Ginseng, like tea, is available in different ‘colours’ namely red, white and green. However it is all the same plant and the difference in colour is simply from different treatment methods.
Ginseng seeds are planted in the autumn and germinate in spring. It grows for 4 to 5 years before it is ready to be harvested. While it grows leaves within a year or so, the roots are the part of the plant that contain most active molecules - the ‘ginsenosides’. The roots will continue to grow larger for about 5 years, taking the shape of human legs, which has led to the ginseng plant being nicknamed the ‘man root’.
After the plant has been harvested it is treated in different ways, giving it the different distinct colours. Korean Red Ginseng is steamed and dried, which seemingly alters some of the active ingredients, creating a more potent medicinal plant. Red Ginseng typically has the highest concentration of ‘ginsenosides’ - the active medicinal molecule in Ginseng.
Other forms of Ginseng include White Ginseng, which is harvested and air-dried, turning the root a yellow-white colour, but losing some of the bio-active molecules in the process.
Where Does Panax Ginseng Grow?
The Ginseng plant grows naturally in the wild, typically in cooler climates of Asia; including in China, Korea, Bhutan and Siberia. ‘American’ Ginseng grows in North America, but is known to be less potent than Asian Ginseng.
For farmed Ginseng, the best growing conditions are those that most accurately replicate it’s natural environment. With 70% to 90% shade coverage and average temperatures of just 50 degrees fahrenheit. Along with the cool climate, Ginseng also grows best with 40 to 50 inches of yearly rainfall.
Ginseng plant farms must be protected from predators, including worms and mice which like to feed on the roots. For successful growth, the Ginseng plants need neutral soil; they do not do well in acidic soils.
How To Grow Ginseng Yourself
If you want to grow your own instead of buying Panax Ginseng you are going to need to meet all of the requirements mentioned above; the cool climate, rainfall, 70-90% shade cover and neutral pH soil.
If you meet all of these requirements, you are ready to plant your Ginseng seeds, and then wait for 3-5 years for the roots to fully develop! Yes, you need a lot of patience when growing Ginseng.
It can be worth it though, Ginseng is one of the most valuable plants in the world and can be sold from $350 per pound right up to as much as $600. It’s actually quite easy to grow, assuming you have the right conditions and the patience to wait for it. It will only take an hour or two per week to maintain, once you have it all set up and planted. If you want to avoid the expense of creating artificial shade, and herbicides, you can use the ‘wild-simulated’ method of growing Ginseng. You can plant the seeds in woodland or other appropriately shaded area that will allow it to grow under its natural preferred conditions.
How to grow Panax Ginseng, step by step:
Find out if you live in the right environment
Obtain any necessary permits or licenses to grow and sell ginseng
Select a suitable site
Evaluate and test the soil
Fertilize if necessary
Purchase or harvest ginseng seeds
Keep seeds moist before planting
Soak seeds in bleach and water before planting
Remove small weeds and ferns from the area
Plant sprouting seeds in the spring
Sow other seeds in the fall
Plant large numbers of seeds quickly by scattering them
Cover the area with leaves or mulch
Thin densely growing ginseng each year
Wait for the plants to mature
Harvest red berries annually after the third year
Harvest mature plants at any point past the seventh year