A ginseng a day keeps the doctor away: expert tells the Royal Winter Fair

by Viet-Lien (Alice) Hoang


Several cups of ginseng tea a month makes the doctor a no-see: if you have a pot and stove, all you need is water and some ginseng roots to make a home-made remedy.

Dr. Ed Lui, 62, pharmacology and toxicology associate professor at the University of Western Ontario boils six or seven ginseng roots at a time and drinks about 500 millilitres of ginseng tea a day; the roots can also be used to make soup, Lui said.

After the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair’s Journey to Your Good Health pavilion rumbled with music and dancing, Lui slowed things down for a bit as he took the Be Healthy! stage Thursday to give an interactive presentation on “facts and myths” of ginseng.

“Ginseng is very popular in Asia,” Lui said. “Growing up, my mom would always give us slices of ginseng to chew on and say, ‘You’ll have better stamina for playing soccer.’”

Ginseng is known as a “cure herb,” which is what makes it unique; it has many chemicals that produce numerous effects on different parts the body – it revitalizes your whole system and helps fight against diseases, from cold and flu to diabetes, although there is still ongoing research as to whether or not it has an effect on blood pressure, Lui said.

Although ginseng gives you energy, it doesn’t work like caffeine; it’s a “chronic tonic,” as opposed to acting acutely, Lui said.

“You can’t just drink a cup of ginseng tea because you need to stay up late to study for a test the next day – the result won’t be as optimal,” Lui said.

Remembering the motto “everything in moderation,” you also shouldn’t have too much ginseng, otherwise your body will become resistant to it and it will lose its effectiveness; so you should take about one dose every day for five days of the week, Lui said.

You need to take it continuously for several weeks at a time, and you should stop for one cycle before your next one; so people would take it for four to six weeks, then stop for one week, and start over again, Lui said.

Results will vary depending on the type of person who uses it, while the kind of ginseng is also a factor.

North American ginseng is known to be “yin,” meaning it reduces heat in the body, while Asian ginseng is referred to as “yang,” as it increases body heat; and the third type of ginseng is known as Korean Red, which produces the most heat.

“You should consult your practitioner about which kind and how much you should take, because everyone is different,” Lui said.

The extract is more potent compared to the powder, so you would need more of the powder formula in order for it to equal the value of the extract.

The raw root goes through the processes of drying and curing, which makes it last for a couple of years before turning bad; it is then processed into powder form, which is used to make capsules, Lui said.

“Making your own tea is cheaper than buying teabags or capsules,” Lui said.  “Ginseng was once sold at $70 for 0.25 kilograms, but now it only costs about $15 for the same amount,” Lui said.

The price of ginseng has gone down because of over-supply and competition from China; the number of Ontario farms has decreased over the last two years, as there’s a higher risk and cost to produce ginseng, since it takes three years to begin harvesting the crop, Lui said.

Wild ginseng has been over-used and the stock has been depleted, so the government of Canada has put ginseng on the endangered species list to protect its natural habitat; so the practice of cultivating forest-based ginseng is not allowed in Canada, like it is in China, Lui said.

Ontario ginseng has made Canada the largest producer of ginseng in North America, according to ginsengontario.com.

“It’s not just an herb – it’s also important to our economy and agriculture,” Lui said.

This is the first year that the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association has attended the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair as an exhibitor.

Lui hopes to improve next year’s event by having natural health products and a health care practitioner.

Angela MacNeil, 29, a naturopath doctor from Waterloo, spoke to people about healthy living, as she gave out educational pamphlets, including “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide,” at the Ask an Expert booth.

One of the best ways that parents can encourage their children to develop healthy

habits is to lead by example, MacNeil said. It’s important to be active and keep fit in addition to eating healthy foods and getting enough nutrients, MacNeil said, as she goes to the gym five to six times a week for a minimum of 75 minutes, and does a mixture of resistance training and cardio, including running, cycling, elliptical, and wave.

Amidst his busy schedule, Lui takes care of his well-being, not only by relying on the multi-health benefits of ginseng, but by maintaining an overall balanced lifestyle.

“My top tip to stay healthy is to exercise and manage stress, and also be happy,” said Lui with a chuckle.



One thought on “A ginseng a day keeps the doctor away: expert tells the Royal Winter Fair

  1. Ontario ginseng is still around even with competition from China. We are one of the oldest farms and we’re still producing ginseng.

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