Deciduous perennial growing to about 1 ft (30 cm). Has a smooth stem, leaves with oblong to oval leaflets, small greenish flowers, and kidney-shaped scarlet-red berries.
Habitat & Cultivation
American ginseng is native to North America and the Himalayas. A woodland plant, it is rarely seen in the wild due to overharvesting. It is cultivated in Wisconsin, China, and France. The root is gathered in autumn.
American ginseng contains steroidal saponins, including panaquilon.
History & Folklore
Native American peoples may have considered this herb a means to increase female fertility. From the mid-18th century, the collection of the herb for export to China became a virtual goldrush, with so many Native Americans out harvesting American ginseng that settlers reported finding villages almost deserted. The Ojibwa people always planted a seed to replace the herb, but this was not universal practice. American ginseng became rare toward the end of the 19th century.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
The action of American ginseng is presumed to be similar to, but milder than, that of its Chinese cousin, ginseng (P. ginseng). American ginseng increases the ability to tolerate stress of all kinds. In traditional Chinese medicine, American ginseng is employed as a yin tonic, treating weakness, fever, wheezing, and coughs.
See ginseng, nototginseng (P. notoginseng), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
Do not take American ginseng during pregnancy.