Ginseng is held in such esteem in Chinese culture that throughout history wars have been waged over the forests where it thrives. According to one 2,500 year old legend, Ginseng was first discovered when a loud voice beckoned to a group of passing villagers from beneath the man-shaped plant the Chinese call Jen-shen or “Man Root. In another account, Ginseng suddenly leaps to life when lightening strikes a clear spring , fusing the essence of fire, water and earth.
Though there are several varieties of Ginseng, all of which contain significant health benefits, it is Panax Ginseng that is the variety most commonly prescribed as a medicine. Panax, which means “cure-all” in Greek, is a word derived from the same root, so to speak, as the synonymous word panacea.
Ginseng is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. An ancient society of fabled foragers known as Va-pang-suis, once scoured the mountains of Northern China. Their search for Ginseng was considered both a spiritual and commercial quest and began with ceremonial solicitations to the spirits of the mountains and the root itself.
Ironically, as they sought the treasured root the Va-pang-suis themselves being hunted. A cunning band of thieves known as White Swans stalked their footsteps. Though treacherous if crossed, the White Swans followed their own rigorous code of ethics. Once they had robbed a Ginseng hunter of his roots he was also presented with a little red flag and allowed to continue his hunt. This would would warn other White Swans in the area to consider him sufficiently robbed, and let him continue to forage the mountains in peace.