No. 77.
Mr. Foulk to Mr. Bayard.

No. 281.]

Sir: By this mail I send to the Department a package containing specimens of the plain and cured cultivated ginseng of Corea, that ordinarily used, the former in Corea and the latter in China, and inclose herewith a note of information on ginseng.

I am, &c.,

Ensign U. S. Navy, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
[Inclosure in No. 281.]

Note on Corean ginseng.

The ginseng of Corea, as ordinarily spoken of, is cultivated. It is of two kinds named by color red ginseng (Hong-Sum) and white ginseng (Pak-Sum), both lands being the same root.

White ginseng is the plain root washed and dried. It is superior to the red ginseng to Coreans, who say that the process of curing preserves but reduces the strength of red ginseng.

White ginseng is abundantly sold in Corea and enormously used as a strengthening and blood-purifying medicine. Red ginseng is cured white ginseng. By law it can only be cured by the Government at one place. The curing is a process of steaming and prolonged drying, which solidifies the white root and changes its color to a fleshy pink. When broken red ginseng presents a glassy, brittle section. Red ginseng is [Page 215] not an article of ordinary trade, and may not be exported under the treaties of Corea. The whole crop is carried to China by the annual embassy, and the proceeds of sales belong to the King personally.

From personal experience and observation I am assured that Corean ginseng is an active, strongly heating medicine. It is most commonly taken in the form of a concentrated infusion. The fresh root is sliced and eaten with honey. The use of it must be attended with caution. It often produces boils and eruptions, sleeplessness, and flushing of the body, and other temporary derangements of the system in the course of its purification. Coreans say that but ten out of every hundred persons in their own country may use ginseng without the above-described effects, but say also that in every case the use of ginseng is beneficial, as purifying and strengthening.

The best ginseng is the wild root, of and above thirty years’ growth. Such commands a fabulous price, and is not ordinarily obtainable, nor ever in the market.

Western people appear to regard the virtues of genseng claimed by Orientals rather contemptuously, as imaginary and based on superstition; the evidences are that the mystic value attached itself to genseng after its virtues had been practically ascertained.

Of the specimens sent herewith, those of white ginseng are very good. Those of the red ginseng have a yellowish color, which ought not to be shown in the very best red ginseng. However, they show near the extremities of the roots the right color.

Information as full as any yet known to Western foreigners on the growth and curing of ginseng will be found in my report of a journey in Corea, submitted to the Navy Department through the Department of State in October, 1884. I have since then heard it remarked that in curing sometimes cold water is dashed upon the ginseng at the end of the steaming.

Ensign U. S. Navy, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.