Ginseng, Ren Shen, 人参, Panax Ginseng

Disclaimer    For educational purposes only.  Do not use as medical advice

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Health Benefits
For: Chronic fatigue • Stress • Poor immune systems • COPDDiabetes • Liver fibrosis • Atherosclerosis • Impotence • Hormone imbalance • Chronic fatigue from fibromyalgia (Korean) • Stress reducer • Menopause • immune functions and infection resistance • Liver functions • High blood sugar • Diabetes • Low hair growth • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Attributes: adaptogen • anti-aging • anticoagulantantiplatelet • antioxidant • antiplatelet • immunity booster • anti-inflammatory • antidepressant • hepatoprotective • stimulant
Products (online examples)

Hsu Wisconsin Ginseng

Schumacher Ginseng

Canadian Ginseng Farm

Korea Ginseng Corp

Korean Ginseng

American Ginseng Capsules

Changbai Mountain Ginseng

Research (sample)

Red, white, black and sun ginseng are variations of processed methods for Panax (Korean) ginseng.

ginsenosides • acetylenic compounds • triterpenoid • panaxans •sesquiterpen • stigmasterol • β-sitosterol • Coumarin • Vitamins A, E, and B12 • sodium • potassium • riboflavin • niacin • sulfur • calcium • iron • manganese • thiamine • tin • phosphorous • magnesium • panazatrio, panaenic acid, panose, glucose, maltose, nicotinic acid, riboflavin

Photos (Click to enlarge)
Fun Facts
Other Names: Ninjin (Japanese) • Insam (Korean) • דזשינסענג (Yiddish) • женьшень (Russian) • żeń-szeń (Polish) • जिनसेंग (Hindi)
Plant Family: Araliaceae
The only two ginseng that contains ginsenocide are: 1) American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) AKA Xi Yang Shen, 花旗参 , 西洋参 2) Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) AKA Ren Shen,人参, Radix Ginseng

Cost ranges from $75 to $3330 per 8 ounces depending on age, size, and grade.   The most expensive found online is between 30-50 year old ginseng.  Marathon County, Wisconsin claims to produce 95% of the American ginseng.  Wild ginseng has a mythical quality that can fetch prices greater than gold- The $250K GinsengThe $400K ginseng.

French Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Francois Lafitau, first found American ginseng in Montreal, Canada.   He started exploring for them after reading another missionary’s description of the ginseng he learned about in China in 1714.  With the help of the Mohawk tribe near Montreal, he found Panax quinquefolius throughout eastern Canada and United States.

Korean Ginseng has been in use over 5000 years and is thought to have been discovered in Manchuria, China.  By the third century AD. China's demand for ginseng exploded and Korea began cultivating it by the 1900s.  the most popular Korean Ginseng brand is made by the Cheong Kwan Jang factory run by Korea Ginseng Corporation.  There are 4 different grades of Korean ginseng - cut, good, earth, and heaven.  The most prized product is “cheonsam,” which translates to “heaven-grade roots.”  Cheonsam is a luxury product and has been given as gifts to presidents and monarchs during their visits.

Cheonsam is the top 0.5% of every 8,000 tons of red ginseng processed at the KGC factory.  7,000 to 8,000 cans of the 10 roots are produce per year and sold at roughly $5500 per can.  Supply can not meet demand and people often wait up to 6 months for the next batch.[ref]  The "good" grade is more reasonable and is sold around $90 per 75 gram in Texas in 2018.  

Ginseng is listed as approved non-prescriptive medicine in the following pharmacopeias: German Commission E 1992 • Martindale Extra Pharmacopoeia 1972 • WHO 2000.

Panax ginseng - AKA Korean, Asian, Oriental, Chinese or Red Ginseng.  Contain active ingredients known as ginsenosides.  Often considered the true ginseng because it has a higher percentage of ginsenosides.  Shown to regulate blood sugar and manage stress.  Very warm, promoting heat, a natural stimulant.  An adaptogen (helps the body adapt to stress, fatigue and cold).  Improves thinking and concentration, increase memory retention and boost physical and mental stamina.  Panax ginseng can be white and red.  White ginseng is dried fresh root.  Red ginseng is steam treated and then dried.  This herb has been prescribed in TCM for thousands of years and has acquired a mystical quality.Panax quinqefolius - American Ginseng.  Contain active ingredients known as ginsenosides, but weaker than the Asian version.  Shown to regulate blood sugar and manage stress.  Treats headaches, fever, indigestion, infertility, and boost the immune system.   Reduce stress and fatigue.  American Ginseng is a cooling agent and an adaptogen.

