Ozark Encyclopedia – G – Ginseng

Ginseng – Panax quinquefolius

Parts used: root

Traditional uses: Root used for headache, colic, colds, as an expectorant. Chewed for thrush. Decoction used for palsy and vertigo. Poultice applied to wounds and bleeding cuts. Decoction used as a febrifuge. General tonic.

“In China, both varieties are used particularly for dyspepsia, vomiting and nervous disorders. A decoction of 1/2 oz. of the root, boiled in tea or soup and taken every morning, is commonly held a remedy for consumption and other diseases. In Western medicine, it is considered a mild stomachic tonic and stimulant, useful in loss of appetite and in digestive affections that arise from mental and nervous exhaustion.” ~Grieve MH

*** Cautions: Plant is listed as “vulnerable” and may be illegal to gather in your area outside of a certain season. Ginseng gathering is legal in Arkansas, but the plant is hard to find and has almost been completely wiped out save for a few areas. Gathering is not recommended. Reported side effects of use of ginseng include headache, gastrointestinal upset, anxiety, and insomnia.***

For sexual potency – “Ginseng or sang root is supposed to prolong life and to strengthen the sexual powers in aging men.” ~Randolph OMF 112

Ginseng hunting – “There are probably a few old fellows in the Ozarks who still use it, and there are reports of secret sang patches here and there. But wild ginseng is almost extinct now, and it sells for between ten dollars and fifteen dollars per pound. Not many hillfolk can be induced to eat anything that they can sell for that much money. There are some people down at Compton, Arkansas, who have been growing the stuff in sang arbors since old ‘Frost’ Petree started the practice about 1900, but the domestic roots do not bring the high prices paid for wild sang. The plants don’t bear seeds until they are three years old, and the seeds won’t sprout until two years after they are picked. Roots less than five years old are hardly big enough to market some of the four-pronged wild roots are said to be twenty or thirty years old. The whole project of sang raising is too slow for the hillman’s taste.” ~Randolph OMF 112

“Indians wore a piece of ginseng around their neck and chewed on it.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO

As a panacea – “Ginseng is supposed to be a cure for everything.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO

Used for malaria – “Gin-sing roots…were used for malaria.” ~Parler FBA III 2675

Carter, Kay & Bonnie Krause Home Remedies of the Illinois Ozarks (HRIO)

Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

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