White ginseng is the root of the Panax plant that has been processed for therapeutic purposes. Ginseng has been used for thousands of years in China to promote good health. Today, white ginseng is one of the most popular herbal supplements. It may be brewed into a tea, eaten whole or taken in capsule form.
In its natural form, ginseng root is light tan in color. As it grows, the root forms appendages that resemble the arms and legs of a human figure. When it is processed for therapeutic purposes, the root is peeled and dried in the sun, which bleaches it white. This gives white ginseng its name. It differs from steam-processed ginseng, which turns dark red.
Panax ginseng is the species most often used for herbal supplements and is indigenous to Korea and China. Panax quinquefolius is the American species, which is cultivated in the US state of Wisconsin, and in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The most popular ginseng products come from Korea.
White ginseng is typically less expensive than the red variety. As a tea, it may be served either hot or iced. It may be served plain or mixed with milk or lemon juice and sweetened with honey or sugar. It is also available in commercially packaged bottles. White ginseng is sometimes used as a component for beauty products, including lotions, soaps, bath oils and shower gels.
This type of ginseng is less potent than red ginseng—however, it still offers many of the same health benefits. In Chinese medicine, white ginseng tea is believed to promote vital energy after an illness, improve blood circulation and increase sexual potency. White ginseng is also sold as a weight-loss supplement.
Potential side effects of white ginseng are increased blood pressure, low blood sugar and intestinal disturbances. Much like coffee, white ginseng is a stimulant, which may cause nervousness and insomnia. It should therefore be used with caution under the supervision of a reliable health care provider.
Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since ancient times. Today, the active ingredients in ginseng have been identified as ginsenosides. In Western medicine, these phytochemicals are being studied as a possible treatment for cancer and immune system disorders, as well as for the treatments of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
(AIDS). They are also being tested for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction and as anti-inflammatory agents.