Is Panax Ginseng the Same as Ginseng?
Yes, Panax ginseng is commonly referred to as Ginseng, and it is considered the original ‘true ginseng’. Also considered a true ginseng is American ginseng, also known as Panax quinquefolius.
The name ginseng may also refer to several dozen other species of plants, however, so it is important to understand which one you are working with.
For example, Siberian ginseng is the common name for a completely different plant by the name Eleuthero which has different compounds and effects and grows natively in a completely different region.
Diving Into the Difference: Genus VS. Species
A lot of people don’t want to dive into the scientific naming of species because it seems overly technical, and that can be a barrier to accessible knowledge.
Unfortunately, this is part of why plant knowledge and conservation has become such a difficult topic to get people engaged with as well.
If you look up the difference between genus and species elsewhere, you’re likely to come across a definition that has three or four other terms that must be referenced before it makes sense.
The concept of naming plants is called taxonomy, and it is the best system we have for determining which plants are evolutionarily related to which. Scientists are constantly re-organizing this list to better match updated information.
To break it down simply and quickly:
For example, American Ginseng – also known as Panax quinquefolius – is the Panax genus within the Aralia family, which also includes ivy, grasses, and berry shrubs.
Once we look at the Panax genus, however, we can begin to narrow down exactly which plant we are looking at.
In the New England and Appalachian area of the United States, there are two common species that you can expect to find. These are P. quinquefolius (American ginseng), and P. trifolius – also known as ‘dwarf ginseng’ for its short height and stunted leaves.
What’s Another Name for Panax Ginseng?
Panax ginseng is an official name of the plant, but there are several common names that it has been associated with throughout history; Asian ginseng and Korean ginseng are among the top two due to the popularity and associations of ginseng and these cultures. Other names may include red ginseng, radix ginseng, or Ren Shen.
What is Ginseng Good For?
Ginseng is most popular in ancient Chinese herbalism, gaining notoriety when the systems of the four humors were still in use.
Korean ginseng is used to promote Yang (warmth) which is believed to promote blood circulation, revitalize the system, and stabilize the natural heat of the body.
American ginseng, on the other hand, is used to promote Yin (coolness) which is believed to facilitate rest and calm the body, reducing body temperature if it is running hot.
Korean Ginseng VS. American Ginseng
Because the two species of ginseng are separated by an ocean, it is no wonder that they’ve gone down two evolutionary paths. Still, American ginseng is considered the opposing equal to Korean ginseng in many ways.
Identifying the differences between the two types of ginseng can be difficult, especially if you are inexperienced or seeing the root after preparation and harvest. There is little that can differentiate these two species because they are so closely related.
The easiest way to tell the difference is that Asian ginseng does not grow wild in the United States, but American ginseng does. If you can narrow down where the root was harvested from, it will help you identify the root without having to sample its chemical makeup.
Different Species of Ginseng
Remembering that different species of ginseng grow in different regions of the world can help greatly when learning about ginseng in the wild. Unfortunately, common names abound, and it is important to also brush up on your identification techniques for the region.
On a global scale, the Panax genus is comprised of 17 different species of ginseng. (1) Some of these species are cultivated, but others are wild.
Zhang H, Abid S, Ahn JC, Mathiyalagan R, Kim YJ, Yang DC, Wang Y. Characteristics of Panax ginseng Cultivars in Korea and China. Molecules. 2020 Jun 5;25(11):2635. doi: 10.3390/molecules25112635. PMID: 32517049; PMCID: PMC7321059.