Ginseng (Panax Ginseng; Ren Shen)

TCM Herbal Story

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng, Ren Shen)

A long, long time ago, there was a Yun Mong Mountain in China's Shan Dong province.  On that mountain was the Cloudy Dream Temple.  Within that temple lived two monks, a master and an apprentice.  The nasty old monk had no interest in staying in the mountains to venerate Buddha with incenses and prayers, nor did he do any work in the farming fields.  He left it all for his little apprentice to do, and would torture him with impossible errands.  Day by day, the little apprentice slaved away to the old monk's orders, till his body turned thin and his muscles turned to a sickly yellow amber. 

One day, just as the old monk was about to leave the mountains and abandon his duties as a head priest, he noticed a kid in wearing a red bellyband help the little monk with his daily duties.  Day after day, whenever the old monk would leave the temple, so would the little kid in the red bellyband come and help the young monk with his tasks.  When the old monk came back, the little kid in red was always out of sight.

As days passed by, the old monk's suspicion grew and grew.  Regardless of how much work I assign him, that little apprentice of mine is always able to finish them without difficulty.  Worse yet, he looks too healthy – his face has transformed from a pale yellow to a radiant red tint.  There must be a secret he's hiding from me.

Calling forth his apprentice and using coercive interrogation methods, the nasty old monk managed to squeeze the truth out of the young apprentice.  How could there ever be a kid in red bellyband showing up in the badlands of Yun Mong Mountains? Could it be¡K that he is the incarnate of the Bangchui heavenly grass (Ginseng)? With a wicked plan in mind, the old monk took out a red thread from a box and tied it through a needle.  He gave it to the young monk and said, “Wait till that little kid comes along to play again, and you will sneakily place this needle onto his red bellyband without him noticing.”

The next day, the old monk left the mountains as usual.  The young monk struggled.  He wanted to tell the truth to the little kid in the red bellyband, but he was afraid of his master's wrath.  In the end, out of frustration, as the little kid was hurrying home, he slipped the needle onto his bellyband.  On the third day, the old monk locked his apprentice inside the temple.  With a shovel in hand, he followed the red thread.  Beside an old red pine, he found his needle stuck on a Bangchui sapling - THE Bangchui legendary grass.  Thrilled, he raised his shovel and immediately dug.  Under the sapling and into the earth he found what he was looking for – a “ginseng youth”.

The greedy monk went back to the temple with his prized possession.  He placed the “ginseng youth” into a pot, added water, covered the wok with a lid, and placed a heavy rock over the lid.  Then, he ordered his little apprentice to start a fire so that the water in the pot would boil.  Unfortunately for the old monk, his friend came along with an urgent matter that he could not reject, which required the two of them to both to leave the mountain.  Prior to leaving, the old monk warned his little apprentice, “While I am away, you are not allowed to remove that lid!”

But the little apprentice was dying with curiosity.  A mysterious fragrance kept escaping from the steaming pot.  It smells so good.  I wonder why can't I see what's inside? The young monk pondered, but could care less about the old monk's preachings.  He removed the rock and uncovered the lid.  A burst of aromas flustered the young monk's sense of smell.  It looks like master was brewing a big stick.  Not knowing what it was, the young monk pinched off a chunk and popped it into his mouth.  Its sweet aromatic taste spread through his mouth.  At this point, the little monk no longer cared about the consequences anymore.  He ate it all – to the last drop of soup.  Before he could fully savor his satisfying snack, the old monk had hastily returned.  Flustered, the young monk bolted away from the temple.  As the old man saw the young monk escape, he knew it was too late.  Almost as if flying in the air, his apprentice's legs launched away with unbelievable strength, and thus had most certainly ate his “ginseng youth.”

As it turns out, a pair of ginseng used to grow under the old red pine.  Ever since the “ginseng youth's” transformation disguise as a little kid wearing a bellyband had been seen though by the old monk, the remaining ginseng cried over its partner's death.  The old red pine told the ginseng, “Good kid, stop crying.  I'll take you to Guan Dong! There are much less people there, so I can forever protect you.” The ginseng stopped crying, and followed the old red pine to the old forests deep into the Chang Bai Mountains of Guan Dong, where they both set roots.  Since then, ginseng became harder and harder to find in Guan Nei, but more and more ginseng started to grow in the Chang Bai Mountains.

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the dried root of Panax Ginseng C.  A.  Mey.  of the Araliaceae family.  Its properties are sweet, slightly bitter, and slightly warm.  It enters through the lung and spleen. 


Gallery of Ginseng




Actions & Indications:

  • Strongly tonifies the basal Qi:
  • Tonifies the Lungs and augments the Qi
  • Strengthens the Spleen and tonifies the Stomach
  • Generates fluids and stops thirst
  • Benefits the Heart Qi and calms the spirit

Caution & Contraindications:

  • It should not be used for people experiencing excess heat syndrome, dampness-heat syndrome, or in the absence of Qi deficiency.
  • Drinking tea or eating turnips reduces the effect of the herb
  • Not to be used with Excrementum Trogopteri seu Pteromi (Wu Ling Zi) and Radix et Rhizoma Veratri (Lu Li)


The original article is from Brion Research Institute, translated by Sun Ten Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.


For the Chinese/original version, please click:

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