Producers of instant Korean ginseng tea often recommend adding lemon and honey after emptying the packet of ginseng powder in your cup of hot water. The major nutritional value of the tea comes from the honey and lemon. Convenient ginseng teas contain little in the way of nutrition. Using the dried root is the best way to experience the plant's true value.
Convenient Ginseng Tea
Many popular instant Korean ginseng teas consist of a teaspoon of dried powder in a small sealed packet. Superior Trading Company Instant Korean Ginseng Tea is a typical example. It lists ginseng extract in an evaporated lactose base as ingredients. Nutritional information notes almost nothing in the packet besides the small portion of lactose sugar. Except for 3g of total carbohydrates, of which sugar equals 2g, the company lists no vitamins, minerals, protein or fats.
Traditional Ginseng Tea
Korean ginseng shows significant differences when compared to either Chinese or Japanese ginseng. Ginseng's reputation for generating radiant health in both men and women extends equally to the Korean variety, which stimulates sexuality. In its potent form, it may not be appropriate for already energetic people. Most Korean ginseng originates on farms, not in the wild. Either peeled and dried and sold as white ginseng, or steamed and cured and sold as red ginseng, Korean ginseng comes in three main grades. It is broadly classified as low or "man" grade; middle or "earth" grade; and top or "heaven" grade. The high quality roots fall into 15 more sub-categories of quality. You'll pay dearly for Heaven Grade 15, which is the best of the lot.
High quality ginseng tea contains many unusual complex carbohydrates and chemical compounds, not all of which have been thoroughly tested. Some like saponin affect the way our bodies metabolize sugar, which may explain some of ginseng's energizing effects. Ginsenin acts somewhat like insulin, and panaxin stimulates the central nervous system. Panaquilon affects the endocrine system, and volatile oils in true ginseng tea possibly stimulate specific centers in the brain. Natural steroids in ginseng mimic the effect of sexual hormones.
Some traditional beliefs about ginseng preparation stem from the Chinese theory of the five basic elements. According to this belief, the potency of ginseng drops if cut or brewed with either iron or steel implements. Breaking the dried roots with a ceramic mortar and pestle is preferred. One traditional brewing method uses a pot of fired ceramic, which sits inside a larger pot partly filled with water. Simmering the tea slowly using this double boiler method prevents any volatile compounds from escaping the brew.
- "Chinese Tonic Herbs"; Ron Teeguarden; February 1991