Ginseng

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An herb that grows wild and has been sought for centuries in various regions of the world as a plant species often associated with properties that promote healing or improved physical and mental performance. Numerous species of this herb are grown which include the American Ginseng, Chikusetsu Ginseng, Dwarf Ginseng, Himalayan Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, and Sanchi Ginseng. A common Asian ingredient, the Ginseng root is used in the production of toothpaste, beverages such as tea, soft drinks and liqueurs, as well as soups, food stuffings, salads, candies, and snacks. It can be eaten raw in small amounts as well as cooked, steamed, deep-fried, stir-fried, and candied. Ginseng is available as a fresh root, a powder, an extract, in crystalized form, and as a capsule or tablet.

The ginseng root has historically been associated with relieving stress, promoting better concentration, improved alertness and memory, as well assisting with daily performance and combating certain illnesses. However, there has been much concern about misunderstandings regarding the real value and the appropriate use of this herb. Therefore, it is difficult to specifically list qualities that make this herb beneficial or to list all of the risks associated with the consumption of Ginseng. It is always best to consult a health care professional prior to use of herbs such as ginseng. Further, caution is often advised for the use of ginseng by anyone consuming significant amounts of caffeine and no consumption is advised for women who are pregnant or breast feeding. It is also advisable not to consume ginseng with various foods and beverages such as some root vegetables, spicy foods or alcohol, nor consume it in large amounts as it may affect individuals by increasing blood pressure, adversely affecting heart ailments or effects with diabetes, increasing headaches, and increasing restlessness.

When selecting fresh ginseng roots, choose those that are firm and crisp, not shriveled and limp in appearance. Gently bend the root to check resistance, making sure it is firm and ready to snap cleanly rather than soft and too pliable. Before use, ginseng roots should be fully dried. Just prior to use, make sure the roots are washed and cleaned thoroughly to remove dirt and debris. When cooking, slowly simmer the root for an hour or so to cook and tenderize it. Typically, only a small amount is suggested for each serving, such as a pinch for use in teas or soups. Store whole roots, powder, or tablets in a cool, dry, well ventilated area away from heat and humidity in order to prevent mold from growing, especially on the ginseng root. Other names used for this herb include Devil's Shrub, Eleuthero, Siberian Ginseng, Touch-Me-Not, and Wild Pepper.

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