Ginseng is the best known and most popular Chinese herb. It is known as the "King" of Chinese herbs. With Ginseng, you get what you pay for. Some roots cost thousands of dollars. Most consumers will not be seeking out the highest quality Ginseng. The more affordable Codonopsis Root (Dang Shen) may be substituted in most situations.
All ginseng is not created equal. There are three major types of ginseng。
American Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen)
Panax Ginseng (Ren Shen)
Korean Ginseng (Gao Li Shen)
The average consumer who walks down the herb aisle in the drug store may be unaware of the consequences of their choices. The popular conception that ginseng equals energy, much like coffee equals energy is not necessarily so.
If you are looking for energy, first of all, you need to be sure that you really need it. Many people would never feel that they have enough energy. Some people may actually be Yin Deficient with Heat signs. In this case, the appearance of energy (which may be scattered and manic) is really heat and, underneath, the person is deficient. This is analogous to spending money on a credit card when you're already in debt. You appear to be rich, but your finances are actually in very bad shape. You can spend what you do not have but you will pay the price. The price may be your sanity, or other health problems down the road. These peoplewould do better to nurture their yin, which is deficient, and spend less energy. Look at American Ginseng; it nourishes the yin and benefits the qi. The heat of yin deficiency sometimes manifests as excess energy in the head: headaches, and tempers flaring. Anyone with heat signs like this would actually be harmed by Panax or Korean Ginseng. It is liable to make your headaches and temper worse.
American Ginseng is considered an endangered species due to excess harvesting. If you plan on using it, the ethical thing would be to grow it yourself, or at least be knowledgeable of the source of your Ginseng.
If you really need energy, you might not even take Panax Ginseng (Ren Shen). Traditionally, it is used for the elderly, or in extreme health situations. The more common, and more affordable, choice is Codonopsis Root (Dang Shen).