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What Are the Different Medicinal Types of Ginseng?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 17, 2024
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Two types of medicinal ginseng contain ginsenosides, chemicals noted for their healing properties. Asian ginseng includes Chinese and Korean ginseng, with both inducing a heating effect on the body. American ginseng, also called North American and Canadian ginseng, promotes cooling to deal with conditions caused by stress. Both types of ginseng in this category come from commercial cultivation because very little North American ginseng remains in the wild.

Asian types of ginseng belong to the panax genus of plants, called red panax because of the color of the root. Panax comes from the Greek for cure-all, and is related to the English word panacea. The North American root appears similar to a parsnip, with a white or light yellow hue. Wisconsin farmers produce most of the ginseng sold in the U.S.

Chinese varieties of the root serve as a tonic to restore lung and spleen functions through the body’s endocrine system. It might resolve fatigue and increase stamina, along with regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The red panax ginseng from China is considered more effective to boost the sex drive than American ginseng because of its heating properties.

Asian types of ginseng are marketed to boost the body’s immune system by releasing heat, which might build up from eating too many spicy or fried foods, living in a hot climate, or lack of sleep. It might also improve circulation and increase energy. Some people use the root to treat erectile dysfunction or to promote a sense of well-being.

Korean ginseng works in much the same way as Chinese ginseng by restoring the balance between body and mind, based on the theory of yin and yang. Yin represents dark, cold, or weak energy, while yang is strong and hot. Both types of ginseng have been used over thousands of years as a medicinal herb to balance yin and yang.

One form of the herb sold as Siberian ginseng is not a true ginseng because it lacks ginsenosides. Siberian ginseng contains similar chemicals, which may provide medicinal benefits, but little research exists on this species. It is grown in China and Russia and sold commercially.

Herbalists recommend buying the root of ginseng to get the greatest benefit from the herb, purchasing the entire root or slices. It should be steeped for one hour for tea. The degree of bitterness in the beverage indicates the strength of chemicals in the root. Ginseng slices can be added to soups or other foods. Chewing the root typically provides the highest concentration of ginsenosides.

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