The Origin of The Name Ginseng

The name of every object is very important in that it reflects its characteristics, origin, belief, and history. Where did the word ‘ginseng’ originate from?

The word ‘ginseng’ comes from the Japanese pronunciation ‘In-Sam’: the original name of Korean ginseng. Therefore, some think that it should be corrected to 'In-Sam'. Just like how Korean Kimchi is often called ‘Kimuchi’, the Japanese style pronunciation. This is A sore subject for Koreans who take pride in the root’s origin.

The official name of In-Sam, ‘ginseng’, was first registered by Carl Anton Von Meyer in 1843 as ‘panax ginseng C. A Meyer’. The word ‘panax’ is a mixture of two Greek words: ‘Pan’ which means everything, and ‘Axos’ means medicine; referring ginseng as the medicine for everything. However, many scholars have labeled ginseng as ‘panax’ even prior to Mayer.

Later in 1833, a German scholar Nees von Esenbeck described Korean ginseng as ‘Panax shiseng var. coraiensis Nees’ in his book "Icones Plantarum Medicinalium." Nees decided that Asian ginseng was a different species from western ginseng; Naming it ‘Panax shixeng’, followed by ‘coraiensis’ which refers to Korean ginseng.

The word ‘Shinseng’ is derived from the Chinese style pronunciation of ginseng, ‘Xiangshen’, and gradually changed its pronunciation to ginseng. The reason we call it ginseng today is due to its introduction to the west through China.