Eleutherococcus senticosus - Siberian or Russian Ginseng is really in a completely different plant family.  It produces similar effects as Korean ginseng, but it contain no ginsenocide.  Its main chemical constituents are ciwujianoside and eletherosides.  It isn’t a stimulant and must be taken for regularly for an extended period before results are noticed.  It's illegal in the U.S. to call this plant ginseng.

Withania somnifera -  known as Indian Ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry.  Contains no ginsenocide.  The main constituents are alkaloids and steroidal lactones.  It has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, immune-enhancing, and rejuvenating properties.  It has been used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.  It's illegal in the U.S. to call this plant ginseng.

Talinum paniculatumAKA Jewels of Opar, Java ginseng, Pink Baby Breath, and Fame Flower.   Leaves are more widely used as a vegetable in Brazil6 and the Philippines.   Pharmacological studies have shown estrogenic activities.  Like ginseng, it contains tannins, steroids, and triterpenes.   It's also antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial.  


Stratified Seeds

After 1 month

After 2 Months

Ginseng can also be grown indoors since it require shade.  You can plant them from fresh root like the video below or you can cheat and order them already germinated from the many online sellers.  Note: they grow VERY slowly and very sensitive to warm weather.
Panax Ginseng is in the USDA Plant Database, but not found in the wild.  Drill down via USDA Interactive Map. Panax quinquefolius (American Ginseng) is a close substitute, and is native to the U.S. Drill down via USDA Interactive Map.

USA: Panax Ginseng is not found in the wild.  Panax quinquefolius, a close substitute, is native to multiple states.  USDA Zones: 5-9 (P. Quinquefolius zones 3-7)

World: China, Korea, Siberia

Habitats: Mountains, forests, deep shaded areas, 5 year maturity.

Ginseng is a ridiculously huge market.  My parents spent thousands of dollars on this herb.  I use to think they were crazy, investing such funds on fru-fru things like herbs.  Wild ginseng has been picked to near extinction in China.  The increase in value is getting environmentalists concerned over the mass picking happening in the U.S.  Cultivated ginseng goes for a fraction of the price, ranging from $100 to $200 per pound.  I've been drinking ginseng tea to see if it has any impact on lowering my blood sugar.  Ginseng was always prized, but never with this much demand.  I remembered tossing a whole box of Korean ginseng that an uncle gave me as a gift.  I was in my 20's and knew little about the usage of herbs and thought I was going to be young and vibrant forever.

Ginseng has a slightly tart and bitter taste.  For that reason, I never liked it when my mother would put stew slices of it with chicken or eggs.  She would try to convince the kids to drink the broth, but of course, we were all too smart for our own good.

Useful for preventing upset stomach - My husband felt and upset stomach coming on as he usually does from greasy food.  In this case, it was Fried Chicken.  I brewed him a concoction with 4 slices of American ginseng and 2 hawthorn berries, along with a slice of dried lemon for flavor and vitamin C.   Two cups of the tea and he never had the upset stomach.

Drink Korean Ginseng in winter and American Ginseng in summer.  I didn't believe this until I drank American ginseng on one of the coldest nights in Austin this year.  I had two cups of the tea with about 4 small slices and I was freezing in my bedroom that night.  Our temperature was set at 65 degrees and I should not have been feeling constant chills under a down blanket.  American ginseng cools qi while Korean ginseng is a stimulant and warms it.  I'm finding both to be very strong and definitely should be used with some forethought.

Buyers BEWARE!  I ordered two Korean ginseng plants online and later learned that these are NOT Korean ginseng as advertised.  The leaves look nothing like Korean or American ginseng once I did further research.  This is Talinum Paniculatum/ Java ginseng, which contains no ginsenocide.

Editor Tours Hsu Ginseng farm in Wausau, Wisconsin (July 2018)

The farm offers an hour long tour.  The tour can be done in English, Cantonese, or Mandarin.   Visitors are welcome to ask any questions regarding the cultivation.  In fact, it was a surprisingly friendly and family oriented operation.  Mr. and Mrs. Hsu are the founders and owners but have since retired happened to be present during our tour.  They happily took photos with us and spent over 20 minutes explaining how they started the farm and why.  Hsu Ginseng was one of the first to cultivate American ginseng over 45 years ago.  It started when Mr. Hsu sent wild ginseng home to his mother for her poor health.  He noticed the immediate effects and decided to start farming the plant.   Their eldest son, Will, now runs the business.  The tour is $5 per person and $25 per group.  The tour ends at the company store.  Be sure to ask for your 10% off for buying on site.

