American ginseng is deeply rooted in the North American Herbal tradition and has been a fabled herb of commerce especially in trade with China for over 200 years. A member of the araliaceae (Ivy) family, and in the same genus as Asian (or Korean) Ginseng (Panax ginseng), these two plants are closely related in use, yet American Ginseng has a reputation of being much less stimulating and more “cooling”. In the early 1700s, a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Lafiteau, who had been a missionary in China, found ginseng growing near an Iroquois village in Canada where he was then ministering. He wrote a treatise; “Mémoire . . . concernant la précieuse plante du gin-seng” in 1717, one of many events which launched the plant into popularity and economic value with one ounce selling for as high as three ounces of silver. Native Americans and Settlers throughout the east began digging ginseng to sell to French traders who shipped it to China. The legendary Daniel Boone was said to have made a fortune digging wild ginseng. Factors such as; habitat fragmentation, total loss of habitat from logging and development, and overharvesting, have led to American Ginseng’s demise in the wild. It is considered Threatened or Endangered (by the USDA) in 10 states; CT, MA, ME, MI, NC, NH, NY, PA, RI, and TN. There are many organic growers and conventional Ginseng farms in North America today.
American ginseng was much more popular in Chinese than American herbal medicine. Despite that, the root was official in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1842-1882. It was used to tonify digestion, and to support normal energy. Native Americans used the plant regularly and it is mentioned as one of the Seneca tribe’s top 5 medicinal plants. Most tribes used it as an aid in convalescence with the elderly, to tonify the reproductive system, and to normalize arousal and desire in both men and women. There has also been research investigating American Ginseng’s role in helping to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Uses of American Ginseng
This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.