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 legend Ginseng was discovered when a mysterious voice beckoned passing villagers from beneath the man-shaped plant known in Chinese as Jen-shen or “Man Root”. In another, the spirit of Ginseng first leapt to life when lightning struck 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 after and prescribed. The word panax, means “cure-all” in Greek, and is a synonym for the word panacea.
Ancient Chinese chronicles refer to an erstwhile society of foragers known as Va-pang-suis, all reputedly men of impeccable character, who once scoured the mountains of Northern China in search of Ginseng. Their foraging, was undertaken both as a spiritual and commercial quest. It began with ceremonial solicitations to the spirit of the Ginseng and culminated in recitations of gratitude to the mountains from which it sprang.
The ancient chronicles also tell us that as the Va-pang-suis hunted Ginsengm they too were being stalked by a notorious band of roving thieves known as the White Swans. Though they could be murderous if crossed, the White Swans also followed a code of ethical banditry.
Once they had robbed a Ginseng hunter of his treasured roots he was presented with a little red flag and sent upon his way unharmed. The flag was designed to warn other thieves in the area that he had been sufficiently robbed and could now be left to forage in peace for the remainder of the foraging season.