Twenty three years have passed since a baffled journalist persuaded me to summarise the proceedings of a conference in London concerning a Chinese plant called ginseng. Twelve years earlier I had encountered ginseng in Canada when some Chinese immigrants sought advice on the problems they had encountered in their unsuccessful attempts at the cultivation of ginseng under prairie conditions. Appetite whetted, I sought information everywhere but soon discovered that there was only limited data available. Ginseng had never appeared on the shelves of the chemists' shops in which I had worked from 1937 onwards, it rarely appeared in the literature of the day and was not found in the standard pharmacopoeias and textbooks of pharmacognosy. Many claims were made concerning the multitudinous merits of this Chinese wonder drug but little or no reliable scientific evidence was presented to justify such observations. As allopathic medicine moved inexorably forward my western-trained pharmacologist colleagues dismissed ginseng along with many other pharmacognostical drugs. Yet today ginseng is well known, being found in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health food stores, is advertised freely on the communications Internet and World Wide Web and many ginseng books of a popular type can be purchased in high street bookshops. A more detailed survey of the scientific literature is needed to stress the potential and the limitations of ginseng.

For this book the problem of language when faced with literature in Chinese, Korean and Japanese was solved by consulting research students from the Far East, by use of translations provided in particular by Pharmaton S.A., Lugano, Switzerland and by access to English abstracts in journals such as Biological Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts, Excerpta Medica and Review of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants. Fortunately significantly more of the Far Eastern literature is now presented in English.

I am indebted to the library staff at the University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, John Moores University, Liverpool, the North-East Wales Institute, Wrexham, the Picton Library, Liverpool and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London for the help given me in my search for scientific data. I am also grateful to Dr David Cutler and his colleagues Dr David Frodin and Anna Lynch at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for help in unravelling the many species names currently in use.

My thanks are especially tendered to Doctors Eva Cellarova and Katarina Kimakova of the Department of Experimental Botany and Genetics, Faculty of Science, P.J.Safarik University, Kosice, Slovakia for their contribution concerning the artificial culture of Panax spp. and to Pharmaton S.A., Lugano, Switzerland for permission to reproduce the illustrations employed in this work.

Finally I must thank my old friend Dr Roland Hardman who cheered me up when the going was rough and helped me in so many ways and my wife for her tolerance and understanding.

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