American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)

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Medicinal Herbs & Therapeutic Botanicals

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Botanical: American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Content provided on this page is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. Information on this page should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. The claims made about specific products throughout this article are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.


American Ginseng is a perennial herb, which grows to a hight of 20-60 cm. Ginseng has three compound leaves, each composed of five toothed leaflets, atop a straight stem. Its tiny greenish white flowers appear in Summer, June-July. In late summer, Ginseng produces red berries.

American Ginseng has a fleshy root and it is the root which is used in herbal medicine. Wrinkles around the neck of the root tell how old the plant is. This is important because the ginseng root grows very slowly and is not ready for use until it has grown for approximately 5-7 years. The name Panax is very closely related to the word panacea, all-healing. It had been respected for centuries as a cure-all. "Ginseng" means "wonder of the world".

Ginseng is widely used to strengthen the immune system, and increase strength and vigor. Both American and Asian ginsengs belong to the species Panax and are similar in their chemical composition. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), on the other hand, although part of the same plant family called Araliaceae, is an entirely different plant and does not contain ginsenosides, the active ingredients found in both Asian and American ginseng. (Note: Asian ginseng is also known as Red Korean ginseng.) (UMM).

One similarity that American, Asian, and Siberian ginsengs all share is that each of these herbs is considered to be an adaptogen, a substance that strengthens the body, helping it return to normal when it has been subjected to stress. Therefore, they are considered to be valuable supports for those recovering from illness or surgery, especially the elderly (UMM).

Botanicals - American Ginseng






American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)

Family: Araliaceae

Common names: Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean red ginseng, Panax ginseng: Panax spp. including P. ginseng C.C. Meyer and P. quincefolium L., excluding Eleutherococcus senticosus.

Traditional / Historical Uses:

In traditional Chinese medicine American Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen) is used to benefit Qi, generate fluids and nourish the Yin. It is also considered to nurture the Lung Yin.

Western herbal medicine uses American Ginseng as a tonic and adaptogen.


Traditional Applications in Herbal Medicine:
The following signes, symptomes, conditions and diseases may be treatable with American Ginseng (usually combined with other herbs to address specific underlying conditions):

    • Adrenal tonic,
    • aerobic fitness,
    • aging,
    • aggression,
    • Alzheimer's disease,
    • allergy,
    • anemia,
    • antidepressant,
    • anti-inflammatory,
    • antioxidant,
    • antitumor,
    • anxiety,
    • aphrodisiac,
    • aplastic anemia,
    • appetite stimulant,
    • asthma,
    • atherosclerosis,
    • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
    • bleeding disorders,
    • breast cancer,
    • breast enlargement,
    • breathing difficulty,
    • bronchodilation,
    • burns,
    • chemotherapy support,
    • chronic fatigue syndrome,
    • cold limbs,
    • colitis,
    • convulsions,
    • diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease),
    • digestive complaints,
    • diuretic (water pill),
    • dizziness,
    • dysentery,
    • estrogen-like activity,
    • female sexual function,
    • fever,
    • gynecology-related disorders,
    • fibromyalgia,
    • hangover,
    • headaches,
    • heart damage,
    • hepatitis/hepatitis B infection,
    • herpes,
    • HIV,
    • H. pylori infection in stomach ulcers,
    • human lung adenocarcinoma,
    • improved memory and thinking after menopause,
    • inflammation,
    • influenza,
    • insomnia,
    • ischemic brain injury,
    • kidney disease,
    • learning difficulties,
    • liver diseases,
    • liver health,
    • long-term debility,
    • low sperm count,
    • male infertility,
    • malignant tumors,
    • migraine,
    • morphine tolerance,
    • neuralgia (pain due to nerve damage or inflammation),
    • neuroprotective,
    • neurosis,
    • organ prolapse,
    • oxygen absorption,
    • pain relief,
    • palpitations,
    • physical work capacity,
    • premature ejaculation,
    • prostate cancer,
    • Pseudomonasinfection in cystic fibrosis,
    • psycho-asthenia,
    • prostate cancer,
    • Qi-deficiency and blood-stasis syndrome in heart disease (Eastern medicine),
    • recovery from radiation,
    • rehabilitation,
    • sedative,
    • senile dementia,
    • sexual arousal,
    • sexual symptoms,
    • spontaneous sweating,
    • stomach cancer,
    • stomach upset,
    • stress,
    • strokes,
    • surgical recovery,
    • upper respiratory
    • tract infection,
    • vomiting,
    • weight loss.


Active Ingredients:

The main chemical ingredients of American ginseng are ginsenosides and polysaccharide glycans (quinquefolans A, B, and C) (UMM).



(Information from University of Marylands Medical Center & MedlinePlus):

An early study suggests that American ginseng, in combination with ginkgo, may prove to be of value in helping to treat ADHD. More research in this area is needed.

Alcohol Intoxication
Ginseng could be helpful in treating alcohol intoxication. The herb may accomplish this by speeding up the metabolism (break down) of alcohol and, thus, allowing it to clear more quickly from the body. Or, as animal research suggests, Asian ginseng may reduce the absorption of alcohol from the stomach.

