Ginseng has a long history of use for its purported energy boosting properties. A recent study in the Annals of Neurology (vol 57, pp642-648) has indicated that components of ginseng may protect the brain against deterioration caused by degenerative diseases like Huntingdon's.
Chinese scientists have also conducted research indicating that taking a daily supplement containing ginseng may improve memory in people with mild cognitive impairment.
Two species of the panax genus - the only one that can be legally called ginseng in the US - are used commercially: panax ginseng (Chinese ginseng) and panax quinquefolius (American ginseng).
Unfortunately, however, the plant is highly susceptible to rot - a factor that has led farmers to protect it with fungicides like quintozene, a possible carcinogen that may be toxic for the liver and kidneys and affect the transport of oxygen through the blood.
The fungicide is amongst those prohibited for use on food crops in the US, but there is concern that residue may remain in shipments of imported ginseng. The FDA deems any amount of quintozene to be unsafe, since it has not established a tolerance level for its presence in ginseng.
At the end of last year the administration issued a nationwide warning on the safety of imported ginseng and seized a quintozene residue-containing shipment intended for use in supplements from New Jersey company FCC Products.
NOW Foods also recalled lots of its American ginseng last year, following FDA tests detecting the presence of quintozene and other fungicides. It swiftly changed its testing method and its ginseng supplier.
According to Blue California, some dietary supplement manufacturers have experienced difficulty in sourcing material that is guaranteed quintozene-free.
VP of sales and marketing Cecilia McCollum said that this has created a need for a highly purified source, which Blue California is stepping in to fill with GinsenPure. The ingredient is also kosher and non-GMO.
"There is an increasing need in our industry for pure ingredients that will meet the most stringent quality requirements domestically as well as in the Japanese and European markets," said McCollum.
In April the company introduced its first offering of non-irradiated botanical extracts, purified at its plant in China using recently installed ozone technology and adapted several other of its ingredients to higher standards of purity. These include its now solvent-free alpha lipoic acid, chloramphenicol-free royal jelly 25% and non-GMO phytosterols 95%.
McCollum said that the purified ingredients carry a competitive price tag, which means they can be incorporated into affordable supplements for the average consumer.