Ginseng Historical Record
Ginseng has been used by the people on the Korean peninsula for thousands of years
1) 33~38 BC, the Chinese character “sam” was written in the book Kubchijang by Sajok
2) 107~124 AD, the names of ginseng-producing centers were mentioned in Sulmoon by Huh Jin
3) 196~220 AD, Jang Jung-Kyung wrote 113 prescriptions in Wuihanron, among which 21 contained ginseng.
4) 483~496 AD, ginseng was considered a noble medicine in Hong Kyung’s work of three volumes (Sinjebonchokyng) is Bonchokyungjib’s seven volumes (Myungeuibyulrok) and Yoo Hee’s work Sunmyung
5) 549 AD, in the 27th year of his rein, King Sung traded ginseng with Cho of China.
6) 627 A.D, the Kingdom of Shilla and the Dang dynasty in China exchanged ginseng.
7) 739 A.D, King Moon of Balhae traded ginseng with Japan
The Borany of Korean Ginseng
1. Botanical Lineage
The scientific name of Korean ginseng is “Panax Ginseng C.A. Meyer.” Its fruits are berries or a white cucumber-shaped fruit and its leaves are long and plural. It is a perennial shrub that grows in the shade.
2. The Scientific Classification of Ginseng
“Ginseng” has been used as the common name of “人” in Chinese characters (the Chinese pronunciation “ren hen” and the Korean pronunciation “in-sam”, both mean “man-root”). In 1833, the Korean ginseng plant was first named Panax Schineseng Nees by a German botanist, Nees van Esenbeck. Panax is derived from the Greek pan of pana, denoting “all” and ax of axos for “cure.” Panax thus means “cure all”. It was then renamed Panax Ginseng C. A. Meyer by the Russian Scientist Carl Anton Meyer in 1843.
3. Species of Panax
Ginseng is a perennial herb classified in the family Araliaceae and genus Panax. Some eleven related species are known, including:
① Panax Ginseng C.A. Meyer
Grows in the Far East Asian (33~48 degrees north latitude: Korea, parts of Russia), especially on the Korean peninsula.
② Panax quinquefolium L.
Grows in the US and Canada.
③ Panax notoginseng (Burk) F. H. Chen
Grows in the southeast of the Un-nam district and the southwest of the Kwang-seo district in China.
On the Korean peninsula, ginseng grows throughout the country between 33 and 43 degrees north latitude. It grows naturally in the Taebaek mountain range and in the deep mountains of the northern part of the peninsula, usually facing north or northeast 100~800m above sea level.
In South Korea, the best region for cultivation is between 36~38 degrees north latitude but if the soil and location are suitable it can be cultivated anywhere. Korea is located in the center of the Northern Hemisphere and its soil, weather and environment are suited to ginseng growth.
One of the botanical characteristics of ginseng is that it has very specific requirements for successful cultivation. It is difficult to adapt ginseng to new circumstances and cultivate it if the natural environment is not right. When cultivated, its shape, quality and efficacy will be substantially different from ginseng that grows naturally.
In this respect, Korea has proven to be the best location for the cultivation of ginseng, and Korean ginseng is considered to be the best in the world.
The Natural Environment for Ginseng
Creating artificial growing conditions similar to the natural environment of wild ginseng requires closely matching the following:
1) Climate : Annual average temperature is 0.9 degrees ~ 13.9 degrees, 20~25 degrees in summer. If the temperature rises beyond 35 degrees physiological defects occur. Annual rainfall should be 700 ~ 2,000 mm, preferably 1,100 ~ 1,300 mm. Occasional snowfall is also required.
2) Sunshine : ginseng is a semi-shade plant ; direct sunlight must be avoided and light dispersion of 1/8 ~ 1/13 is appropriate.
3) Soil : Soil in which nitrogen is not excessive (under 100ppm), phosphoric acid (70 ~ 200ppm), and the substitutional base is proper (kali 0.2 ~ 0.5 me/100g, lime 2.0 ~ 4.5 me/100g, magnesium 1.0 ~ 3.0me/100g) is best. Proper soil pH is 5.0 ~ 6.0.
4) Topographical position : Gently sloping land facing north or northeast is best. Even level ground is suitable if well drained.
5) Humus-abundant soil (over 2% humus of broad-leaves) similar to ginseng’s natural environment is necessary. Soil conditions much at variance with natural conditions, especially where chemical fertilizers have been used prolifically, will not support good ginseng.