What is Ginseng?

American ginseng, Panax quinquefolium, is one of seven hundred plant species in the Araliaceae family which includes parsnips, celery and carrots. The Araliaceae family is subdivided into seventy genera, one of which is Panax or the ginseng family. In turn there are at least five species of ginseng; two species are native to North America and three species are native to Asia. Of these five species only two are known for their exceptional curative properties, Panax quinquefolium, known as American ginseng, and Panax ginseng, known as Oriental or Asian ginseng. These two species of ginseng look very much alike and have similar chemical compositions. American ginseng is most likely a distant cousin of Asian ginseng which found its way to North America over the ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska.