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“G-shot?” A tray of sleek brown vials whisked by, the scent of freshly cut grass wafting in their wake.

“I don’t know…I really shouldn’t.” After just a couple cocktails spiked with liquid ginseng — the evening’s ingredient du jour — thumbs throbbed, my heart thumped and my right foot tap-tap-tapped to a tune only I could hear.

“Oh hell, why not. For the health benefits.”

For over 2,000 years the root of the ginseng plant has found champions worldwide for its immune system–boosting, blood-circulating properties — from athletes to Russian novelists to French President François Mitterrand, who claimed it extended his life while coping with terminal cancer. A recent party in Manhattan sponsored by the Korean Ginseng Corporation introduced cocktails tailored to health-conscious Americans. As in, the healthiest way to take your recommended daily allowance of booze. As I swigged the artisanal medleys of barbiturates and stimulants, I was enamored with the way the woodsy ginseng shots enhanced the bitters. Louis Royer VSOP? Dump it in my mouth. Ginseng and Wild Turkey? Don’t mind if I do!

Nightmare #1: I was the queen of the jungle pecked to death by power-hungry penguins, mournful that the lions abandoned me after I really thought we had a connection. Before my eyes are pecked out, I cry.

But if two cocktails had me tingling, four provoked exaggerated gestures — incongruous releases of an over-fueled engine. The pressure in my skull made it feel like it was going to explode, my palpitating heart the victim of a tiny, heart-hating strangler. I caught myself laughing at terrible jokes, desperate attempts to expel energy.  HA! Keep it together, woman. That joke wasn’t even funny.

“Probably should leave before bits of brain seep out of my ears. Don’t want to make a mess.”

Nightmare #2: I was mysteriously murdered in a picturesque New England town (later discerned as Cabot Cove from Murder, She Wrote) — stabbed, then thrown off a bluff, only the wits of a retired schoolteacher and a goofy sheriff to avenge my death. The townspeople gathered to pay their respects, but there’s a grizzled man hiding in the shadows that nobody recognizes. In his pocket is a bloody blade that he cannot explain.

Though ginseng has its strongest associations with Asia, wild American ginseng — panax quinefolius — is a root equally as potent and, as we are prone to self-medication, it has gained a reputation Stateside for its pharmaceutical advantages. In the Huey Lewis days, Wall Street yahoos gnawed on it for productivity but also probably for, well, other things involving blood flow (this was pre-Viagara). And it was thus with Wall Street–like impaired judgment that I ended the night answering work correspondence still juiced up, signing off the last email to a co-worker at 3 a.m. with the not-at-all alarming IF I GO TO SLEEP NOW I THINK I WILL DIE.

Nightmare #3: I’m in an open field surrounded by an army of masked chainsaw wielders (chainsawyers?) who make a circle and begin to close in, revving their weapons as they creep towards me. There’s nowhere to hide. They get closer, and closer, all the while revving and revving…  

After three nightmares I woke myself up, screaming, soaked in cold sweat, both in awe of a health supplement that would force me to confront my mortality and struck with fact that I remembered my dreams (which I never do). I glanced over at the case of G-shots by my bed — my parting gift — and opened my laptop to check my email.  At the top of the queue was a response from my colleague.

“Are you okay?” 

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