Alzheimer's Disease
Individual reports and animal studies indicate that either American ginseng or Asian ginseng may slow the progression of Alzheimer's and improve memory and behavior. Studies of large groups of people are needed to best understand this possible use of ginseng.

A study comparing groups of people over time suggests that regular intake of ginseng may reduce one's chances of getting various types of cancer, especially lung, liver, stomach, pancreatic and ovarian. In this particular study, this benefit was not observed for breast, cervical, or bladder cancers. However, a test tube study suggests that American ginseng may enhance the effects of medications used to treat breast cancer. And, preliminary results suggest that ginseng may improve treatment of colon cancer in animals. A greater number of well-designed studies including, ultimately, large numbers of people are needed before conclusions can be drawn about whether ginseng offers some protection from cancer or not.

Cardiovascular Health
Asian ginseng in particular may decrease endothelial cell dysfunction. Endothelial cells line the inside of blood vessels. When these cells are disturbed, referred to as dysfunction, they can cause blockage of blood flow in a variety of ways. This disturbance or disruption may even lead to heart attack or stroke. The potential for ginseng to quiet down the blood vessels may prove to be protective against heart and other forms of cardiovascular disease.

Although not proven, ginseng may also raise HDL (the good cholesterol), while reducing total cholesterol levels.

Finally, there is some controversy about whether, under certain circumstances, ginseng may help improve blood pressure. Ginseng is generally considered to be a substance to avoid if you have hypertension because it can raise blood pressure. In a couple of studies, however, of red Korean (Asian) ginseng, high doses of this herb actually lowered blood pressure. Some feel that the usual doses of ginseng may increase blood pressure while high doses may have the opposite effect of decreasing blood pressure. Much more information is needed in this area before a conclusion can be drawn. And, if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, it is not safe to try ginseng on your own, without specific instructions from a knowledgeable clinician.

Central Nervous System (Dan Bensky & Andrew Gamble ,1986, Chinese MHerbal Medicine, Eastland Press, Seattle)
Central nervous system effect: in animal experiments preparations of Panax quinquefolium (Xi Yang Shen) had an inhibitory effect on the cerebral cortex, and moderately
stimulated the subcortical centers.

Because of its ability to help resist or reduce stress, some herbal specialists may consider ginseng as part of the treatment for depression.

While both Asian and American ginsengs appear to lower blood sugar (glucose) levels, American ginseng has been the more studied in scientific trials. One study found that people with type 2 (adult onset) diabetes who took American ginseng before or together with a high sugar load experienced less of a rise in blood glucose levels after they consumed all of that sugar.

Fertility/Sexual Performance
Ginseng is widely believed to be capable of enhancing sexual performance. However, studies in people to investigate this are limited. In animal studies, ginseng has increased sperm production, sexual activity, and sexual performance. A study of 46 men has also shown an increase in sperm count as well as motility.

Immune System Enhancement
Ginseng is believed to enhance the immune system, which could, in theory, help the body fight off infection and disease. In one study, in fact, giving people ginseng before getting the flu-vaccine did boost their immune response to the vaccine compared to those who received a placebo.

Menopausal Symptoms
Ginseng may have estrogen-like activity. Two well-designed studies evaluating red Korean (Asian) ginseng suggest that this herb may relieve some of the symptoms of menopause, improving mood (particularly feelings of depression) and sense of well-being.

Mental Performance and Mood Enhancement
Individuals who use ginseng often report that they feel more alert. Preliminary studies do suggest that this feeling has scientific merit. Early research shows that ginseng may improve performance on such things as mental arithmetic, concentration, memory, and other measures. More research in this area, although not easy to do, would be helpful.

On the other hand, for those who report that ginseng elevates their mood, the science thus far does not support that this herb changes your mood if you are otherwise healthy (UMM).

Several studies report that ginseng can modestly improve thinking or learning at daily doses between 200 and 400 milligrams of standardized extract G115®, taken by mouth daily for up to 12 weeks. Mental performance has been assessed using standardized measurements of reaction time, concentration, learning, math, and logic. Benefits have been seen both in healthy young people and in older ill patients. Effects have also been reported for the combination use of ginseng with Ginkgo biloba. Although this evidence is promising, most studies have been small and not well designed or reported. There is also a small amount of negative evidence, reporting that ginseng actually may not significantly affect thinking processes. It is not clear if people with certain conditions may benefit more than others. Therefore, although the sum total of available scientific evidence does suggest some effectiveness of short-term use of ginseng in this area, better research is necessary before a strong recommendation can be made (MedlinePlus).

Physical Endurance
There have been a number of studies in people looking at the effects of ginseng on athletic performance. Results have not been consistent, with some studies showing increased strength and endurance, others showing improved agility or reaction time, and still others showing no effect at all. Nevertheless, athletes often take ginseng to increase both endurance and strength.

Respiratory Disease
In patients with severe chronic respiratory disease (such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis), daily treatment with ginseng improved respiratory function, as evidenced by increased endurance in walking.

Ginseng has long been valued for its ability to help the body deal with stress. A study of 501 men and women living in Mexico City found significant improvements in quality of life measures (energy, sleep, sex life, personal satisfaction, well-being) in those taking ginseng.



As with all medicinal herbs, DO NOT SELF-PRESCRIBE, consult a qualified, experienced physician of herbal medicine.

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