Ginseng tea is made from either dried or freshly ground root of the ginseng plant. Wild ginseng is believed to have more health benefits than cultivated ginseng, but wild ginseng is difficult to find and the price is very prohibitive. Most ginseng tea on the market today is made from cultivated, or farmed, roots.
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Ginseng has long been used as a cure-all in Asian countries, particularly China and Korea. Drinking ginseng tea was used in Chinese herbals as a remedy for lack of energy, female problems and believed to prolong life. Because of its popularity in China, the source of the wild plant was exhausted and cultivation became necessary to meet the demand.
There are three major types of ginseng: Asian, Siberian and American. The most popular type for tea is the Asian, or Panax Ginseng, which is cultivated in China, Korea and Japan. Ginseng is harvested when the plant is approximately six years old and, depending on the drying process, ginseng is typed as either Red or White. Steaming the root before it is dried produces red ginseng. White ginseng root is peeled and sun dried, which bleaches the root to a lighter color.
A ginseng plant can be identified by its five oval leaves and the red berries it produces in the fall. Wild ginseng is usually found on the forest floor in cooler climates. Digging wild ginseng plants is prohibited by law in many states and can be done only by certified harvesters of the plant.
Ginseng tea is believed to be of benefit to many major health benefits, including cancer and diabetes. The chemical elements of ginseng, called ginsenosides, have been noted by the American Academy of Family Physicians for their anticancer properties. A study by the University of Toronto has shown the American variety can help lessen the debilitation of diabetes symptoms. Many people drink ginseng tea to increase energy, improve the libido, lessen menstrual cramping, relief from hot flashes or to stimulate the brains ability to concentrate.
Siberian ginseng is not cultivated from a true ginseng plant. The Siberian plant, Eleutherococcus senticosus, does not contain ginsenosides at all, but another adaptogen called eleutherosides. Adaptogens are believed to help build the immune systems ability to handle stress. There are a number of diverse plants that contain adaptogens, which are often confused with ginseng, but belong to a different family or genus of plants other than the Panax genus. Only the American and Asian ginsengs are true Panax plants.
Because of ginsengs stimulation of brain cells, overuse of ginseng tea can lead to sleeplessness. Other possible side effects include nausea, headaches and diarrhea. Before using any herbal tea including ginseng, the consumer should discuss with their doctor the possible adverse reactions with medications they may already be taking.
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