Origin of Korean Ginseng

The origins of ginseng

Korean ginseng, a medicinal herb, naturally exists in only three regions: “Korea”(33.7-43.1), “Manchuria”(43-47), and the Littoral province of Siberia.

The Korean peninsula is the best place to grow ginseng, because ginseng has stringent requirements for the plant’s growth, and Korea has the ideal temperature zone, plenty of rain in the summer, proper coldness in the winter, etc..

The value of Korean ginseng has been known in the world since the 4th century B.C. Books written in this era documented ginseng as emergent medicine and tonic for long-life. Ginseng was first mentioned as a tonic as early as 48-33 B.C. in Interpretation of Creatures written by You Shi of ancient China.

Moreover, Shen Nung Pen-Ts’ao-ching, the worlds oldest extant Chinese medicinal book, described the quality and production area of ginseng, medicinal effects of ginseng, and showed that high quality ginseng mainly came from the Korean kingdom of Kokuryo.

Russian botanist C.A. Meyer named it panax ginseng in 1843. The genus name, panax means cure all in Greed(pan meaning all, Axos meaning heal), therefore, true ginseng means Korean ginseng.

The name of the ginseng

That traditional name of ginseng is “Shim” The etymology and date are not known, but “Shim” was written in many medicinal books of the ‘Joseon Dynasty,’ and it is still used among pickers of wild ginseng. Korean ginseng seems to be named after its physical resemblance of people in far-east Asia. The Chinese character gin means men, and seng represents the genus name Panax. There are six to seven species in plants in the genus Panax, but only three of them are cultivated economically and distributed as a product in the world. Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer, the Korea ginseng species, is cultivated and distributed in Far Eastern Asia, including Korea and China. Panax quinquefolium L, an America ginseng, is cultivated in America and Canada. Panax notoginseng(Burk) F.H. Chen(Sanchi), is produced in Southern China, geographically. Korean ginseng is different from the species of American ginseng and Sanchi. In general, the Korean ginseng is called ginseng with use of the letter ‘gin’, and only refers to Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer.

Korean ginseng species(Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer)

Korean ginseng species(Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer)

Panax quinquefolia(Panax quinque folium L)

U.S. and Canadian distribution in the area.

Jeonchilsam(Panax notoginseng F.H. Chen)

Sichuanese opera in southern China, R., a shrine to gwangseo

Engler the system of classification
  • Plant
    Embryophyta Siphonogama
    (Embryophyta Siphonogama)
  • Phylum
    Angiospermae
    (Angiospermae)
  • Class
    Dicotyledoneae
    (Dicotyledoneae)
  • Sub-Class
    Archichlamydeae
    (Archichlamydeae)
  • Order
    Umbelliflorae
    (Umbelliflorae)
  • Family
    Araliaceae
    (Araliaceae)
  • Genus
    Panax
    (Panax)
Legal classification of Korean ginseng
Law Object Note
Ginseng industrial law White ginseng, Red ginseng, Taekuksam, Fresh ginseng, (Black ginseng) Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Food sanitation law/Health functional food law Ginseng products, Red ginseng products, Cultivated tissue wild ginseng products, (Black ginseng products, Cultivated wild ginseng products KFDA (Ministry of Heath)
Forest and mountain village promotion law Wild ginseng, Cultivated wild ginseng Forest Service
Classification by processing method
Image Name Characteristic Authorities
Fresh ginseng Not dried ginseng after being picked up from the field. Contains 70~75% moisture. Raw material of all ginseng products. Usually picked up(harvested) when it becomes 4~6 years old. Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
White ginseng Dried fresh ginseng by natural solar heat, hot wind or other method. Contains less than 14% moisture. Peeled or not peeled. Processed as the original form. (color: light yellowish white) Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Taekuksam Dried fresh ginseng after gelatinizing some of body from the skin by putting fresh ginseng into hot water. Medium form of red ginseng and white ginseng. Upright form. (Color: light sienna) Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Red ginseng Steamed and dried fresh ginseng containing less than 14% moisture. With bronzing reaction during processing, it has dark brown color. It can be kept for a long time by being processed in very hard form. Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Black ginseng Steamed and dried ginseng 9times.
Wild ginseng Naturally grown for more than 20years in the mountain. Forest Service
Cultivated wild ginseng Grown by human for more than 15years in ginseng field Forest Service
Cultivated tissue wild ginseng Cultivated for 60days the tissue of wild ginseng. KFDA(Ministry of Heath)
Category

Ginseng, a medicinal herb, has long been used in maintaining physical vitality throughout he far-eastern countries including Korea and China. Carl Anton Meyer, a Russian botanist, named it Panax ginseng C.A.Meyer, in 1843.
The genus name Panax means ‘cure all’ in Greek. The Ginseng root produced in Korea has been most highly prized so as to gain the popular name, Korean ginseng.

Its siblings are found in North America, Japan, China, and Russia, but they are different from Korean ginseng in strain, morphology, and composition. Korean ginseng, Panax, ginseng C.A.Meyer, belong to the family Araliaceae and genus Panax to which six species belong. From the ancient times only Korean ginseng has been used medicinally, whereas several other Panax species has become in use in recent days. Eleutherococcus senticosus does not belong to the genus Panax, but it is called Siberian ginseng only to take ride on the popularity of Korean ginseng.

Common name(Scientific name) No.of leaflets Root appearance Origin
Korean ginseng (Panax. ginseng) 5 human body Korea,Manchuria
American ginseng (Panax. quinquefolius) 5 pindle-shaped N. America
Sanchi (Panax. notoginseng) 5-7 small carrot shape Yunnan (China)
Bamboo ginseng (Panax. japonicum) 5 bamboo root shape Japan,Yunnan etc.
Dwarf ginseng (Panax. trifolium) 3 spherical type N. America
Himalayan ginseng (Panax. pseudoginseng) 5 bulbous type Nepal