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Ginseng – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Jun 21, 2021

What is ginseng?

Ginseng is a perennial root vegetable that usually dies in the fall and reemerges from its root system in the spring. The part we use in medicine and food comes from the fleshy root of a plant. Ginseng has a strong smell and tastes licorice-sweet with earthy undertones.

Although it’s been used as a non-traditional medication for thousands of years, it isn’t approved by the FDA for that purpose, and modern clinical research hasn’t proven its effectiveness in treating any medical condition. It was first used medicinally in China in 196 A.D, often as a muscle relaxer. Today, it’s a common dietary supplement used as an antioxidant for its anti-inflammatory properties and for stress. Shop Instacart for ginseng supplements that promote relaxation.

Where does ginseng come from?

Ginseng typically grows in cooler climates like the Korean Peninsula, Northeast China, Russian Far East, Canada, and the U.S. The kind we grow in America looks a bit like a parsnip. Some species grow in warmer regions like South China and Vietnam. Wild ginseng grows in the mountain regions but is becoming scarcer due to the high demand for it.

Globally, ginseng is considered to be an endangered plant. However, in Korea, ginseng is cultivated and allowed to grow naturally. It’s less expensive than its wild counterpart. Cultivated Korean ginseng comes in white and red varieties.

How is ginseng consumed?

Ginseng is typically peeled, steamed, and then dried. It can be eaten whole or sliced. The leaf is sometimes used as well, although it’s not the preferred way to consume it. It’s also used in some drinks, tinctures, and tea.

You can easily make ginseng tea at home using dried ginseng root. Heat water just before boiling (208°F). This extracts the ginsenosides, the compound that provides ginseng’s health benefits. Measure 4–5g of dried ginseng per 8oz of water (approximately 2–3 small roots). Add the roots to the hot water and let it steep for 5–10 minutes. Remove the roots and set them aside to dry. They can be reused once or twice more before they’ll lose their flavor.

In its fresh form, ginseng root is commonly used as a primary ingredient in many Asian recipes, specifically Chinese and Korean dishes. In these countries, it’s considered a pantry staple. Ginseng is added to soups and teas to bring out its anise flavor profile and earthiness. Complimentary ingredients include:

  • Clove
  • Chinese rosebud
  • Cinnamon
  • Five-spice Blend
  • Ginger
  • Hazelnuts
  • Curry
  • Poultry
  • Fermented beverages
  • Chiles and chile sauces
  • Malted barley
  • Thai and wild basil
  • Rosemary
  • Stone Fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple

What are the benefits of eating ginseng?

While there’s no conclusive evidence in Western medicine for the health benefits of ginseng, many people around the world believe ginseng has beneficial properties. Ginseng may help:

  • Improve the effects of fatigue and low energy
  • Increase thinking processes and cognition
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Provide immune support
  • Lower blood pressure

But again, there’s no scientific evidence to prove those claims. Still, ginseng is an industry that involves 35 countries that produce and distribute over 80,000 tons of fresh herbs annually. While consuming the vegetable’s root is common in China and Taiwan, most ginseng consumption in the U.S is via supplements.

Although ginseng hasn’t been medically proven, researchers say it’s perfectly okay to take the herb in small doses if it does provide health benefits for you. However, be advised it should never be used with some classes of antidepressants (MAOIs) to avoid harmful side effects. It can also affect a person’s blood pressure and interact with diabetes and some heart medications. It may intensify the effects of caffeine and cause an elevated heartbeat, sweating, and insomnia for some people. If you’d like to start taking it as a dietary supplement, consult your doctor first.

How do you grow ginseng?

Ginseng plants hate the heat. So, if you live in a warm climate, you’ll need to plant your ginseng in a shady spot in fall or early winter. It takes a full year for the berry inside the seed to even begin to sprout, although you can pay a higher price to buy seeds that have bypassed that stage. After this comes a long waiting period, it takes 5 to 10 years before the plant is mature and ready for cultivation. This explains the rarity and high value of the plant.

How do you pick ginseng at the grocery store?

Fresh ginseng is in season early fall through mid-winter. Dried or liquid ginseng can be found all year long like any herbal supplement.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for ginseng via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for ginseng.

How do you store ginseng?

Dried ginseng (in root or powder form) should be kept in a dry, dark place in an airtight container, like a plastic bag or glass jar. Properly stored, dried ginseng should last 5 years. Fresh ginseng can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks. In liquid form (like a tea), it can be stored at a temperature below 37°F for up to a year. It can be frozen in an airtight container in any form except liquid extract.

What kind of ginseng products are available on Instacart?

As the health industry continues to grow, ginseng production and distribution are expected to reach 11 billion dollars by 2027. If your next Asian feast requires fresh ginseng, or you’re interested in trying a ginseng supplement, Instacart should be your first stop.

Find ginseng tea in grocery stores via Instacart, along with extracts and dietary supplements. Shop Instacart for same-day delivery of ginseng supplements.

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