb that is used for nutritive, restorative, long-term purposes. Herbalists classify it as an adaptogen. An adaptogen must have a normalizing effect, enhance homeostasis and counteract negative effects brought about by stressors. It must also have a wide range of safety with a broad range of therapeutic effects without causing any major side effects. This herb has been used in convalescence, to support normal immune function, to revitalize energy levels. The German Commission E Monograph for Panax ginseng reads; “As tonic for invigoration and fortification in times of fatigue and debility, for declining capacity for work and concentration, also during convalescence.” It is official in the Pharmacopeia of Austria, China, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and Russia.

Uses of Korean Ginseng


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Triterpene saponins known as ginsenosides. The root contains 2–3% ginsenosides of which Rg1, Rc, Rd, Rb1, Rb2, and Rb0 are quantitatively the most important.

Parts Used

  • Root

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Dorling, E. and A.M. Kirchdorfer. 1980. Do ginsenosides influence the performance? Results of a double-blind study. Notabene Medici 10(5):241246.

Foster, S. and Y. Chongxi. 1992. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. 102112.

Yun, Taik-Koo, MD; Brief Introduction of Panax ginseng C.A.Meyer; J Korean Med Sci 2001; 16(Suppl): S3-5 ISSN 1011-8934