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Herbs: Gingko and Ginseng

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Food as Herbs, Health, and Medicine

Fall Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(3) pages: 24 to 25

Ginseng, also called the ‘essence of man’ often looks like a person with their arms and legs. Botanically known as Panax ginseng, this is an herb in the Araliaceae family; there is also a Siberian one in a Russian family called Eleutheroccus senticossus. Both have similar effects, both can grow in China, Korea, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, Canada, and the US. Both have health giving properties and one has been valued for thousands of years. It is the Chinese one which was written about in China’s Shen Nung Pharmacopoeia in 196 CE and again in their Compendium of Materia Medica in 1596 CE. One writer, Li Shizhen, called the Chinese one a ‘superior tonic.’

That may be because many believe its triterpene saponin constituents which are known as ginsenosides, are in its roots, leaves, and berries; and the seeds do develop a flower and elongated leaves. Their roots grow fibers one often does not see as they are cut away before one purchases them. Their roots look like a person with two growths resembling arms and two looking like legs. These roots contain lipids, proteins, phenolic components, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Their berries germinate the second spring after first appearing.

There are many different ginsengs beyond these; the white and red ones are most common, sold peeled and often dried. Fresh ones can be found for sale in season, and they are often the white ones. The red ones are more common marinated in herbal brews, but both can be found many ways in many countries. The Chinese sell all but some one percent of them and they are the world’s largest consumers. We once read they sell a few billion dollars worth each year in South Korea, Canada, and the US and other countries. Most are used medicinally in a soup, made into a side dish, consumed as a tea, and found in various alcoholic brews.

Ginsengs are studied for their biological properties as helps for aging and stress related issues and for how they impact immune disorders. Their anti-oxidative properties also seem to impact the cardiovascular system; and both may reduce cancers. They are reported to be ingested and safe, and they have little negative impact other than dry mouth and dry lips, some excitation and palpitation, and some blurred vision and headaches. Overdoses are rare, a few are reported as stomach upsets and some regurgitation.

For thousands of years, ginseng has been part of folk medicine in almost every Asian country, and used used as a general tonic and a means of stress reduction as they impact the central nervous system. Literature tells us that these bio-active constituents are more valued as functional foods than medicinals, but this is not clear-cut because research reports pro and con issues saying they reduce blood sugar and stress, lessen anxieties, and reduce depression.

Ginkgo Bilboa’s leaves, bark, seeds and roots are popular herbals cut away from their trees. They are a member of the Ginkgoacea family’s division Gingkophyta and are considered fossils because others in their family no longer exist but did millions of years ago. Their trees are known as ‘maiden hair’ trees, and some grew to heights of more than one hundred fifty feet. All were native to China, shade-intolerant, and they often grew along streams and small rivers. Some did develop buds at their base or under an older branch, most produced aerial roots often cut off to prevent their getting to be full-grown. They can be of either sex, and many were replanted for their bark, roots, and/or leaves to be used in traditional Chinese medical preparations. Deep-rooted, these trees are resistant to wind and snow damage, their leaves that turn yellow in Autumn, fall off shortly thereafter, and have buds that often sprout aerial roots producing growths that can reach the ground. These are known as ‘lignotubers,’ and the Chinese do se them therapeutically for memory disorders associated with aging and for Alzheimer and other vascular dementia situations. They say they work because of their phenolic ingredients, those considered pro-anthocyanide, their flavanoids, quercetins, gingkosides, and their other constituents.

Shrimp Balls

2 pounds fresh raw shrimp, shells and veins discarded,nthe shrimp minced coarsely
1 cup canned water chestnuts, coarsely minced
1 large yam, baked and peeled, half mashed, half cut into large cubes
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten well
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ cup cake flour
2 cups vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons mashed canned gingko nuts


1. Mix minced shrimp, minced water chestnuts, the mashed yams, beaten eggs, sugar, and ground white pepper, then gently stir in the gingko nuts, and then roll this mixture into one-inch balls.
2. Stuff one o two yam cubes into each ball, then roll each one into flour and set them aside until all the flour wets.
3. Heat oil, then deep-fry the balls in several batches until crisp on their outsides, and then drain them and put them on paper towels, and serve them when hot and crisp.

Lamb with Herbs

2 Tablespoons corn oil
1 cup Chinese chives, cut in half-inch pieces
½ cup coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
1 pound lamb loin, slivered
½ cup rendered chicken fat
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon mushroom soy sauce
1/4 cup canned ginkgo nuts
1 to 3 Tablespoon chili paste with garlic
1 pound baby carrots, peeled, each angle cut, put in boiling water for three minutes, then drained


1. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the corn oil, and stir=fry the chives and the coriander leaves for one minute.
2. Mix lamb and cornstarch, and fry this in the rendered chicken fat for two minutes,, then drain and discard or use this fat for another use, then mix it with the dark and mushroom soy sauces, stir in the gingko nuts and the chili paste well, then add the carrots.
3. Now, mix herbs, the lamb mixture, and the carrots and stir-frying an additional two minutes. Then transfer everything to a pre-heated bowl and serve.

Bamboo Shoots and Meats

5 black mushrooms, soaked in hot water, stems discarded, then diced
½ pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
5 slices bacon, minced
3 cups canned bamboo shoots, coarsely diced
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mixed salt and ground white pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped Chinese celery
1 cup coarsely chopped Napa cabbage
3 Tablespoons ginseng
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and coarsely diced
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mixed salt and ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon sa cha sauce
3 cups cooked white rice or the Wonder Rice (optional)


1. Mix diced soaked black mushrooms, ground beef, ground pork, and diced bacon with the diced bamboo shots.
2. Heat wok or deep fry pan, add the oil and the meat mixture and stir-fry until meat is no longer pink, then add the diced hard-cooked eggs, the diced celery, diced Napa cabbage, ginseng, and salt and pepper, and the sa cha sauce, stir-frying for two more minutes.
3. Serve in a pre-heated bowl over Wonder Rice or plain ordinary steamed white rice.

Chicken Wings with Bean Thread Noodles

3 pounds chicken wings, tips discarded, each cut in two
½ cup thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon canned or fresh black bean sauce
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup canned baby corn, each cut in half
1 cup baby carrots, each angle-cut in half, and boiled for two minutes, then drained
10 asparagus spears, each cut in one-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil


1. Stir-fry wings in oil.
2. Add soy sauce, black bean sauce and sugar stir-fry until hot.
3. Add vegetables, continue stir-fry until fully heated and serve.

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