Ginseng Oolong


Walking back from the theater the other night my friend and I stopped in a Chinatown tea house to sample some tea for free. (Vital Tea Leaf). As these things usually go I’m a huge sucker and end up buying something. I bought some of the best tasting tea I’ve ever had. It looks like cat food but expands in your cup to long graceful leaves. Korean Ginseng Oolong. It was out on the counter, and since it looked so gross, I had to give it a whirl. The aftertaste was so delightful- sweet and clear, kind of tangy- that it was a clear decision to buy.

I’ve been drinking it for about three days and during that time, the only change I’ve noticed is that I’ve had very odd dreams. So I look up the herb and what it’s supposed to do.

Good things- aids digestion, gives you energy, increases libido… Bad things: anti-coagulant, could create stress and anxiety, and some reports of this dream thing. Some studies say there are no definitive results from ginseng. As for the combo of ginseng and oolong- Vital Tea Leaf web site says it’s “good for hangovers”. Our salesperson kept saying that it has “antioxidants” of course with her accent it sounded more like “antecedents”.

My dreams? Let’s just say they usually involve violence, mauled babies, guns, rape, etc. It’s like Fox Entertainment meets HBO independent programming, every night, in my head. Last night I joined the ginseng in my belly with NyQuil, and that created a kind of “oh my god I’m paralyzed” along with the usual baby torture/rape/shootings.

The history of ginseng: it is relatively recent in Chinese medicine- from Han dynasty. There were no mentions of it in two early seminal Chinese medicine books. America has a very good ginseng that’s revered by Asian countries, and historically the NorthEastern states, Iroquois, and even George Washington, have used it and appreciated the herb. It’s a root that looks like a man- the words in Chinese (ginseng is a Japanese pronunciation, strangely) mean something like man-joined. Reminds me of madder root.

About oolong: it’s a Taiwanese tea, and it ranges in oxidation levels (and thus colors), which gives it the variations of taste. I read – but can’t find the source- that the differing sizes of the tea also is a gradient of quality. Big tea leaves: good, small tea leaves: bad (and usually in teabags).