Panax ginseng (Bái cān)
Ginseng is found in North America and in eastern Asia (mostly northeast China, Korea, Bhutan, eastern Siberia), typically in cooler climates. Similar to American Ginseng, Chinese Red Ginseng is an excellent tonic herb which can help with fatigue, stress, and supports healthy liver function. It is an adaptogenic herb, which helps the systems of the body adapt to stress. Over centuries, ginseng has been considered in China as an critical component of Chinese traditional medicine.
The aromatic root resembles a small parsnip that forks as it matures. The plant grows 6″ to 18″ tall, usually bearing three leaves, each with three to five leaflets two to five inches long. The English word ginseng derives from the Chinese term rénshēn (simplified: 人参; traditional: 人蔘). Rén means “Person” and shēn means “plant root”; this refers to the root’s characteristic forked shape, which resembles the legs of a person.
The botanical genus name Panax, meaning “all-healing” in Greek, shares the same origin as “panacea” and was applied to this genus because Linnaeus was aware of its wide use in Chinese medicine as a muscle relaxant. According to traditional Chinese medicine, American ginseng promotes yin energy, cleans excess yang and calms the body. The reason it has been claimed that American ginseng promotes yin (shadow, cold, negative, female) while Asian ginseng promotes yang (sunshine, hot, positive, male) is that, according to traditional Chinese medicine, things living in cold places or northern side of mountains or southern side of rivers are strong in yang and the converse, so the two are balanced.
White ginseng, native to America, is fresh ginseng which has been dried without being heated. It is peeled and dried to reduce the water content to 12% or less. White ginseng air-dried in the sun may contain less of the therapeutic constituents. It is thought by some that enzymes contained in the root break down these constituents in the process of drying. Drying in the sun bleaches the root to a yellowish-white color.