Ginseng (American) (Panax quinquefolius L.)

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.)

Panax ginseng American ginseng Ararliaceae Ginseng family

Parts used and where grown: Like its more familiar cousin, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), the root of American ginseng is used medicinally. The plant grows wild in shady forests of northern and central United States as well as in parts of Canada. It is cultivated in the United States, China, and France.

In what conditions might American ginseng be supportive?infection stress

Description of Plant and Culture: Panax quinquefolius L.: A perennial slow growing plant with a large spindle-shaped fleshy root and a smooth erect stem; 1-2 feet high. Root sometimes resembling human form, spindle-shaped or forked. At the top of the stem are 3 large leaves palmately divided into 4-5 (occasionally 3-7) sharp-toothed oblong-lance-shaped leaflets. In the leaf axil grows an umbel of yellow-green, scented, flowers. June to July. Fruits 2-seeded red berries follow the blossoms. Partial shade in zone 4.

Historical or traditional use: Many Native American tribes used American ginseng. Medicinal uses ranged from digestive disorders to sexual problems.1 The Chinese began to use American ginseng after it was imported during the 1700s.2 The traditional applications in China are significantly different from those for Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng). American ginseng is considered superior for gastrointestinal problems.3

Active constituents: American ginseng contains ginsenosides, which stimulate the immune system4 and fight fatigue and stress.5 The type and ratio of ginsenosides are somewhat different in American and Asian ginseng, however it is unclear to what extent this affects their medicinal properties. A recent study of healthy volunteers found no benefit in exercise performance after one week of taking American ginseng.6 This study might have been too short to determine definitive results. Additional clinical trials are needed to determine American ginseng’s medical uses. Refer to Asian ginseng for more information.

Medicinal Properties: Demulcent, tonic, alterative, stimulant, carminative, stomachic, nervine, aphrodisiac

Biochemical Information: Arabinose, calcium, camphor, gineosides, iron, mucilage, panaxosides, resin, saponin, starch, and vitamins A, B12, and E.

No medicinal herb is more famous than Ginseng. For over 200 years wild American Ginseng has been harvested and shipped to the Orient. Today, over 95% of the American Ginseng crop (wild-harvested and cultivated) is shipped to eastern Asia. Interstate commerce of the root is regulated by the federal government. It is unethical and illegal to harvest the roots before the red berries ripen and set seed in late summer or early autumn.

In China for centuries, Ginseng was considered an almost magical drug, a cure for bodily woes. Among the Chinese healers Ginseng is regarded primarily as a “man’s herb” although it may be taken by both men and women. The female equivalent of Ginseng is a root called Dong Kwei.

The name Ginseng is derived from the Chinese word for “likeness of man” because its roots sometimes resemble a human figure. Ginseng’s genus name Panax, like the word panacea, comes from the Greek word panakeia, meaning “all-healing”. This refers to the plant’s reputation as a Chinese cure-all. Quinquefolium means five-fingered leaf.

Uses: The root is considered demulcent, mild stimulant, tonic. Research suggests it may increase mental efficiency and physical performance, aid in adapting to high or low temperatures and stress when taken over an extended period. Ginseng’s effect is called “adapatogenic”, tending to return the body to normal.

Promotes appetite, helps dyspepsia, rheumatism, headache, lumbago, sciatica, debility, colds, coughs, bronchitis, symptoms of menopause, constipation, lung troubles, cystitis.

Native Americans in some areas used a decoction of ginseng root to relieve nausea and vomiting. Several tribes used it as an ingredient in love potions and charms. May inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.

How much should I take: Standardized extracts of American ginseng, unlike Asian ginseng, are not generally available. American ginseng can be taken in the amount of 1&endash;2 grams per day in capsule or tablet form or 3&endash;5 ml of tincture per day.

Are there any side effects or interactions? Occasional cases of insomnia or agitation are reported with American ginseng use; these conditions are more likely when caffeine-containing foods and beverages are also being consumed. Reducing intake of American ginseng or avoiding it later in the day can lessen the chances for adverse effects.

Legends, Myths and Stories: Used in China for over 5,000 years, ginseng was known to 9th century Arab physicians. Over 400 million people have been using this herb for centuries. Marco Polo wrote of this prized wonder drug and when a delegation from the King of Siam visited Louis XIV, they presented the king with a root of gintz-aen. From then on, ginseng was widely used by wealthy Europeans for exhaustion and debility. By the 18th century, it was also popular in America, especially when P. quinquefolius was found to be indigenous.

The name “panax” in the botanical name means “all-healing.” The Mandarin name for ginseng, len seng, literally means “root of man,” so named because the root resembles the shape of the human body.

It is said that the botanical name of ginseng is derived from the Greek word for panacea, because of the great reverence in which the herb is held.

Ginseng was known to Judah in the market place of Israel (Ezekiel 27:17). Trading was done in wheat, oil balm, honey, and “Pannag,” or all-healing ginseng.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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