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Ginseng-Powered Health and Beauty in Korea

June 2013

By Ariston Anderson, Seoul

In Seoul, tourists and locals alike stock up on red ginseng, the country’s most salient wonder-vitamin. Almost any variety of the product exists, from tea, powders, extract and tonics, to pills, honeyed raw ginseng and compact chewables.  While there are many imitations throughout Asia, those looking for the best in ginseng head to Seoul for the Korea Ginseng Corporation’s Cheong Kwan Jang brand, which has been producing ginseng products since 1899.

Koreans are following the global trend of buying healthy and organic products, and the country is also seeing a wave of new products focusing on topical vitamins. The beauty industry has become increasingly vitamin-oriented as women seek out more organic products, avoiding those with high chemical concentrations.  The Korea Ginseng Corporation launched a beauty line this past year for men and women, Donginbi, to meet up with the demand. Their Beauty in Balance line is a ginseng vitamin formulated for skin health. Ginseng in beauty products claim to reduce redness and inflammation, leaving skin smooth and glowing.

Ginseng beauty products now in nearly any drugstore or pharmacy in the city, even the popular whitening products that are a big part of all Asian beauty markets. Generic lines boast ginseng wherever possible, as manufacturers put it in anything from foaming cleansers to shampoo to night cream. Beausella makes a peeling gel that reveals a fresh face, while the upscale Skin79 sells one-off face masks that promise to firm skin. But some products seem to add it just to have that all-natural label. Unlike ingesting ginseng, most skincare products can’t claim any scientific research to prove their benefits.

The vitamin is known to boost immunity, fight jetlag and provide hours of energy, as well as being a potent aphrodisiac. Older generations are still drawn to Eastern medicine products, and ginseng reigns king. It’s no secret how important the herb is to the local culture, as the pharmacies at the award-winning Incheon Airport are stocked with cases of ginseng product on display, instead of the typical over-the-counter cures for the common cold or headache. A visit to the luxury food market at the Hyundai Shopping Center revealed a tiny GNC corner for Western vitamins, and half the floor dedicated to ginseng and other natural herbs.

Health & Fitness
Blog Issue: 
Ginseng beauty products at Seoul's Incheon Airport
Ginseng processing facility at The Korean Ginseng Corporation
Bulk ginseng for sale in Seoul's Night Market

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