Several plants are typically grouped under the moniker ‘ginseng’ but not all warrant the name. At BOTALYS, we focus on the hydroponic cultivation of Korean or Asian ginseng – Panax ginseng.
Panax ginseng is the best known, most researched ginseng species, with centuries of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and a prominent place in contemporary phytotherapy, preventative medicine and health-optimising nutritional interventions.
Other ginseng species, belonging to the Araliaceae family, include:
+ American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), best known for its relaxing virtues
+ Chinese ginseng (Panax notoginseng)
+ Vietnamese ginseng (Panax vietnamensis)
Species sometimes confused with ginseng include Brazilian ginseng (Pfaffia paniculate), which is actually part of the Amaranthaceae family.
Ginseng is a perennial hardy plant that grows wild in mountain forests at an altitude of about 1000 metres. It needs a shady to semi-shady, warm moist environment and humus-rich soil.
Ginseng plants are so nutrient greedy that fields must lie fallow for about 10 years afterwards, although the problem is mostly confined to broad field, intensive ginseng cultivation.
Traditionally, cultivated ginseng roots are ready for harvest after 4-6 years. Wild ginseng takes longer: 6-10 years for an 8-12 cm human body-shaped forked root.
However, there are serious problems in the traditional ginseng supply due to environmental and quality concerns, giving rise to new cultivation methods like vertical farming and hydroponics.
Ginseng’s most active constituents are ginsenosides; but only a select few - known as noble or rare ginsenosides - are potent in the human body. The rest - classic ginsenosides - are virtually useless in a bioactive sense.
Noble ginsenosides like Rg2, Rg3, Rg5, Rg6, Rh1, Rh2, Rk1 and Compound K are refined from classic ginsenosides. This can happen in the gut where the intestinal microbiome cuts away excess sugars from classic ginsenosides to reveal the bioactive gem within, the rare ginsenosides (see figure) .
They also can be provoked in some ginseng roots and BOTALYS has refined vertically farmed, hydroponic ginseng roots to possess noble (rare) ginsenoside levels many times in excess of other ginseng forms : 7x greater in 3rd party testing against popular ginseng products (see the graph).
This kind of dose has been linked in scientific journals to ginseng benefits including improved vitality, fatigue reduction, protection against neurodegeneration along with antitumor, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
Rare ginsenosides may be the most potent ginseng bioactive but they can’t perform optimally without other compounds like prebiotic polysaccharides which aid the conversion of classic ginsenosides into noble ginsenosides in the gut microbiome.
That’s why ginseng totum - full spectrum ginseng or total root powder - is the benchmark and contains important active compounds such as:
+ Ginsan: an acidic polysaccharide known for its immunomodulating effect
+ Gintonin: a complex of glucose, lysophosphatidic acids (LPAs) and ginseng proteins
+ Bioactive proteins like antiproliferative tetrapeptides
Panax ginseng is a protected species and cannot be wild harvested in most US states, Canada, China and Russia.
The resulting move to intensive cultivation - especially in parts of Asia - has had dramatic environmental consequences like deforestation of mountains and soil depletion.
In typical cultivation, pesticide and fungicide use is common because Panax ginseng is a fragile plant to grow, meaning unwanted chemicals and heavy metals and totum depletion.
Shim Y H, et al. Identification of Panax Species in the Herbal Medicine Preparations Using Gradient PCR Method. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 2005, pp. 671-676.
http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/19.html: “Other Panax species, including P. quinquefolius L. (American ginseng), P. notoginseng Burk. (San-chi ginseng), P. pseudoginseng Wall. ssp. japonicus Hara = P. japonicus C.A. Meyer (Japanese chikutsu ginseng) and P. notoginseng ssp. himalaicus (Himalayan ginseng) have also been referred to as "ginseng" and used medically (6, 7). However, scientific documentation of these species is insufficient to justify the preparation of a monograph at this time.”
Leung K W & Wong A S-T. Pharmacology of Ginsenosides: a literature review. Chinese Medicine. 2010.
So S-H, et al. Red Ginseng Monography. J Ginseng Res. 2018, pp. 549-561.
Im D-S & Nah S-Y. Yin and Yang of ginseng pharmacology: ginsenosides vs gintonin. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2013, pp. 1367-1373.Ng T B, et al. Biologically Active Proteins in Ginseng. Int J Biom Pharm Sc. 2012.