From remote days the Koryo insam of Kaesong has enjoyed worldwide fame as an elixir of life.
It was grown mostly in the Kaesong area, hence it was named “Koryo insam of Kaesong” or “Kaesong insam”.
The roots of insam usually resemble the form of human body.
In insam “in” means man and “sam” thick root.
Insam means panacea or cure-all.
It was named “Koryo insam” when it was widely exported during the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392).
It was known as a special remedy from the period of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and used as the most effective elixir of life during the Koryo Dynasty and the Feudal Joson Dynasty (1392-1910).
Insam helps a return to normal of the functions of the nerve, immune and endocrine systems of human body.
With a growing demand for wild insam it began to be grown from the period of the Koryo Dynasty and, thereafter, the artificial cultivation method developed into field cultivation in the late 17th century.
The Kaesong area became the centre of insam cultivation and processing because the area had the particular soil and climatic conditions for growing insam and a developed commerce.
Insam dislikes strong sunlight and likes most the sunlight permeating through branches and leaves in the forest.
A perennial medicinal plant of Araliaceae, insam propagates with seeds.
It blossoms and bears fruit 3 or 4 years after seeding and roots are usable in the sixth year.
According to the methods of processing, Koryo insam is divided into different kinds.
Unprocessed roots are called susam (fresh insam) and roots washed with water, and dried in the sunlight with hairy roots and outer skin removed are called paeksam (white insam).
Susam steamed without outer skin and dried in the sunlight is called hongsam (red insam) and susam boiled down in thick sugar liquid without hairy roots is called tangsam (sweet insam).
Hairy roots of susam dried in the sunlight are called misam (hairy root insam).
Insam is used as tonic medicine against asthenia and for convalescence and recovery from physical and mental fatigue.
It is effective against anorexia, indigestion, diarrhea, chronic gastritis, atrophy, diabetes, palpitation of the heart, insomnia, low blood pressure, sexual disinclination, anemia, hepatitis and other diseases.
Recently, it is used against cancer.