Not only can you eat ginseng berries, they might actually be really good for you! According to some of the research I’ve come across, herbal medicine specialists seem to be of the opinion that the berries of the ginseng plant boast many of the same advantages that the other parts of the plant do.
That being said, you might not want to eat them directly. Many people find that while the berries are tart, they don’t have much flavor at all.
Health food enthusiasts have often complained that ginseng berries have this sort of flat bitter taste that isn’t really appealing, so they’ve come up with a number of berry juice cocktails that improve the flavor by adding other juices. You can find these in health food stores, or you could make your own by picking berries.
Making your own is probably quite a challenge, though, since you’d probably need a whole mess of plants to make any reasonable amount of juice.
Types of Ginseng
Some ginseng plants grow wild while others are cultivated on farms. So many people have cultivated their own local variety that there are literally hundreds of different types, but all plants generally fall into one or more of these categories:
- Korean ginseng: This plant, often called Panax ginseng, is probably the original strain of ginseng that all other plants are derived from. If you hear someone say ginseng without any other name, then they usually mean this plant.
- South China ginseng: This herb has darker leaves than Korean ginseng and is often called the three-seven root as a result of its slightly unusual leaf structure.
- American ginseng: Since this plant has cooling and sedative effects, it’s long been a favorite of those who primarily use ginseng roots as part of a traditional Chinese medicine regimen.
- Vietnamese ginseng: The southernmost ginseng variety found in nature is this broad-leaf plant that’s prized by herbal medical doctors.
- Siberian ginseng: While this plant is in the same family as ginseng, it’s technically a different bush altogether. It’s berries are a great source of calcium.
If you’re buying ginseng berries commercially, then you’ll want to make sure that what you’re buying is actually ginseng. Some plants, like dong quai and even ashwagandha, are popular herbal supplements but not really ginseng in the technical sense.
At times, online sellers will get them all mixed up and send you the wrong kind of product if you’re not careful about the source.
Health Benefits of Ginseng Berries
Ginseng berries and the juice that comes from them generally provides the same sorts of benefits that you’d get if you were eating the roots. Some research that I’ve come across claims that ginseng might have a strong impact on the quality of your memory and might even help people deal with fatigue.
Preliminary research suggests that ginseng plants might also help to alleviate some aspects of diabetes. It’s believed that the plant does this by improving insulin response rates.
If for whatever reason you have whole stems, then don’t just separate the berries from them and throw the rest out! Ginseng leaves may not be as popular as berries or even the more traditional root extract, but they have some health benefits as well.
You may want to brew these into a tea, which can be flavored with the otherwise rather flat-tasting ginseng berries you collect. While it might not exactly be the most delicious thing on the planet, it’s probably loaded with antioxidants.
Side Effects of Ginseng Berries
Parts of the common ginseng plants are usually considered safe even if you eat a lot of them. I haven’t come across too many horror stories, though in theory if you ate enough ginseng berries or roots in a single day you could become somewhat anemic.
Dry mouth and lips or irritability can be a problem judging by what I’ve read, but I’m not sure how much you’d need to eat to overdose on them like this. Many of the effects of over-consumption, such as these and insomnia, sound like those associated with tweaking on way too much coffee.
Ways to Eat Ginseng Berries and How to Prepare Them
If you’d like, then you could just wash the raw berries and then eat them like they were any other fruit. They’re perfectly safe to eat this way as long as you’re not eating a steady diet of just them and nothing else.
That could really be said for just about any food. Otherwise, you can either juice them or use them as an ingredient in any recipe that calls for any other type of berry.
You might want to cut them with a little bit of cranberry or blueberry mix, though, since they tend to not have much flavor on their own. Try adding a dash of fruit juice to ginseng berries when using them as a topping or when preparing them as part of a jar of canned preserves.
Make sure to boil and treat your cans properly if you ever give this a try in order to stay safe.
Many culinary experts seem to think that should help deal with the lack of taste without adding any refined sugar. Since they’re berries, it seems like you could freeze them and serve them after thawing much as you would with strawberries as well.
Can You Legally Sell Ginseng Berries as Food?
Harvesting American ginseng is governed by a dizzying list of rules! I was genuinely shocked ot learn that there are only 19 states that allow you to harvest it.
Technically, many of the laws regarding the use of any part of a ginseng plant as food have more to do with its production rather than the actual sale of parts of said plant. This is the kind of super-specific catch that only an attorney could appreciate.
In general, you can only take berries to use or sell from plants that are five years old or even older. Judging by what I’ve found from state conservation societies, you’re usually only allowed to take the berries during a designated season and you often need a license.
Back in the 1990s, there was this huge run on ginseng root, leaves and berries while they became a health fad food and that led to massive over-cultivation. As a result, many types of ginseng plants are now endangered so authorities have had to use some pretty heavy-handed methods to protect them.