Ginseng

A Gift Box of a very Special Ginseng Root

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.

Some buyers place great faith in the shape of the root

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.

Different types of Ginseng

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 Raw Roots of 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 plant is quite pretty above ground

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.

9 Comments

  1. Mari, this is so interesting about Ginseng and the different uses for it. So I assume you went to the Ginseng Market in Korea? Your photos are excellent. When I lived in South Korea, I ate Samgyetang, a Korean soup which primarily consists of a whole young chicken and Korean ginseng. The dish’s name literally translates as “‘ginseng chicken soup” in English. It is believed that this soup can cure and prevent illness or physical ailments. Samgyetang is traditionally served in the summer for its supposed nutrients, which replaces those lost through excessive sweating and physical exertion during the hot summers in Korea. 🙂

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    1. I confess to never having visited Korea but I spent a long time in Thailand where I got to know about ginseng through my Thai and Korean friends – I even had the chicken soup you mention. I can’t take credit for the photos either as they came from Pixabay! I am in a blank space at the moment where I seem to be unable to write about my usual subject, travel, as everything seems to come out like guidebook writing, i.e. facts, facts, facts. Searching around for something else I came up with Ginseng, and lurking in the background are mini-histories of spirits (the alcoholic kind). The mood will pass, I hope. I won’t call it writer’s block because I’ve always refused to believe in this, and I’ve always been reluctant to write too much about personal things. Hey ho! things must change!

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      1. I know what you mean about figuring out how to write about travel so it’s not boring and full of facts. I always go back and forth and try to challenge myself with different angles and ways of approaching places, but I don’t always succeed. I think it was an interesting post about the Ginseng. Neither do I believe in writer’s block. I do enjoy reading more personal stories, but I too worry about putting too much out there. I used to write everything in my other blogs, and just pour it all out, but I feel less comfortable revealing too much in this day of “attacking” and polarizing social media. Have a happy new year, Mari. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I’ve been absent for a while but girding up the writing loins again for more writing in the New Year. I look forward to reading more of The Places you See in 2019.

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      1. I’ve been sporadic myself. But a new year, new resolve, right? Want to finish showing off pics from Morocco. Then we travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand for a brief 2 weeks in late January, early Feb. Can’t wait to dust off my camera and look at the world again! Thanks for following!

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  2. You’re travelling to my favourite spots, Thailand and Vietnam. I shall be in Hua Hin in Thailand in late January also, not sure where I shall be going to from there. I may hang out in Thailand and take a trip to the north. Enjoy it.

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  3. I noted your conversation with Cathy, Mari. 🙂 🙂 I always wanted to go to Thailand, although ginseng had absolutely nothing to do with it. I do tend to ‘leave too much out there’ in my writing. Many emotions flowing through me at present and I’m not sure how honest I can afford to be. The aim is to entertain, on the blog, isn’t it? I find myself much less inclined to take part in Challenges because I don’t feel that I get much out of it. I do enjoy good travel writing though. You must have Thailand posts that I’ve never read. My very best wishes to you in 2019. Here’s to productive travels 🙂

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  4. I notice you’ve got a new photograph (of you). Is this new life, new you? It’s a lovely one. I’m at the age now when I’m shocked every time I see my image and spend too long wondering if the lines and creases are real or if the camera is lying. Most of my Thai pieces were written when I was working professionally as a travel writer – more or less retired now due to the eye problems which makes it difficult to meet deadlines – but I have thought of posting one or two of those when inspiration runs out!

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