Ginseng has been used since antiquity as both a restorative and medicant. In China, the root is so prized that wars have been fought over the forests in which it thrives. According to one ancient lore Ginseng was first discovered when a mysterious voice beckoned to passing villagers from beneath a man-shaped plant known as Jen-shen or “Man Root”. In another, the spirit of Ginseng leaps to life when lightning strikes a clear mountain spring, fusing the primal essences of fire, water, and earth.
Though several varieties of Ginseng exist, all of which offer significant health benefits, it is Panax Ginseng that is the variety most commonly sought and prescribed. The word panax, which means “cure-all” in Greek, is a synonym for the word panacea.
Chinese chronicles refer to an ancient society of foragers known as Va-pang-suis. These men, all reputedly of impeccable character, once scoured the mountains of Northern China in search of Ginseng. Their foraging, undertaken both as a spiritual and commercial quest, began with ceremonial solicitations to the spirit of the plant, and culminated in recitations of gratitude to the mountains from which it sprang.
The ancient chronicles tell us that as the Va-pang-suis hunted the mountains for their treasured roots, they too were being stalked. A notorious band of roving Ginseng thieves known as the White Swans dogged their heels. Though murderous if crossed, the White Swans followed a meticulous code of ethical banditry.
Once they had robbed a Ginseng hunter of his prize, he was presented with a little red flag and sent upon his way unharmed. The flag was a way warn other White Swans in the area that this particular Va-pang-suis had already been robbed once, and could now be left to forage in peace for the remainder of the season.