The medicinal usage and restriction of ginseng in Britain and America, 1660-1900

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This article demonstrates the medicinal usage of ginseng in the West from 1660 to 1914. Asian[Korea] ginseng was first introduced into England in the early 17th century, and North American ginseng was found in the early 18th century. Starting from the late 17th century doctors prescribed ginseng to cure many different kinds of ailments and disease such as: fatigue general lethargy, fever, torpidity, trembling in the joints, nervous disorder, laughing and crying hysteria, scurvy, spermatic vessel infection, jaundice, leprosy, dry gripes and constipation, strangury, yellow fever, dysentery, infertility and addictions of alcohol, opium and tobacco, etc. In the mid-18th century Materia Medica began to specify medicinal properties of ginseng and the patent medicines containing ginseng were widely circulated. However, starting in the late 18th century the medicinal properties of ginseng began to be disparaged and major pharmacopoeias removed ginseng from their contents. The reform of the pharmacopoeia, influenced by Linnaeus in botany and Lavoisier in chemistry, introduced nomenclature that emphasized identifying ingredients and active constituents. Western medicine at this period, however, failed to identify and to extract the active constituents of ginseng. Apart from the technical underdevelopment of the period, the medical discourses reveal that the so-called chemical experiment of ginseng were conducted with unqualified materials and without proper differentiation of various species of ginseng.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-544
Number of pages42
JournalKorean Journal of Medical History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Korean Society for the History of Medicine.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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