There is a bewildering array of ways to eat, drink or take ginseng, to the point where it can be difficult for a beginner to even know where to start.
The simplest way to take ginseng is to simply eat the leaves from the plant. Unfortunately, unless you’re used to it, ginseng has a distinctly odd taste, which makes the experience a little unpleasant. Also, fresh, unprepared leaves will not last very long, which is makes fresh ginseng impractical if you don’t live in a ginseng-producing country.
The most common way to consume ginseng is to make it into a ginseng tea, by slicing up the leaves and then soaking it them in hot water. Dried, red ginseng can also be used for this, if it is put inside a teabag or similar device to keep the small dried leaf pieces from falling into the liquid.
There are also some more unusual ways to take ginseng. A popular preparation method in China is to take some ginseng leaves and some chicken, steam them together twice, and then serve it as a soup – it tastes mainly of chicken, but has all the health benefits of ginseng.
Ginseng in health food shops is often also available in more medicinal forms, such as pills, tablets and creams. Although these are easier to use, you may find that they are less effective compared to the leaves themselves, especially if the medicine also contains some other herbs.
If you’re just starting out and taking ginseng for the first time, probably the best place to start out is with the tea, as ginseng is far more powerful as a relaxing drink than it is as a medicine – see if you can find ginseng teabags containing dried leaves in your local herb-selling shop. To a certain extent, the smell and taste are as important as the actual consumption if you want to get the full range of benefits that ginseng offers.