• Barbara Denny

Herbs to Grow 6

Southern Ginseng

(synonyms – Jiaogulan or Sweet Tea Vine) Gynostemma pentaphyllum, Cucurbitaceae. Jiaogulan is a popular folk herb in Southeast Asia where it is grown as an affordable substitute for ginseng (Panax spp. Araliaceae). It is gaining popularity in the Western world, where it is used as a tonic for longevity and vitality. It is also given to racehorses to improve their performance. The leaves are brewed into a medicinal tonic tea for anxiety, stress, depression, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. This vine is an easy-to-grow adaptogenic tonic, which contains some of the same compounds (ginsenosides) found in Asian and American ginseng. Sweet tea vine is quite bitter, contrary to its name; it has a flavor reminiscent of ginseng with mild soapy undertones. As you are likely aware of, sweet tea (black tea with copious amounts of white sugar) is the beverage of choice for many southerners. Southern ginseng is an herbaceous perennial vine; it grows 4” tall by indefinitely wide; Part shade, moist rich soil; Hardy to 10 degrees F. Jiaogulan will locally spread vigorously by runners and can become a troublesome weed if consumption does not outpace proliferation. Sweet tea vine makes a beautiful container plant. Grow from division, as seeds are not readily available. Southern ginseng can be hard to come by, see the resource section below for nurseries that carry it.

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© 2015 by Serenity Acres Farm                                               Barbara J. Denny                                               York, SC                                     (803) 209-2806