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So How does Ginseng Taste?

photo of box of ginseng
This is the little box where we keep our dried ginseng root.

Ginseng Taste

So how does ginseng taste? The first flavor when you put a little piece of the root in your mouth is bitterness, but it’s not too intense of a bitterness. A bit of that bitterness lingers the whole time, too. Then there’s also an earthy sweetness, similar but not the same as carrot – a not so sweet carrot.

Do not eat an entire root in one day!

Eating too much ginseng is probably bad for you. My son ate a whole one when he first started digging. He didn’t sleep for two days and he said it felt like his heart was going to jump out of his chest. This is not a good thing, so don’t do it.

We usually chew a small piece, like you see broken off in the photo below, all day. Just tuck it on the side of your jaw, don’t chew it like gum. Squeeze it every once in a while with your tongue against the roof of your mouth, or gently between your teeth, and put it back on the side.

When you want to eat or get tired of keeping it in there, put it on a plate or somewhere that you can go back to it later. As long as the bitter flavor remains, it still contains ginseng goodness.

Some people use the root in broths. I’ve ground some and used it in my coffee. I really like it that way.

a piece of dried ginseng root
The dried ginseng root, ready to chew.




Most of the searches that bring people to this site are about how to find ginseng. Not so many seem to wonder about how to use the ginseng itself. I think most are only interested in exploiting the root for profit.

We don’t dig our roots here to sell because we don’t have enough of it yet. When the population reaches a sustainable level (at least 100 plants of mixed ages per colony) we’ll harvest roots, but that’s going to be years down the road from now. Right now the focus is on habitat restoration.

In our Wild Ozark™ Nursery, though, we do plant extra seeds so I can sell rootlets and potted ginseng plants to others who want to grow it. It makes a pretty potted plant or specimen feature in shade gardens. We also offer companions to make the habitat complete.

The Ozark’s own best-selling author, photographer, consultant, and herbalist Steven Foster posted at his herbal blog about the issues he sees with the television show “Appalachian Outlaws”.


My hope is that some of the people who come here searching for information because they’ve watched that show will become interested in the plant and shift their focus from the potential money in digging to a concern and desire to help it survive.

I wrote a short book called “Sustainable Ginseng” with information on how land-owners can grow it in a way that’s indistinguishable from true wild. Grown this way it can be used for personal remedies as I describe below, or sold just like wild – all without adding extra stress to the survival of the plants still holding their own in our hills.

Some of our books:

For the most part, I just study the ginseng and grow it. I get a lot of enjoyment from finding new plants, growing new colonies, and just observing grandmother plants with her babies throughout the growing season. But every so often we do dig a few for our own personal use and I thought I’d talk a little today about how I use it. Dr. Laurell Matthews wrote about the virtues of ginseng root on her Natural Health blog the other day. The last time we dug any of our own was a few years ago. I keep the roots in a paper bag along with the other herbs I’ve harvested for household use.

How We Use Ginseng

herbs in paper bagsWhen I take out a ginseng root I put it in the little ox-bone box pictured at the top of this post and keep it in the kitchen.

My husband got that little box for me when he was in Iraq or Afghanistan and I think it makes a fitting resting place for a single root of a plant I hold in high regard.

That same root has been in the box for several months because I don’t use it every day. If I’m working on a project that requires more concentration and focus than I’m ordinarily prone to, I’ll keep a little piece of the root in my mouth all day.

I take it out and set it on the side of my plate if I eat or put it down somewhere if I’m having a cup of coffee, but I keep the same piece in use all day. It’s sort of like keeping the same piece of chewing gum, I guess, but I don’t actually “chew” the root.

Every once in a while I’ll bite down on it to squeeze the juice out of it. Yes, I know that sounds pretty gross, given that the juice is made from my saliva, ha. But the saliva is also extracting the goodness of ginseng while it sits on standby in my mouth.

If I think I have a cold or other illness coming on, I’ll use it the same way. Ginseng is an adaptogen and will try to help the body overcome stresses of any sort. This is also what I’ll do with it if we’re doing some sort of work that is physical and I want to maintain stamina throughout the day (like when we’re working on a fence project).

