Ginseng: Best Way to Take
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Elaine Geoffroy
Posted on: August 21, 1998

I would like to know what is the best way to intake ginseng? I understand that it is a root, but what do you do with that root? I know that it comes in many different products, but I was wondering which would be the best to take for everyday use and are there any known side effects to using such a product?

There are several ways to take ginseng. By far the most common is to take the dried roots, prepared into what the Chinese herbalists call a "soup". This is not the same as a soup served as food; it is a medicinal soup that usually includes several herbs in combination made into a decoction which is then drunk. The roots are also powdered and taken in teas. The leaves are also powdered and added to teas.

Although people do take ginseng everyday, Chinese herbalists say that ginseng should not be taken over long periods. While it gives the body an immediate boost when first taken, it slowly loses its effectiveness over time, and, in fact, the body to end up more weakened after long term use. What is an appropriate period to take it? There are different opinions on that, and probably much depends on the individual’s condition, but generally, we do not recommend taking it for more than a month at a time.

In addition, you should be aware that there are several types of ginseng. The American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) has a "cooling" effect according to the Chinese medical system; and the Chinese or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) has a "warming" effect. Herbalists would recommend the Chinese ginseng to elderly people, for example, who need a "warming" boost, while young people would get the American variety.

For an excellent review of the traditional and modern knowledge and usage of ginseng, we recommend Stephen Fulder’s book, "The Book of Ginseng" (available from Richters). He discusses the rules for use and the side effects.

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