Supercharged Ginseng grown on New Zealand’s fertile volcanic slopes

Ginseng is not a crop you would normally associate with New Zealand. However, crops planted 20 years ago on fertile North Island volcanic land shows it grows very successfully, according to Riddet Institute scientists, based at Massey University.

 Wild ginseng is now very rare so most crops are cultivated and produced commercially in the Northern hemisphere. Recent research by Alpha-Massey Natural Nutraceuticals Research Centre and School of Food and Advanced Technology, Massey University shows that New Zealand ginseng is a superior product as it contains high amounts of its active components, ginsenosides. In fact, New Zealand grown ginseng contains nearly 50% more ginsenosides compared to northern hemisphere grown ginseng.

 This research suggests that volcanic pumice soil, found in New Zealand, may be very suitable for the growth of ginseng and represent a great opportunity for New Zealand growers. This lucrative business proposition – growing ginseng as a secondary crop under a pine tree canopy – can produce a yield that can sell for greater sums per kilo due to its enhanced effectiveness. The plantation used for this study is the open-field forest environment near Taupo and Rotorua and is managed by Kiwiseng Co., New Zealand’s biggest certified organic ginseng producer.

 Used for more than 2000 years, Ginseng is a very popular traditional Chinese medicine, and it is one of the oldest Chinese herbs. In ancient China, ginseng cured all; used for first aid, health care, and the treatment of coma, cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal diseases. Ginseng possesses diverse bioactive effects, such as anti-aging, anti-stress, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetes components.

 PhD student Wei Chen and his supervisors Dr. Prabhu Balan and Dr. David Popovich, published their recent findings in the international publication, Journal of Ginseng Research. Their work identified a total of 102 ginsenosides in ginseng tissues within different areas of the plant such as the main root, fine root, stem, and leaf. Of those identified, they measured the quantity of 21 ginsenosides, in material that had been grown over a 13-year period, to determine the optimum growing conditions and harvest time.  

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