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Ingredient Feature: Ginseng

A Wonder of the World

May 14

What looks like a dancer and has been prized since the dawn of our ancestors’ day? Ginseng, that fascinating root believed-to-be miracle worker for stimulating everything from skin circulation to swifter memory recall.

A go-to herb in ancient recipes, Panax Ginseng Root Extract wears its attributes on its sleeve. Let’s unpack it. First, the genus name, Panax, is derived from the Greek “panakeia,” which means universal remedy—or panacea. Early Chinese emperors who consumed it or used it in lotions or soaps praised its restorative powers.

Next, “ginseng.” Derived from the Chinese “jen-shen,” the term means “in the image of a man.” This explains its anthropomorphic appearance; its fleshy ecru roots often take the shape of a jangly-legged cowboy.

Dubbed one of the wonders of the world, the perennial plant grows to three feet, with oval-toothed leaves and a cluster of small chartreuse flowers. It is native to Asia as well as North America, though the varieties are distinct. Indeed, ginseng was one of the earliest herbs to be harvested in this country and sold to, of all places, China. Once harvested wild here, it nearly went extinct; today, most ginseng is cultivated.

The true power of ginseng is found in its root, the source of its proclaimed benefits. Used fresh or dried, the root is typically macerated to yield an extract that’s infused in traditional medicines and related products. It promises to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, protect against stress, bolster strength and sooth nerves. Racehorses in Korea often get ginseng cocktails to perk up their performance.

In skin care, antioxidant-rich ginseng acts as a natural moisturizer to protect against environmental factors that can cause premature aging. Better yet, its proven ability to boost circulation may brighten dull, aging skin, imparting a ginseng glow.

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