The first recorded use of ginseng was in 1654 and in traditional Chinese medicine it is considered to be unequalled as a remedy for virtually all diseases. Not only does it enhance the immune system, fighting viruses and bacteria, but it is one of, if not the most powerful adaptogens, increasing the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and at promoting or restoring normal physiological functioning. Ginseng has been shown to increase or lengthen physical and mental endurance, thereby making it an effective remedy for exhaustion and chronic fatigue. As a result of its ability to protect the brain from stress Ginseng is used in the treatment of disorders/diseases that cause memory loss, such as bi-polar disorder and depression.
There are various grades and varieties of ginseng. In traditional Chinese medicine American ginseng is weaker than the Asian variety. It is more yin, helping to reduce the heat of the respiratory and digestive systems whereas Asian ginseng is stronger and more yang, and is used as a heat raising tonic for the blood and circulatory systems. In China ginseng is rarely used on its own and is usually combined with other herbs such as licorice which will temper its potency. Korean red ginseng is stronger than the Chinese variety.
Given its reputation and etymology ("ginseng" is said to mean "wonder of the world") one would think it is the universal medicine, however, Ginseng should not be used during pregnancy or during acute inflammatory disease or bronchitis, as it could make the latter conditions worse.