ginseng(redirected from Tetrapanax)
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ginseng (jĭnˈsĕng), common name for the Araliaceae, a family of tropical herbs, shrubs, and trees that are often prickly and sometimes grow as climbing forms. The true ginseng (Panax ginseng), long prized by the Chinese for its medicinal qualities, was in such demand that a North American ginseng, P. quinquefolius, was imported in large quantities as a substitute. Both species have been all but exterminated in the wild by commercial exploitation. The herbal medicine ginseng is prepared from the plants' dried roots; it is used as a mild sedative and to increase stamina.
The widely varied family includes also the dwarf ginseng (P. trifolium) of North America; the English ivy (Hedera helix), a popular ornamental evergreen vine; the Hercules'-club, devil's-club, or devil's-walking-stick (names applied to several related species) of North America and E Asia, used locally for medicinal purposes; and the rice-paper plant (Tetrapanax papyriferus) of China, the pith of which is used to make Chinese rice paper. Native American species of this family include the wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) and the American, or wild, spikenard (A. racemosa). The names sarsaparilla and spikenard are applied also to plants of other families.
Ginseng is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Apiales, family Araliaceae.
(Chinese, root of life, literally, manroot; Panax schinseng C. A. May), a perennial herbaceous medicinal plant of the family Araliaceae. The root and rhizome of ginseng are perennial wintering organs. The root is rodlike, weakly branched, fleshy, and whitish gray or yellowish. The stem is straight, approximately 50 cm high, in most cases single, with a verticil on its upper part (a top rosette) of three to five leaves (rarely more). The leaves have long petioles and are palmately compound, with five or seven leaflets with sharply serrated edges. A scape with a simple umbel of 15–20 (average) small, greenish white monoecious flowers with a faint aroma rises from the center of the leaf rosette. The fruit is a bright red two- (more rarely one- or three-) seeded drupe. Ginseng flowers in July, and the fruits ripen in August.
Wild ginseng is a rare, relict plant. It is found in the USSR in the Primor’e and Khabarovsk krais, in the northeast portions of China, and in northern Korea. It grows mainly in virgin broad-leaved coniferous forests. It prefers loamy, well-drained soils rich in humus. Wild ginseng grows and develops very slowly; its maximum age is around 100 years, sometimes more. The weight of the root is up to 400 g. Preparations of the root in the form of an alcoholic infusion, powders, or tablets are used as tonics in hypotonia, fatigue, exhaustion, and neurasthenia.
Ginseng is cultivated in the USSR, mainly in the Primor’e Krai; it is compounded in August and September, when the fruit is completely ripe. Successful cultivation experiments are being conducted in the Northern Caucasus and near Moscow. Under cultivation ginseng develops faster, yields a larger root, and is equivalent to the wild form in chemical composition and pharmacological effect.
Ginseng is cultivated in beds laid from east to west and shaded from the sun by lean-to sheds. Leaf humus or peat moss, potassium salt, superphosphate, and, for better aeration, granite gravel (crushed granite) are added to the soil. Ginseng is sown in early spring in seedbeds; in the fall, when they have finished vegetating, the plants are transplanted to permanent places in beds prepared as for the seeds. The feeding area for the plants must be no less than 20 × 25 cm. Care of ginseng plantings requires systematic weeding, cultivating, and hilling and control of pests and diseases. In dry hot weather the plants need irrigation. The roots are harvested at the end of the growing period at the age of five to eight years. Seeds are gathered after the third to fourth year of life of the plant.
Other species most closely related to ginseng that belong to the genus Panax and have medicinal significance are five-leaved, or American, ginseng (Panax quinquefolium Linnaeus), cultivated in the USA and Canada; Panax pseudoginseng Wall, cultivated in southern China and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; and wild Japanese, or climbing, ginseng (p.japonicus C. A. May). A complete substitute for ginseng has been discovered—the Far Eastern thorny, eleutherococcal shrub Eleutherococcus maxim.
REFERENCESGutnikova, Z. I., P. P. Vorob’eva, and I. A. Bunkina. Zhen’shen i ego vozdelyvanie. Vladivostok, 1963.
I. V. GRUSHVITSKII