The media trope of an aged character with their nightstand chock-full of pill bottles may be an unfair cliché, but observing family and friends in their 70’s and 80’s, I’d say it has at least some validity. I’m sure anyone who take numerous meds would like a single fix-all product, a universal remedy. For over a thousand years, an assortment of aches and ailments have been treated by such a panacea, the root of a medicinal plant we know as ginseng. This term is derived from Chinese words for man-root, a reference to its typically forked shape, though Western taxonomists dubbed it Panax, “cures all.”
The genus Panax comprises about 17 species (there’s some dispute), nearly all of which are found in the northern hemisphere. While Korean ginseng is often stocked in health-food stores, our American ginseng is equally good. As for its properties, claims run the gamut. Maladies which could be managed through ginseng include cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, chronic fatigue, dementia, heart disease, arthritis, and immune deficiency. Controlled studies prove ginseng enhances cognition, reduces inflammation, improves stamina, and lessens the severity of the flu. Evidence hints at other possible benefits such as erectile function, but researchers need to apply more rigor to say for sure. Scientific rigor, I mean.