This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Ginseng Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Aure-liana canadenfis, sinensibus ginseng, iroquaeis ga-rent-oguen, Lafiteau memoir. fur le gins. Panax quinquesolium Linn. Ginseng: the root of a small plant; growing in China, Tartary, and likewise in some parts of North America, particularly Canada and Pensylvania, from whence considerable quantities have lately been brought over. It is two or three inches in length; taper; about the thickness of the little finger, or less, in the thickest part; often forked at bottom; elegantly striated with circular wrinkles; of a brownish or yellowish colour on the outside, and whitish or of a pale yellowish within: on the top are commonly one or more little knots or tubercles, which are the remains of the stalks of preceding years, and from the number of which, the age of the root is ac-cordingly judged of.
On comparing the American roots with some specimens received from Nankin, no material difference could be observed between them, either in their external appearance or in their quality; except that the Chinese were in general somewhat paler coloured on the outside, and internally rather whiter. It is said that in China, the roots, taken up in spring or autumn and carefully cleaned from the sibres, are washed and soaked for a time in a decoction of rice or millet-seed, and afterwards exposed to the steam of the liquor; that by this means they acquire a greater firmness and ,clearness than they have in their natural state; that nevertheless the American roots were received and purchased as true ginseng in China itself, though without the supposed advantage of the Chinese preparation. Ninzin or Nindfin has been commonly suppofed a name synonymous to ginseng. It appears from later observations, that the ninzin is the root of a different plant (a) which is cured in the same manner, and very nearly resembles the ginseng, but is supposed to be of weaker virtue. This also is a native of America as well as China. It is called by Kaempser, sisarum montanum coraeense, radice non tuberoso; by Linnaeus, sium foliis ferratis pinnatis ramis ternatis.
Ginseng root, a medicine of extraordinary esteem among the Chinese as a general resto-rative and corroborant, though undoubtedly very far unequal to the character that has been commonly given of it, promises rievertheless, from its sensible qualities, to be an useful addition to the officinal drugs. To the taste it discovers a mucilaginous-sweetness, approaching to that of liquorice, accompanied with some degree of bitterishnefs, and a flight aromatic warmth; with little or no smell. It is far sweeter, and of a more grateful kind, than the roots of fennel, to which it has by some been supposed similar; and differs likewise remarkably from those roots, in the nature and pharmaceutic properties of its active principles; the sweet matter of the ginseng being preserved entire in the watery as well as in the spirituous extract, whereas that of fennel roots is destroyed or disipated in the infpiffation of the watery tincture. The slight aromatic impregnation of the ginseng is likewise in good measure retained in the watery extract, and perfectly in the spi-rituous; which last is a very pleasant, bitterish, warm sweet.
(a) See Juffieu's paper on this subject in Geoffroy's tract. de mat, med. ii. 112.