Editor Tours Schumacher Ginseng in Marathon City, Wisconsin (July 2018)

Schumacher Ginseng  offers a tour, and like Hsu farm, you must call at least 24 hours in advance so they can schedule a guide.  Schmacher Ginseng has been in business for over 50 years.  It was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Schumacher.  Their son now runs the family business.  One can go by their main office during business hours to buy ginseng.  They are very friendly and open.  Mrs. Schumacher was happy to take photos with us.  They showed us the different steps of how they process and trim each root.  If you buy the large roots, they'll let you pick each from their inventory.  Even before we bought our stash, I asked if they had any ginseng seeds.  The manager (son) quickly went to the back and found some and he gave them to us free of charge.  We truly appreciated this welcoming and family oriented atmosphere.

Editor Buys Korean Ginseng in Austin, TX (November, 2018)

I bought this box of Korean Ginseng from H Mart (Korean market) in Austin, TX.  The owner tried to slice it and broke his new machine in the process.  Korean ginseng is very dense.  I have to figure out how I want to decoct it. It cost $90 for 75 grams of "good" quality can.  In fact, the owner informed me that Korean ginseng can no longer be imported into the United States because of President Trump's trade war.  They had to order it by way of Canada.  Photos below are cooking with Korean Ginseng.  Since the ginseng is so compact, it must be wrapped in a paper towel and microwaved for 10 seconds.  Then it can be chopped into pieces with a clever.  One server should be about 6-9 grams.  The ginseng expands in the broth and adds to an excellent taste with goji berries, chicken, and red dates.  

Properties, Actions, Indications, etc.              Category: Tonify Qi 
English: Ginseng    Pinyin:  Ren Shen      Pharmaceutical: Radix Ginseng  
Organs: Lung • Spleen        Temperature: Slightly Warm (100%) 
Taste: Sweet • Bitter        Toxicity: Low. Overdose starts at 200 ml of 3% tincture.   
Patterns: Qi deficiency 
Actions:  Tonify yuan qi • Tonify lung qi • Tonify heart qi • Calms spirit • Stop thirst • Helps impotence
Indications: Cold limbs • Excessive sweating • Labored breathing • Poor appetite • Prolapse stomach • Thirsty • Anxiety palpitations
Contraindications: Autoimmune disorder • Blood thinner medication • Diabetes medication • Blood pressure medication • Caffeine • Yin deficiency • Stagnant fire • Hypertension • Bleeding disorders • Pain in chest • Excess heat
Typical Dosage: 3-9 g          Guidelines
Parts Used: Roots • Flowers • Leaves     Substitutes: Dang Shen • American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius)
Combine With Purpose
Fu Zi Collapsed qi and devastated yang.  Excessive sweating, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath
Lu Rong Impotence
Long Yan Rou +Dang Gui +Yuan Zhi Heart and spleen deficiency. Palpitations, poor appetite, insomnia, shortness of breath
Shu Di Huang +Tian Men Dong Qi and Yin deficiency.  Fever, thirst, dry and red tongue, shortness of breath
Zi Su Ye Qi deficiency.  External wind cold.
Ge Jie +Hu Tao Ren Kidney deficiency.  Wheezing.
Mai Men Dong +Wu Wei Zi Qi and Yin deficiency.  Unexplained sweating and dyspnea.
Bai Zhu +Fu Ling  Spleen and stomach qi deficiency.  Vomiting, diarrhea, focal abdominal distention, anorexia
Dui Yao Pairs Purpose
Ren Shen + Zhi Fu Zi Cold limbs, loss of blood, unexplained sweating, Jue Yin sysndrome, minute pulse
Ren Shen + Ge Gen Ren Shen Jian: Tonify qi, Tonify stomach qi, increase
Ren Shen + Huang Qi Strong Qi tonic
Ren Shen + Gan Cao Increase fluids
Formulas with Ren Shen
Ba Zhen Tang • Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang • Bu Dai Wan • Bu Fei Tang • Bu Zhong Yi Qi TangChai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang • Da Jian Zhong Tang • Da Zao Wan • Di Tan Tang • Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang • Ding Zhi Wan • Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang • Gui Pi Tang • He Ren Yin • Huang Long Tang • Jian Pi Wan • Jiu Xian San • Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang • Li Zhong Wan • Mai Men Dong Tang • Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang • Ren Shen Bai Du San • Ren Shen Ge Jie San • Sang Piao Xiao San • Shen Fu Tang • Shen Ling Bai Zhu San • Sheng Mai San • Shi Quan Da Bu Tang • Si Jun Zi Tang • Si Mo Tang • Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan • Wan Dai Tang • Wen Jing Tang • Wu Mei Wan • Wu Zhu Yu TangXiao Chai Hu Tang • Xiao Xu Ming Tang • Xie Xin Tang • Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang • Zai Zao San • Zhen Ren Yang Zang Tang • Zhi Gan Cao TangZhi Shi Xiao Pi Wan • Zhong Man Fen Xiao Wan • Zhu Ye Shi Gao Tang
Variations for Ren Shen

Sun ginseng - processed ginseng steamed at 120°C.  This is aimed to increase the levels of anti-tumor ginsenosides Rg3, Rg5 and Rk. 

