Red ginseng belongs to the Panax ginseng family, which is native to Asia. Red ginseng is not a specific variety of Panax ginseng, but rather a product of a production method that is based solely in Korea using Korean Panax ginseng. The red color from which red ginseng gets its name is due to the steam processing of the plant after harvest. Red ginseng is most effectively taken as a tea or a tincture.
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Korean red ginseng is grown on the Korean peninsula in fertile fields that are strictly monitored by the government. The Korean climate is characterized by all four seasons and ample rainfall that give the ginseng the ideal environment in which to grow and thrive.
The length of time that red ginseng is allowed to mature in the ground, no less than six years, allows it to absorb the many vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids present in the soil as a result of the peninsula's geology. After a harvest, the field is left to rest for four years before another crop is planted so as not to deplete the soil of its valuable nutrients. The result is that it takes 10 years for one field to produce one crop of red ginseng.
Korean red ginseng provides a host of beneficial effects including increased metabolism, endurance, energy and circulation. Negative effects are rare and include nausea, diarrhea, insomnia and blood pressure irregularities. In some people, red ginseng can cause hyperactivity. Since it is a warming herb, it can also make menopausal hot flashes worse.
The marked increase in circulation from red ginseng is the most significant contributor to overall health. Increased circulation lowers blood pressure, which decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease; increases blood flow to the brain, which lowers the risk of stroke, increases mental clarity and improves memory and results in increased blood flow to the penis, resulting in improved sexual performance and stamina.
Red ginseng may be of use to accelerate alcohol detoxification because it increases metabolic activity of the liver. Ginseng has the potential to treat breast cancer due to the high content of falcarinol, a fatty acid that destroys breast cancer cells in a laboratory setting. Research on these topics is ongoing.
Red ginseng is thought to interact with certain drugs such as oral and liquid insulin, anticoagulants and blood pressure medications. Do not use ginseng if you are nursing, pregnant, trying to become pregnant or extremely sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Small children should not use ginseng except under the care of a physician.