There are several types of ginseng available in the market. The most famous are Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), Chinese ginseng (Panax notoginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). The Korean and Chinese varieties are often called Asian ginseng.
However, Siberian, Indian, Brazilian, Peruvian and Alaskan ginseng actually do not belong to the same genus as the Panax ones. Their active ingredients are different, and so are the expected benefits.
There are also many other plants called "ginseng" but they are not even related at all to the ginseng family!
Ginseng is famous in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, and later in American traditional medicine, and has been used for thousands of years and remains popular as a remedy for all sorts of ailments, and for longevity. It is mentioned in many old traditional medical texts, and is a must in folklore medicine in many parts of Asia.
The versatility of ginseng in traditional medicine is well-known, such that the scientific name given to them, Panax (Greek for panacea), means "all-healing".
The many types of ginseng vary in the content, type and proportion of the active ingredients (ginsenosides, gintonin and phyto-sterols), and this may explain the differences in the health benefits, although many of the benefits are common between them.
The age of the plant at the time of harvest also determines the content, and even the appearance of the roots. For example, fresh Korean ginseng is harvested before 4 years, while white ginseng is harvested between 4-6 years and red ginseng is harvested after 6 or more years.
In the past, ginseng was consumed mostly as herbal tea, herbal soup and as herbal medicine (eaten raw or as tea/soup). In Korea, it is also used for some dishes, and for a traditional alcoholic drink.
Nowadays, it is also a favourite ingredient of energy drinks, and in health supplements, either in pure form or in combination with other herbs, vitamins and minerals. There are even ginseng candies.
In this article, we shall focus on the uses and benefits of American ginseng.
American ginseng is a popular home remedy and traditional therapy for many health problems, including for stress, to boost the immune system, and as a stimulant.
It is often used to fight infections such as colds and flu. It is also used for other infections including HIV/AIDS, infections of the intestine (dysentery), and certain lung infections.
as well as for vomiting, inflammation of the colon (colitis), and inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis).
American ginseng is also used for low iron in the blood (anemia), diabetes, fatigue, high blood pressure, insomnia, nerve pain, erectile dysfunction (ED), fever, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), blood and bleeding disorders, dizziness, headaches, convulsions, fibromyalgia, atherosclerosis, memory loss, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, improving athletic performance, improving mental performance, as an anti-aging aid, menopausal symptoms, complications during pregnancy or childbirth, and for nervous exhaustion.
In TCM, American Ginseng is considered a Yin-tonic that is cooling, calming, relaxing and Qi-tonifying. These properties have made American Ginseng the most popular supplement for urban dwellers whose fast-paced and stressful lifestyles may be helped by its calming and balancing effects.
As mentioned previously, the different types of ginseng do vary in their contents, and therefore their health benefits, although many of the benefits are common to all.
For example, traditionally it is believed that American ginseng works as a relaxing or calming agent, whereas the Asian variety has an invigorating, energizing effect.