Korean Ginseng Tea (Insam Cha)

Korean ginseng tea
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  • Total: 10 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Servings: 5 servings

If you're interested in learning more about Korean cuisine, you should get acquainted with teas popular in Korea, including ginseng, which you can learn to make with this recipe. Why do Koreans love ginseng? For one, Koreans are interested in the strong connection between food and medicine, and ginseng is a restorative tea that gives a boost to one's health and vitality.

This ginseng tea recipe is zesty, aromatic, and warms you from the inside. If it's cold out, you're not feeling well, or you simply enjoy the sensation of warm liquid in your belly, give ginseng tea a try. Swap out your cup of joe for a cup of the tea and reap the benefits.


  • 8 slices ginseng root
  • Honey (to taste)
  • 5 cups water

Steps to Make It

There are two methods of making this tea: with a tea ball and without a tea ball. 

With a Tea Ball

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Shave pieces of fresh ginseng root and put them into​ the tea ball.

  3. Steep in very hot (but not boiling) water for 5 minutes.

  4. Add honey to taste.

  5. Serve and enjoy!

Without a Tea Ball

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Peel the ginseng root and make 7 or 8 thin slices.

  3. Coat the ginseng with a generous amount of honey and let sit for 15 minutes.

  4. Pour very hot (but not boiling) water over the ginseng and honey and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

  5. Scoop or strain out the ginseng slices.

  6. Serve and enjoy!

Kitchen Note

If the taste of ginseng is too overpowering for you, it's common to mix ginseng tea with green tea or ginger tea. Use whatever proportions you like.

Using Ginseng Tea

In Korea, ginseng tea is far more than a drink. The Korean culture has a long history of treating food and drink as medicine; spices and herbs are regularly used to treat sickness and ailments. Koreans have used ginseng as medicine for thousands of years and Korea is currently the largest producer of ginseng in the world.

Korean herbalists use ginseng to restore strength and stamina, to increase longevity, as an aphrodisiac and to treat impotence, to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. It's used for many other ailments in Eastern medicine and to improve mental strength and memory. 

In a 2002 study by the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, there was a link found between ginseng and sexual behavior. According to this study, studies in laboratory animals have shown that both Asian and American forms of ginseng enhance libido and copulatory performance.

These days, the medicinal properties of ginseng are also accepted in the West, since it often appears in energy drinks as a stimulant. Although ginseng is non-toxic, some health professionals have found that long-term, constant use can cause insomnia. Instead of using or eating ginseng every day, herbal experts suggest that you use ginseng on a cycle. You can take ginseng a couple times per week or eat it regularly for a week and then take the next week off.

If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician prior to starting any kind of ginseng regimen, just as you would before starting any other health plan. Also, be careful when combining ginseng with any other herbs that are known to increase alertness.

Source: Murphy L, Jer-Fu Le T. Ginseng, Sex Behavior, and Nitric Oxide. Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences 2002.

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Article Sources
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  1. Murphy LL, Lee TJ. Ginseng, sex behavior, and nitric oxide. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002;962:372-7.  doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb04081.x

  2. Mount Sinai. Asian ginseng.