Korean J Med Hist.  2016 Aug;25(2):273-308. 10.13081/kjmh.2016.25.273.

The Perception of Ginseng in England and America, 1600-1800

  • 1Department of History, Yonsei University, Seoul, KOREA. snowlove@yonsei.ac.kr


This paper aims to redress serious imbalances in the research on ginseng. Most accounts of ginseng treat it as an exclusively East Asian commodity, and are dominated by the natural sciences. Ginseng, however, was much discussed in England and America in the early modern period: the discussion encompassed not only botanical and medical interests, but also discourses on the commercial marketability of ginseng; ginseng was also an item that embodied European prejudices, symbolizing perceived 'differences' between the West and East. As such, ginseng was an 'indigenous' item of 'the East' that was much discussed in 'the West', but one that resisted assimilation into its systems of knowledge.


ginseng; ninzin; tonic; Royal Society; botany; ginseng trade; East India Company; Orientalism
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