Black ginseng - White or red ginseng steamed and dried several times. 

White ginseng - dried fresh root. 

Red ginseng - steam treated and then dried.


• Be cautious when combining ginseng with other herbs that reduces blood sugar.  While it is uncommon, depending on how many of the herbs are combined, hypoglycemia may occur.

• Large doses of Panax Ginseng can raise blood pressure. Very small doses have a mild sedative effect.  Some websites claim that the ideal dose is ideal dose is 300 to 400 mg daily.

• Do not use Korean ginseng if pregnant or nursing without consulting your doctor.

• Ginseng has anticoagulant and antiplatelet effects and may interact with blood thinners like Wafarin or antiplatelets like Aspirin.

Potential Drug Interactions

Herbal medicine may interact negatively with pharma drugs and other herbs.  Examples below:

Herbs: ♦ Incompatible - Li Lu ♦ Antagonize - Lai Fu Zi, Zao Jiao, Wu Ling Zhi ♦ Anticoagulants: American Ginseng, Arnica, Rou Gui, Chamomile, Dan Shen, Dang Gui, Deertongue, Sheng Jiang, Goji Berry, Ginko Nutes, Notoginseng, Peach Kernel, Hong Hua, Sweet Clover, Vanilla Grass ♦ Blood Sugar Reducers: Artichoke , Basil , Bell Flower , Bitter Melon , Cang Zhu , cassia cinnamon , Celery , chamomile , Chrysanthemum , Cinnamon , Dragon Fruit , Eucommia , goji berry , Heal All , Hibiscus , Huang qi , Moringa Tree , Roses , Shan yao , Shi gao , Xuan shen , Zhi mu

Pharma Drugs:♦ Anticoagulants: asprin , clopidogrel (Plavix) , Coumadin , dipyridamole , enoxaparin , Heparin ♦ Blood Sugar Reducers: Acarbose (Precose ) , Albiglutide (Tanzeum) , Alogliptin (Nesina) , Bromocriptine mesylate (Cycloset , Canaglifozin (Invokana) , Chlorpropamide (Diabinese) , Dapagliflozin (Farxiga) , Dulaglutide (Trulicity) , Empagliflozin (Jardiance) , Glimepiride (Amaryl) , glipizide (Glucotrol) , Glyburide (DiaBeta , Glynase) , Insulin , Linagliptin (Tradjenta) , Metformin , Miglitol (Glyset) , Nateglinide (Starlix) , Parlodel) , Pioglitazone (Actos) , Pramlintide , Repaglinide (Prandin) , Rosiglitazone (Avandia) , Saxagliptin (Onglyza) , Sitagliptin (Januvia) , Tol-Tab) , Tolazamide (Tolinase) , Tolbutamide (Orinase)

US Law
Wild or wild simulated American ginseng can be harvested in 19 States.  Exportation of ginseng is controlled by U.S. Fish and Wild Life Services, which stipulated that only roots 5 years or older can be exported and must be harvested during designated state harvest seasons.   Each plant must have 3 leaves (each leaf is comprised of 3-5 leaflets), which ensure that plants are at least 5 years old.  Illinois requires 4 leaves and be 10 years old.   

Roots of artificially propagated American ginseng can be exported at any age.  You can tell the age by 1) Counting the number of leaves 2) Count the number of stem scars on the root neck.  The 18 approved States with wild ginseng harvest programs have regulations that prohibit the harvest of plants with fewer than 3 leaves, except for Illinois, which requires wild ginseng plants to have 4 leaves and 10 years old.  

"Organic" ginseng must be certified by a third party under Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) See the Certification Process.  However, Ginseng gathered in the wild is probably free of pesticides and fertilizers.

Information in this post came from many sources, including class notes, practitioners, websites, webinars, books, magazines, and editor's personal experience.  While the original source often came from historical Chinese texts,  variations may result from the numerous English translations.   Always consult a doctor prior to using these drugs.  The information here is strictly for educational purposes. 

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