If you’re interested in growing your own virtually-wild ginseng and need some help figuring out where to plant, take a look at our books. By learning the ginseng companion plants, it’ll help you find the best places to plant.


10 thoughts on “So How does Ginseng Taste?”

  1. Thanks, I was wondering what Ginseng” taste like. A friend gave me a good sack full and you described it to a “T” I wanted to make sure I had the real thing. I actually like the lingering tingle. Thanks again and I feel fortunate to have stumble on to your site today.

  2. Our Western NC ginseng tastes like bitter licorice. Bitter at first, with a sweet licorice aftertaste. Though I have heard that each region has it’s own ‘terroir’ (like fine wine) depending on the environment/climate it grows in. It would be really cool to sample all the different flavors (& potency) of the major American ginseng regions, like Ozark, Appalachian, Catskill, etc.

    In Traditional Chinese Medicine, where there is big culture of ‘food as medicine’, there is something called ‘The Five Flavors’, and believe it or not, ginseng is considered sweet first & bitter second! These tastes or flavors have different properties that effect the organs and have healing values if properly balanced.

    It is funny that westerners have practically no tolerance for anything other than sugary sweet 🙂

    1. What an awesome idea! I would love to attend an expo like that. Sounds like a good thing to consider planning, Sara 😉

      I’ve never tasted any from anywhere else and would love to know how the regions differ in flavor and effect. And you’re right, westerners like the sweet and sour, but no one I know cares much for bitter. Most avoid it if possible.

  3. Pingback: An Herbal Remedy for Winter Crud featuring Elderberry, Beebalm, Goldenseal and Ginseng

  4. Looks like a great site you’ve got here. I’ll be milling around for a while. Thanks, Madison Woods! Only adventures in America, huh. Warm regards from England.

    1. I just had a look at your storefront, your author’s page. It’s very nice. I’ve added several of your books – in paperback / hardback – to my wish list for buying soon – because I’m interested and because to support what you’re doing and the way you live your life; I mean out of admiration for you to be approaching life in the manner that you do. I get a good vibe from you – obviously from the nature of your work and passions, but also in the way that you write – and that’s enough reason for me. I’m a young man in my early twenties. Music’s my main passion. Then writing. But, oh, lots of other things, I can tell you! I’m going to pursue the music and writing first, but herbs and spices and nature in general fascinate me. Not to mention bugs. A little later in my short life I’d like to pursue this interest in herbalism and botany (and me stumbling upon your website is perhaps the very start of that). Hey, what’s the difference between the two? Herbalism and botany. Are they much the same but one’s more scientific and the other’s more hands-on, earthy & intuitive? Again, thank you Madison – – from England!

      1. Hi there! First of all thank you for visiting and letting me know you were here. So glad you found something you connected with! As for herbalism and botany, botany is the study of plants, and herbalism is the practice of using plants as medicine. The herbalists needs a good foundation in botany, at least for the plants of interest, but the botanist may not need herbalism. And then there’s ethnobotany, which is the study of how plants have been and are currently used by people and cultures around the world. That was something I wish I had gone to University to study. Good luck with your music, writing, and studies of all the things that fascinate you. LOL, I think I need a few more lifetimes to go through my list of things I want to learn and do, too.

  5. I’m still wondering how much flavor should be in dried ginseng root. I’ve had both green and red asian versions of ginseng candy, and they are packed with the flavor, whereas I have roots that taste weak. I would never explain it as bitter or sweet, it’s just a light taste of ginseng as it slowly dissolves without chewing.

    1. If the root dissolved without chewing, I’d guess it was improperly dried. Properly dried ginseng is very hard and won’t bend or chew very easily until it’s been in your mouth for a good long while. Then it doesn’t dissolve, but may separate into fibers if you chew it a lot. The taste is fairly bitter at first and as the bitterness fades some a sweetness moves in.

      This is how all of the roots I’ve tried taste to me, anyway. But I haven’t tried candied or Asian ginseng, just Ozark and Appalachian.

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