It used to be the root that made people give that nudge and wink smile that relegated the Ginseng root to the realms of sexual innuendo, it’s popularity relying more on its reputation as an aphrodisiac than a health supplement. Promotions along the lines of Appeases the Thirst of Women and Activates Manly Functions kept the root firmly in the field of sexual problems.
Nowadays, however, ginseng is recognized as having qualities that stimulate all senses and it is even credited with preventing breakdowns in both health and the nervous system. These claims may sound outlandish but, to the believer, the root is the antidote to everything. Two grammes a day is the recommended dose to keep one healthy and this can be taken in many forms. However, the jury is still out on the efficacies claimed for the product.
Geumsan, the Capital of Ginseng
Geumsan, a small town just three hours south of Seoul, is the undisputed ginseng capital of South Korea where the 10-day Ginseng Fair and Market is attended by thousands and tons of the root is sold. Here the emphasis is solely on the plant with hundreds of tons of the product on sale as well as by-products of the root – ginseng tea, chocolates, cereal bars, jam, shampoo, soap and face creams.
It can be bought bottled, dried, raw, peeled, sliced, shaved, or steamed. A big trade is also done in ginseng wine and chicken gingseng soup. The wine at 13% alcohol has the obvious effect of perking most people up very quickly, proof, to the believers, that the root is working.
The Ginseng Fair and Market at Geumsan, Korea
The emphasis at the fair is on health and well being and Geumsan is the place to snap up not only fresh raw ginseng but the processed products.
At the fair there is a doctor pavilion and visitors can experience traditional treatments – including acupuncture – and discuss the ginseng effect with specialists. Many oriental doctors are there to lecture on the medical effects of the root and there are special pavilions where they treat children for various childhood illnesses. South Koreans believe there is nothing that ginseng cannot cure.
The Best Ginseng
The best ginseng is considered to be South Korean, opinions that come from Hong Kong and China, major importers of the crop. This has a lot to do with the shape of the root which the Chinese take to resemble the human body (ginseng from other countries resembles a carrot). It is said that it is the acidic soil in Geumsan that contributes so much to the quality of the ginseng as well as the heavier than average rainfall.
The people of Geumsan can convince you of anything – their marketing skills are way above what anyone would expect from this small town – but they emphasize that Ginseng should be taken over a long period. So whether you take the root as an aphrodisiac, for its health properties, or to cure some illness or disease, remember that it does not have an immediate effect.
Ginseng is available in all countries from health shops and other specialist shops, but to find a variety of the root, seek out the Chinatowns of western countries where it will be found in abundance.