Korean ginseng, known as gaolishen in Chinese, is sweet with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is regarded as a warm herb useful for countering "cold" symptoms.
The most common type of Korean ginseng used here is the red ginseng, which is derived from steaming and drying fresh six-year-old ginseng.
The process reduces its water content to less than 14 per cent, so it does not rot as easily as the freshly harvested root.
Korean ginseng is thought to move through the spleen, lung and heart meridians - channels in the body through which qi (vital energy) travels.
A good flow of qi and a balance of yin (the element responsible for cooling organs) and yang (the element linked to heat) in the body are needed for good health.
TCM practitioners said Korean ginseng is known to boost primordial qi, a type of energy that is responsible for driving all bodily functions.
Ms Karen Wee, a TCM practitioner at Renhai Clinic in Neil Road, said primordial qi is inherited from birth and strengthened through nourishment and exercise, but can be depleted by prolonged or major illnesses or childbirth.
That is why people who lack qi commonly exhibit symptoms such as fatigue, a reluctance to speak, a pale complexion and tongue, a very weak pulse and dizziness.
In TCM, each organ system can also trigger organ-specific symptoms in response to a lack of qi.
Ms Wee said for the spleen, the symptoms include loose stools and a poor appetite, while symptoms linked to the lungs are breathlessness, a weak voice and coughing.
This qi deficiency can also affect the functions of the heart and the kidneys. Heart-related symptoms include chest tightness and heart palpitations. And those whose kidneys are affected may have frequent urination, she said.
Besides boosting qi, Korean ginseng is also used to address yang deficiency in the kidneys.
Mr Feng Jiayang, a TCM practitioner at Sinchong Meheco at People's Park Centre, warned that untreated qi deficiency may progress to yang deficiency, which is marked by an aversion to cold. Mr Feng said the person may be well-clothed but would still feel chilly.
What is more, a person will run into fertility problems when his kidneys are deficient in yang. It can lead to frequent urination, erectile dysfunction in men and irregular menstruation in women.
Other symptoms of this deficiency include a sore back and limbs and water retention in the legs or face.
Ms Wee said Korean ginseng can be complemented with other qi-boosting herbs such as Chinese yam, poria and largehead atractylodes rhizome.
Mr Feng added that when Korean ginseng is used to strengthen the immune system to guard against colds and infections, it is commonly used with milk-vetch root.
This article was published on May 8 in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.