Wisconsin is one of the world’s biggest producers of ginseng, growing a unique type of Panax ginseng that is also known as American ginseng. But where can you find this variety, what makes it different, and what are the health benefits of consuming it? You will find answers to all of those questions in this guide.
If you want to learn about ginseng in general, including health benefits, read our main guide to this spice here.
What is Wisconsin Ginseng?
The United Kingdom has some amazing plants that can provide an array of health benefits. Very few of these are native, but they all provide many great benefits, including nettle and dandelion. (Although, the varieties of nettle tea and dandelion tea found in our store are sourced wild from Greece, as we believe they produce a richer flavour and better nutrient profile.) There is even a tea plantation in Cornwall!
But Wisconsin ginseng, as the name would suggest, actually comes from the United States and the state of Wisconsin in particular. It’s basically American ginseng, also known by the Latin name Panax quinquefolius, which is produced in huge quantities in Wisconsin. This plant is a common feature in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is often associated with the Far East, but it is native to the eastern United States and its harvesting home is smack-bang in the heart of Wisconsin, a state better known for producing cheese.
Ginseng is often prescribed based on the Yin/Yang principles of TCM. In other words, they prescribe it because of “hot” or “cold” properties with the belief that it can help restore an imbalance in energy lines when there is one. These beliefs don’t tie in Western medicine at all, but a lot of research has been conducted on American ginseng and much of this is positive.
Where is American Ginseng Grown?
It is native to several states, but it is often classified as “protected” or “special concern”, which means it is not far off being an endangered species. Of course, this only applies to when it is grown wild, and a lot of the American ginseng that makes it to the market is actually grown under controlled conditions in Wisconsin factories.
There are many factories throughout the state that grow this product, and they fall under the regulation of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin, a non-profit organization dedicated to the furthered understanding of ginseng.
It was established in 1986 and now oversees over 185 Wisconsin ginseng growers operating within the state. This huge number should give you an idea of just how big the ginseng market is right now, with huge amounts of product being shipped to the country’s biggest supplement manufacturers, as well as companies who sell energy drinks and other pick-me-ups.
Benefits of Wisconsin Ginseng
There are many health benefits of Wisconsin ginseng, and most of these are backed by actual science. We discussed several of them in our main guide to ginseng but will reiterate here.
Ginseng has been shown to have very potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which suggests it could be used to guard against chronic diseases and that it can also help with post-exercise stress/injury and with gastrointestinal discomfort. It has also shown a lot of promise as a libido booster and can improve cases of erectile dysfunction, and it has also been linked with a decrease in fatigue and an increase in mental alertness.
On the flip side, some claims just haven’t been backed up and likely never will. It is claimed, for instance, that it can cure the common cold. This seems highly unlikely and it has never been proven. Studies show it can have an effect on certain markers that indicate immune system strength, but it’s a big leap to go from that to “can cure the common cold”. The truth is, if anything could cure the common cold, then we’d all know about it and there would be no speculation.
Side Effects of Wisconsin Ginseng
There are minimal side effects, but you should exercise caution and speak with a doctor first if you have severe allergies, are taking medication, or have a preexisting health condition. If you are young, fit, and allergy-free then you should be okay. However, in all cases, we would still recommend starting with a small dose and then building up from there, getting to the dose that works best for you and doing so in a way that minimises potential harm, no matter how uncommon such harm may be.
The Best Way to Take Wisconsin Ginseng?
If you look for products that carry a label of certification by the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin, then you know you’re getting something made with 100% Wisconsin ginseng. This is important, because a lot of the cheaper products may still be using bulk ginseng powder imported from China, where it isn’t always easy to detect what methods were used during extraction and whether it contains any dangerous ingredients (there have been several cases of tainted foodstuffs imported from China).
You can find this label on “tea cut” or tea bag ginseng, which basically means it has been prepared for consumption as a tea (great when mixed with honey and a little ginger); on roots, which is its natural form; on powder, which should simply be a finely grated root; and on capsules, which should be 100% root powder in vegetarian or gelatin capsules.
We prefer to take it as a tea. It’s relaxing and soothing, and while we know it’s all down to placebo, we just feel that it’s stronger this way. If you want to consume a lot of the stuff every day, then you may find than a cup of ginseng tea along with a capsule or two is the best way to get your daily dose.
Where Can You Find Wisconsin Ginseng?
You should be able to find some of the pure powders, teas, and even the root in your local health-food store. You can also find pre-prepared teabags, supplement mixes, and tonics, but when it is included in mixes such as this, the ginseng is overshadowed and underused. Supplement companies like to add as many ingredients as possible while keeping the serving size down. That way, the customer feels like they are getting more, even though they still need to take just 1 pill a day or consume 1 teabag a day.
To get the full benefits from Wisconsin ginseng, look for a 100% pure product. This should be available across the UK, and you might even be able to find some in your local supermarket. There is a certain UK supermarket that just so happens to be owned by the biggest retailer in the US—there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty of high-quality American ginseng there.
If your sole source of ginseng is in the form of energy drinks, make sure you read our guide to the side effects of caffeine here. You may also learn something from our guide to Guarana, which is another natural source of caffeine. Ginseng can be good for you and caffeine can also be healthy in moderation, but these drinks can contain huge amounts of caffeine and can be dangerous if consumed in large quantities.