Root Exploration


Forget the fountain. The key to eternal youth lies in the gnarled root ginseng. Known as the root of life, ginseng comes from the plant family panax, with the Greek words pan meaning “all” and akos meaning “heal.” In other words, it’s a remedy for many ailments, and that’s not an overstatement when it comes to the medicinal properties of ginseng.

The name ginseng refers to both American (panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (panax ginseng), which have a similar chemical makeup and active ingredients, or ginsenosides. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports Asian ginseng may help boost the immune system, improve mental performance and well-being, and reduce the risk of cancer. At least two studies in Korea linked consumption of Asian ginseng extract with the reduction of cases of cancer. Similarly, American ginseng boosts the immune system and works as a powerful antioxidant. “Studies have shown ginseng relieves stress, increases oxygenation to the cells, balances and tones the skin, and detoxifies the body,” says Anastasia Lu, spa manager at Sunmore Ginseng Spa (Kamloops, B.C.). “Ginseng has properties that help you look and feel younger.”

Ginseng also stimulates a sluggish complexion and soothes and conditions tight, oily, and dry skin, says Jane Terry, national trainer at Elemis. These qualities make it an effective toner for mature or dehydrated skin and a featured ingredient in the Elemis Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Facial ($55, 30 minutes; $125, 60 minutes) at the Bergdorf Goodman SpaPod (New York City). “It’s great for spa treatments, because it is so gentle and hydrates skin, leaving it radiant,” she says.

Ginseng is considered an adaptogenic herb, which means it boosts the skin’s resistance to environmental, physical, and mental stressors. It is a healthy fix for spa-goers suffering from dry winter air or summer sun exposure, making it the perfect ingredient to add to spa menus all year long, from facials to detoxifying wraps and body massages. “Ginseng is known for its revitalizing, immunity-boosting, and fortifying properties, which leads to some fantastic anti-aging benefits,” says Stephanie Baresh, director of marketing and public relations for Éminence Organic Skin Care. “It contains a large number of phytonutrients that can stimulate and activate the skin’s metabolism and help strengthen the connective tissues. As a result, skintone and elasticity are improved, and fine lines and wrinkles are smoothed.”

Lisa Polley, director of education and business development for Jurlique, suggests using the age-defying root on the face, neck, décolleté, and even the delicate skin around the eyes and pairing it with vitamins C and E and gingko biloba extract, which helps restore and protect the skin. Natural Body (Atlanta) offers the Jurlique Aromatherapy Facial ($95, 60 minutes) and Jurlique Flagship Spas (multiple locations) all offer the Signature Revitalizing Facial ($110, 50 minutes). Both services incorporate the root. “Ginseng contains many structural substances and vitamins that help the skin maintain elasticity, vitality, and regeneration capacity of our skin cells,” says Polley.

Another of its benefits—improved circulation—can help clients looking for thicker manes of hair or fuller lashes, explains Hannah Murray, vice president of marketing and sales for RevitaLash. “This has helped those who are suffering from hair loss or weak and damaged hair,” she says. “Ginseng will also remove any toxins that may be clogging your hair follicles. It is a very useful part of the functional cosmetic and conditioning ingredients in Hair by RevitaLash.”

Because of its multiple health-promoting benefits, whether used topically or internally, in food or drink, ginseng is a great ingredient around which to build a series of treatments and to promote themed services with tea, culinary pairings, and at-home products. Polley suggests serving hot or iced ginseng tea, which is energizing, after a relaxing ginseng facial. Ling Skincare (New York City) encourages clients to add on a peel to its Signature Ginseng Herbal Facial ($115, 60 minutes) to enhance ginseng’s cleansing and purifying results. At Sunmore Ginseng Spa, after guests receive the Ginseng Honey Body Wrap ($220, 90 minutes) or the Ginseng Salt Body Glow ($140, 45 minutes), they can indulge in a cup of ginseng honey tea. They are also invited to partake in a free ginseng factory tour, as the spa uses locally grown ginseng in all of its treatments. 

However, spa directors do not recommend ginseng facials for guests with sensitive skin and, as with any herbal treatment, advise not using it on irritated skin. Because it’s a stimulant, Baresh says it may also be irritating to pregnant women and should be avoided. While there are two different schools of thought on exposure to ginseng during pregnancy—some women say it enhances stamina and helps ease pregnancy-related stress and fatigue—animal studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicate exposure to ginseng during early pregnancy may cause malformations in rat embryos. While scientists say more studies are needed, and there’s no proof that the herb can cause fetal growth problems in humans, skincare experts suggest pregnant women discuss it with their doctors before receiving any ginseng spa treatments. For most people, however, ginseng is safe to use in treatments and products, and your guests’ skin will gladly drink in its benefits.

In the endless quest for eternal youth, looking to an age-old herbal remedy may be the answer. Another study of 501 men and women in Mexico City found ginseng improved quality of life. Translated to the spa experience, it makes sense—younger looking and feeling clients are happier clients. And while quality of life may be difficult to measure, return customers and increased sales are more straightforward.


Boost your spa’s bottom line and prove to clients that ginseng is not such a square root by adding these products to your retail areas.


Bioelements Moisture Positive Cleanser: This rich cleanser is formulated with plant extracts, including ginseng, to gently wash away impurities while leaving skin soft and revitalized. (800) 433-6650;


Gloprofessional Glotherapeutics Repair Complex: This serum combines Indian ginseng with other essential ingredients to reduce redness, soothe irritation, and repair damaged skin and uneven skintone. (800) 232-0398;


GlyMed Plus Anti-Aging Exfoliant Masque: Featuring a blend of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids; jojoba beads; and ginseng, this mask improves skin firmness, tone, and texture. (800) 676-9667;


L’Aquila Cosmetics Essential Oxygen Vital Oxygen Cream: This cream contains ginseng, liposomes, retinols, and vitamins to smooth skin, reduce wrinkles, and slow the signs of aging. (866) 806-6111;


Michael Marcus Revitalize Ginseng Toner: Made with ginseng extracts, as well as natural proteins and minerals, this toner prolongs elasticity, hydrates, and repairs the skin. (800) 300-2561;


Moor Spa Eye Zone Balm: Created for dry and puffy eyes, this age-defying cream is made with cucumber, ginseng, mushroom, and silk protein to rehydrate the eye area while protecting skin from free-radical damage. (800) 666-7987;


RevitaLash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner: Made with natural botanicals, including ginseng and phytonutrients, this lash conditioner nourishes and rejuvenates to increase the natural beauty of eyelashes. (877) 909-5274;


Sesha Skin Therapy Nutritious Lipo Serum: Specially designed for extra-dry skin, this serum blends aloe vera, calendula, evening primrose, ginseng extract, and vitamins A and E to enrich and restore moisture to the skin. (888) 977-3742;


Sormé Treatment Cosmetics Extabrow: This brow-enhancing serum combines active peptides, ginseng, and pro-vitamin B5 to protect, strengthen, and hydrate, and to create fuller more defined brows. (800) 927-6763;