Correcting ungrounded rumors
In July, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs decided to expand ginseng export to $300 million by investing 200 billion won ($190 million) by 2018. It is promising that the government has prepared a specific vision and strategy to nurture ginseng as Korea’s delicacy. However, there is an obstacle we must overcome to attain this goal. Ginseng export has decreased from $189 million in 2011 to $175 million last year. The traditional belief that Korean ginseng is not suitable for people with fever or high blood pressure is spreading in China and Southeast Asia, and it is negatively affecting the export.
Ancient Chinese medical literature states that Korean ginseng is sweet while American and Chinese ginseng is bitter. However, the characteristics have been mistranslated as “warm” and “cool,” and misinformation has been spread in the Southeast Asian region, where the climate is hot and humid. It was a strategy to export American ginseng by spreading the belief that Korean ginseng is not suitable for people with fevers or who are living in warm regions.
Ginseng and red ginseng increase blood flow and improve blood circulation, increasing metabolism in peripheral nerves. So one can temporarily feel hot after consuming ginseng, but it does not actually raise body temperature or blood pressure. It is more like the hearty feeling after consuming a meal.
The Rural Development Administration has concluded from a three-year joint research project with China that Korean ginseng does not result in fever. Also, the circulatory system research team of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing published that a person with no existing conditions had no effect in blood pressure after consuming red ginseng powder, and patients with high blood pressure actually experienced improvement. The research team of Prof. Han Yong-nam of Seoul National University’s College of Pharmacy studied between 2001 and 2008 that consuming Korean ginseng results in an increase in blood flow and circulation while having no impact on pulse, blood pressure and body temperature.
Traditional Chinese medical texts state that the property of ginseng is rather cold. Korean ancestors had put ginseng in chicken soup to bear the summer heat. Beliefs about Korean ginseng should be corrected through research and seminars, and its outstanding health effects should be promoted.