Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used for centuries, especially in Far East Asia. It is preferred for its restorative and protective properties as it has ability to control body and brain functions. It also strengthens the immune system and the circulatory system in check. The ginseng has the overall effect of boosting longevity and vitality. There has been an increase in the demand for Korean ginseng powder in the Republic of Korea and in the whole world at large. As has been noted, the increase in demand is directly proportional to the increase in income. This could probably be attributed to a change in lifestyle, diet included. That aside, there is a lot that goes on in the production of fresh ginseng into powder form. The cultivation of Korean ginseng can be traced back to more than 3000 years ago. It was popularised about 1100 A.D. during the era of King In Jong who led the Koryo Dynasty. The Koreans used the plant which they referred to as the “king of herbs” to take care of a multitude of health issues.
A huge proportion of the Korean ginseng powder produced is from the plant put under artificial shade in fulfilment of the local requirements and skills at hand. Forest canopies are a suitable source of the ginseng plants that grow naturally or are cultivated here. Normally, fresh ginseng doesn’t last long as it spoils easily at room temperature. The major processes involved in production of ginseng powder includes washing and drying. The ginseng that has been freshly harvested is first washed after which it is ready for drying. Normally, it is in natural state since the roots are unpeeled. Normally, the shape of the roots resemble the human body.
The best ginseng to use for production is that which has grown for a period of about 4-6 years. The selection for the best ginseng to use is made based on the shape and size of the roots. The roots are the ones which are peeled and ground to produce the powder; they are below the ground level therefore they have the most dirt. This is scrapped off before anything else. Water is then sprayed on the fresh ginseng to remove all the soil particles and any other foreign material. During the drying process, there are a couple of morphological changes that take place in regard to the composition of ginsenosides. The type and constitution of the ginsenosides varies quite often during the drying process. The roots that are turned into the Korean ginseng powder comprise of the main root and smaller lateral and finer roots. The main roots make up 75% of the total root composition and the rest take up the remaining 25%.
Due to over-harvesting, there reached a point where the native plant was almost depleted from its natural setting. The option of cultivating the plant under an artificial shade had to be explored. There is widespread sensitisation in Korea on the need to sustain the plant to prevent its extinction. To date, the ginseng plant is still protected by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Regulations on the plant are also put in place in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese Pharmacopoeias.