There are many ways to make ginseng tea. Generally, one can decide between brewing the actual root versus using a commercially prepared product, such as powdered ginseng or teabags. When using a prepared tea product, one should follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. If one chooses to use the actual root, there are many factors to consider when choosing roots and preparing the tea.
Considerations Prior to Making Ginseng Tea
First of all, one must decide what type of ginseng to use. There are many ways to categorize ginseng, such as by species and method of processing. Thirteen species of ginseng exist, but the most popular ones are Asian (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolis). When categorizing based on processing method, one can choose red, white, sun, or fresh. Red ginseng is steamed then heat-dried, while white ginseng is air-dried without heating beforehand. The sun variety takes white ginseng and steams it to very high temperatures, higher than that used for red. The processing methods in order of ascending potency are white, red, and sun. One can also forego processed root and use fresh ginseng, though most ginseng users seem to prefer dried root.
To ensure potency of your tea, starting with high quality root is essential. Characteristics to evaluate include size, shape, and color. When looking at whole, unsliced root, general characteristics of high-quality roots include larger size and thicker diameter. This makes sense because ginseng that has been allowed to grow for a longer period of time prior to harvesting tends to be more potent, and size reflects age. For sliced root, if one can see concentric rings in cross-section, this corresponds with older and higher quality root. Regarding shape and general structure, a well-developed neck and straight shape are considered more desirable. On further visual inspection, one should look for a slightly golden yellow surface. If one is buying red ginseng, darker color corresponds with higher potency. Root density and texture are also important for evaluating whole roots. Low quality roots are soft and pliable (also sweeter).
How to Make Ginseng Tea
- If using whole root, cut it into dime- to nickel-sized pieces. Ginseng can be difficult to slice, but can be easier to cut after microwaving for a few seconds or steaming first.
- The dosing recommendation from the American Academy of Family Practice is 0.5 to 2 grams of dried root per day. Other sources recommend anywhere from 1 to 3 grams dried root (about 3 to 8 slices.). Other recipes may have measurements for several doses worth of tea, and may call for up to eight or nine grams.
- A double-boiler is typically used in order to prevent boiling over and herbal spillage.
- Some sources instruct ginseng users to steep the appropriate dose for at least five minutes, longer if greater potency is desired. Other sources recommend slowly boiling the root for one hour or even up to two hours.
- Additional herbs can be added for enhanced benefits. Sweeteners, commonly honey, can also be added if one does not like ginseng’s bitter taste.
Another consideration when using actual root for tea is that only the compounds on the outer surface exposed to the water are extracted. Because of this, one can cut and re-boil the root one to two additional times in order to extract more active compounds from surfaces that were previously not exposed.
Many people believe that consuming ginseng as a tea or decoction is the best way to maximize the herb’s health benefits. This is further enhanced by the option of adding other herbs during the tea-making process, thus also gaining their benefit. Dosing is not standardized, though, and it is important to use ginseng after educating oneself and with the help of someone experienced with ginseng, if possible.