Bencao yuanshi (Origins of Materia Medica) by Li Zhongli is a herbal in 12 volumes, containing 379 illustrations. It was first published in 1612. This illustration of ginseng (renshen) is taken from the revised edition of Ge Ding, engraved in 1638 (11th year of the Chongwen reign period of the Ming dynasty, Wu Yi year).
Li Zhongli writes: Ginseng is found deep in the mountains, in cold, wet places. The young plants are just 3 or 4 cun tall (1 cun [Chinese inch] = c. 3 cm), with five leaves on each shoot. Though they subsequently grow more ramifications, there are only ever five leaves on each of these. The roots are used in medicine. The ones that resemble the human form are the best. It is sweet in sapor, slightly warming in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of tonifying the centre and replenishing Qi, generating saliva/bodily fluids and alleviating thirst, recovering from collapse (gu tuo) and calming the mind. It is used to treat overexertion damage and insufficiency detriment (laoshang xusun), shortness of breath and lack of appetite, fever with spontaneous sweating, insufficiency-overexertion (xulao) with wheezing and panting, distress and restlessness (fanzao) with wasting thirst (xiaoke diabetes), frequent urination and incessant diarrhea, disorders of pregnancy and childbirth, etc.