Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wild American Ginseng

american_ginsengOne of the greatest benefits of living here in the Driftless Area is the availability of wild ginseng. Wild ginseng is a highly sought after root and can fetch as much as $1000 per pound when the market is high. The word Ginseng comes from the Chinese term rénshen, which translates literally into "man root". It is thought to have been given this name because the root sometimes looks like the body of a man, with the most desirable roots having all five of the appendages in the proper places common to the male of the species. The Chinese and Koreans have relied on dried ginseng root as a tonic for strength, stamina, clarity of thought and virility for thousands of years.

Over five thousand years ago, in the mountains of Manchuria, China, Panax ginseng was commonly used for its rejuvenating powers. The herb was considered to be a symbol of divine harmony and its human shape was highly desirable. The benefits of ginseng were first documented during China's Liang Dynasty (220 to 589 AD). Chinese legend has it that early emperors used to use it as a remedy for all illnesses and not only consumed it, but also used it in soaps, lotions and creams. In the third century, China's demand for Ginseng sparked huge international trade of the herb from other parts of the world - in exchange for silk etc.
IMG_20141220_110420_952In 1716, a Jesuit priest in Canada heard that Ginseng was extremely sought-after in China, so he searched for the herb in areas of French Canada - environmentally similar to Manchuria. After three months of searching he finally found a herb nearly identical to Asian ginseng near the city of Montreal - the herb he found became known as American Ginseng. Soon after the discovery of American Ginseng, botanists and herbalists found that it was common all over the deciduous forests of the eastern United States. The export of ginseng from North America to China began to explode. However, the herb was over-harvested in the mid-1970s and soon became considered an endangered species.

Since farmers began cultivating the sensitive herb in the 1970s, American Ginseng trade has been growing steadily. Currently, the state of Wisconsin, in particular Marathon County, produces nearly 95% of American Ginseng.
To this day, wild ginseng is so desirable, so coveted in the Orient, it has been hunted to near extinction. The case can be made for the same scenario here in this part of the world. While the dried roots serve as stimuli for body and brain, they also fuel greed and a gold-rush-like fever to harvest them for big bucks. Poaching is commonplace, improper harvest is also becoming the norm and tougher out-of-state regulations make this part of Iowa an attractive target for many out-of-state poachers.
I confess. I am an avid ginseng hunter. It is one of my most enjoyable seasonal pursuits. For us, the benefits of harvesting wild ‘sang’ go way beyond the financial. The exercise we both get while climbing the local hills in pursuit of the root is immeasurable. It’s good for our peace of mind as well. For every plant harvested, we sow at least six seeds in the location where we just harvested the root. We only harvest mature roots and keep a good count on the immature plants we leave on the hillsides. And, for the first time, this year we have taken advantage of the harvested plants in their entirety. The properly dried roots are sold to help us make a living here on the farm, the dried leaves and stems are broken up and mixed with dried nettles and lemon balm, also both from here on the farm. The resulting mixture makes a tea that is (wait for it…) both delicious and nutritious! I truly believe the leaves and stems when used as a tea ingredient are much more potent than the dried and ground roots.
Traditionally Ginseng has been used to treat a number of different ailments. It should be noted that Ginseng's therapeutic properties are often questioned by Western scientists and health professionals because of little "high-quality" research determining its true effectiveness in medicine. Mary and I strongly disagree with that statement because we absolutely know what it does for each of us.

People who take Ginseng, do so because it:
Provides energy and prevents fatigue - Ginseng stimulates physical and mental activity among people who are weak and tired. A Mayo Clinic study revealed that Ginseng showed good results in helping cancer patients with fatigue.
Improves cognitive function - Ginseng may improve thinking ability and cognition. Research published in the The Cochrane Library, conducted at the Medical School of Nantong University in China, examined whether this claim holds any truth.
Lead author, JinSong Geng, M.D., said that given the results of the study "ginseng appears to have some beneficial effects on cognition, behavior and quality of life."
Another study, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, explored whether it would be possible to incorporate American Ginseng into foods. The researchers developed ginseng fortified milk with sufficient levels of ginseng to improve cognitive function.
Has anti-inflammatory effects - Ginseng has seven constituents, ginsenosides, which have immune-suppressive effects, according to results of experiments which were published in the Journal of Translational Medicine
Allan Lau, who led the study, said that "the anti-inflammatory role of ginseng may be due to the combined effects of these ginsenosides, targeting different levels of immunological activity, and so contributing to the diverse actions of ginseng in humans".
Prevents cancer - There may be substances in Ginseng that have anticancer properties. A few population studies in Asia have linked the herb's consumption to a lower risk of cancer.
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers found that Ginseng improved survival and quality of life after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society said that "clinical trials are still needed to determine whether it is effective in people."
May help men with erectile dysfunction - Men may take Ginseng to treat erectile dysfunction. A 2002 Korean study revealed that 60 percent of men who took ginseng noticed an improvement in their symptoms. In addition, research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology provided "evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction."

Our tea is a mixture of nettles, lemon balm and ginseng. The combined benefits are extraordinary! In addition to the benefits from the ginseng listed above, the nettles are a valuable addition for treating the following ailments:
  • Nettle stimulates the lymph system to boost immunity
  • Nettle relieves arthritis symptoms
  • Nettle promotes a release from uric acid from joints
  • Helps to support the adrenals
  • It helps with diabetes mellitus
  • Strengthens the fetus in pregnant women
  • Promotes milk production in lactating women
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms
  • Helps with menstrual cramps and bloating
  • Helps break down kidney stones
  • Reduces hypertension
  • Helps with respiratory tract disease
  • Supports the kidneys
  • Helps asthma sufferers
  • Stops bleeding
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces incident of prostate cancer
  • Minimizes skin problems
  • Eliminates allergic rhinitis
  • Lessens nausea
  • Cures the common cold
  • Helps with osteoarthritis
  • Alleviates diarrhea
  • Helps with gastrointestinal disease, IBS, and constipation
  • Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouth wash.
  • Has been shown to be helpful to in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Relieves neurological disorders like MS, ALS and sciatica
  • Destroys intestinal worms or parasites
  • Supports the endocrine health by helping the thyroid, spleen and pancreas
You can brew stinging nettle leaves in almost boiling water and drink daily as a curative to all these ailments. Just be sure to check with your doctor since nettle can interfere with certain pharmaceuticals. Enjoy nettle tea benefits today!
We do have a very limited amount of our mixed tea for sale if you’d like to try some. Our supply of straight nettle tea is a lot better and we’d be delighted to sell you a sample jar of either one today! Give us a call at 563-568-3829. Either tea (or both!) make a delightful Christmas present for someone special in your life.

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