Ginseng is easily one of the most famous herbs with a long and rich history. When people talk about ginseng, they are almost always referring to the Asian species, Panax ginseng. While this is a wonderful medicinal plant, we are lucky to also have a ginseng species that is native to North America.
American ginseng, or Panax quinquefolius, is native to the eastern hardwood forests of North America, from as far north as Quebec to northern Florida in the south.
Like its Asian relative, it is has a long history of use. Native American communities used it for various complaints, from women's health issues, respiratory ailments, to digestive complaints and as a daily tonic. For many, it was considered a type of panacea that was used for any type of discomfort when all else failed (Moerman, 1998).
In 1716, Jesuit priest Joseph Lafitau was the first to record the use of American ginseng and introduced it to the world (Taylor, 2006). It quickly became in high demand from Asia and a booming international trade began. At its peak the U.S. was exporting as much as 750,000 lbs. a year to China. Along with fur, ginseng became one of the greatest North American exports.
Today, it is still in high demand and fresh roots can sell to Asia for hundreds of dollars a pound. Because of this, American ginseng is now endangered in the wild and is listed by United Plant Savers as an "At Risk" plant and exportation is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
American ginseng is best known for its adaptogenic properties, which support the adrenal glands, helping your body to cope with general stress, easing fatigue and supporting optimum energy levels, as well as a healthy immune system.
While it is similar in some ways to its Asian relative, it is not as warming, drying or stimulating and is considered milder and more moistening. American ginseng has a mild flavor and can be easily added to smoothies and food, such as the following smoothie recipe to support overall health and energy levels.
Energy Boost Smoothie
- 2 cups of orange juice or almond milk
- 1 ripe banana
- ¼ cup of whole, grass-fed yogurt (optional)
- ¾ cup of frozen berries of choice
- 2-3 tablespoons of protein powder of choice
- 1 tablespoon of powdered American Ginseng
- 1 tablespoon of powdered Goji berries
- 1 tablespoon of dried nettles
- honey to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until well blended. Feel free to adjust amounts to taste. Enjoy immediately. Note: Because of its endangered status, please make sure all American ginseng you purchase is cultivated or woods grown.
Moerman D. (1998) Native American Ethnobotany. Timber Press: New York. Taylor D. (2006) Ginseng: the divine root. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill.
Writer Erin Smith has been working with plants for 25 years and is medical herbalist and ethnobotanist. She is the creator of Plant-Passionate Living, an interactive program designed to help people find greater health and vitality through a deeper relationship with plants. Erin is the Founder and Director of the Center for Integrative Botanical Studies.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.