Ginseng is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The plant is so prized in Chinese culture that wars have been waged over the forests in which it thrives. According to one 2,500 year old legend, Ginseng was first discovered when a voice called out to a group of passing villagers from beneath a man-shaped plant the Chinese call Jen-shen or “Man Root. In another account, Ginseng leaps to life the moment lightening strikes a clear spring, mysteriously 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.
Perhaps the most famous bit of Ginseng lore involves an ancient society of fabled foragers known as Va-pang-suis, who 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 both the spirit 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.