Herb Of The Day: Panax Quinquefolius (American Ginseng)

Herb Of The Day: Panax Quinquefolius (American Ginseng)


Most American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) goes to Asia, often packaged in red, white, and blue. So why is American ginseng big in the land that has its own ginseng (Panax ginseng)? Several reasons. First, ginseng has been a leading herb in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia. By the early 18th century Asian ginseng was already extremely hard to get–and demand was fierce

Export of American ginseng to China began in the early 1700s. (Though highly regarded by Native Americans, American ginseng was part of the United State Pharmacopoeia for only a few decades in the 19th century.) Further, in Chinese medicine, American ginseng plays a complementary role, balancing the powers of Asian ginseng. American ginseng promotes the cold, dark, feminine energy of the yin, while Asian ginseng is the hot, light, masculine, yang energy. American ginseng is taken to reduce a fever, Asian ginseng as a temperature-raising blood circulator. Finally, American ginseng may profit from the good reputation American products enjoy in the Far East (even though much American ginseng comes from the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia). In the United States, Wisconsin is the biggest producer.

ginseng tea

Usage: It is used to help the body adapt to stress, enhance the immune system, use to combat fatigue, and improve mental and physical performance.

Traditional and Current Medicinal Uses

Panax derives from a Greek word meaning “Panacea” or “cure-all.” Though ancient texts refer to ginseng’s use for cooling and calming, digestive distress, and nutrition, ginseng is widely used today to strengthen the immune system, treat diabetes and cancer, and for energy, strength, stamina, and vigor. The Seneca, Cherokee, Creek, Iroquois, Seminole, and many other Native American tribes used American ginseng for a wide range of ailments. In 1716 a French Jesuit missionary working among the Mohawks north of Montreal reported his discovery of ginseng. Word soon spread via France to China, initiating what would quickly become a huge industry. American ginseng is highly sought after in Asia for its differences from Asian ginseng. American ginseng tastes sweeter and has cooling properties, nourishing the yin, as opposed to the yang of Asian ginseng’s heat-raising effects. American ginseng is sought after by consumers in tropical climates for the same cooling effects.

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