American Ginseng / Xi Yang Shen
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Product Code: CLS-12465
American Ginseng Root / Xi Yang Shen
American Ginseng is a true member of the ginseng family that grows natively in North America. It contains saponins similar to those found in Panax Ginseng (Oriental ginseng). However, American Ginseng is considered to be a Yin tonic herb, especially nourishing to the lungs, skin and stomach. American Ginseng is a powerful adaptogenic herb. It thus provides energy, adaptability and heightened alertness. It is especially appreciated for its endurance increasing capacity. American Ginseng is extremely popular in China. The wild variety is considered to be far superior to the cultivated.
Though it is used in much the same way and with many of the same goals in mind, American Ginseng is different in its actions from the Asian varieties. American Ginseng is a Yin tonic and is cool in nature. This is in contrast to Asian Ginseng which is a Yang tonic which is generally warm, or even hot in nature. American Ginseng is thus useful for people who are hot but wish to take Ginseng. In other words, people who tend to have lots of energy, high metabolisms, are aggressive, have high blood pressure, have ruddy complexions, etc. can take American Ginseng for its adaptogenic benefits without fear of overheating. In fact, taking the American Ginseng will help to balance out the system and can correct overheating problems, especially when the excess heat is in the lungs and stomach. It is said to moisten and cool the lungs. American Ginseng is highly regarded for its ability to promote the secretion of body fluids. American Ginseng is often used in China to tonify the lungs of people who have dry coughs due to smog, smoking or from other causes. And American Ginseng is considered to be especially strengthening to new mothers.
Other Common Names American Ginseng Root
Pharmaceutical Latin Panax Quinquefolium
Pinyin Xi Yang Shen
Yin and Qi
Sweet and slightly bitter
Organ Meridian Systems
Lungs. Spleen, Stomach
An adaptogen, to replenish Qi, to promote body fluids, to nourish yin and clear heat
American Ginseng is not considered to be the same herb as Asian Ginseng. Though it is used in much the same way and with many of the same goals in mind, American Ginseng is different in its actions from the Asian varieties. American Ginseng is an adaptogenic and a Qi tonic. It thus provides energy, adaptability and heightened alertness. It is especially appreciated for its endurance increasing capacity.
American Ginseng is a Yin tonic and is cool in nature. This is in contrast to Asian Ginseng which is a Yang tonic which is generally warm, or even hot in nature. American Ginseng is thus useful for people who are hot but wish to take Ginseng. In other words, people who tend to have lots of energy, high metabolisms, are aggressive, have high blood pressure, have ruddy complexions, etc. can take American Ginseng without overheating. In fact, taking the American Ginseng will help to balance out the system and can correct overheating problems, especially when the excess heat is in the lungs and stomach. American Ginseng is often used in China to tonify the lungs of people who have dry coughs due to smog, smoking or from other causes. It is said to moisten and cool the lungs.
American Ginseng is also extremely popular among people who live in warmer climates. Since it is a cooling herb which replenishes fluids, it is especially beneficial during hot weather. American Ginseng is more widely used in southern China than Chinese Ginseng. However, in the north where the winters are cold, Chinese Ginseng is still favored. Many people now prefer a blend of American and Asian Ginsengs, with a shift in balance as the seasons turn, utilizing more American Ginseng in the warm months and more Asian Ginseng in the cold months.
In China Panax quinquefolium is considered to be the herb of first choice for asthenia of the viscera and as tonic treatments for anemia and for asthma. It is highly regarded for its ability to promote the secretion of body fluids. Panax quinquefolium is used for over fifty different disorders and is now being widely used for various disorders associated with obstetrics and gynecology. It is considered to be especially strengthening to pregnant women and beneficial to new mothers. China has used all parts of the plant, including the roots, stems, leaves and fruits to develop many new tonic health products, and these products are distributed as pills, tablets, teas, wine, oral liquids, hair conditioners, beauty creams and cosmetics. American Ginseng is regarded as a true panacea in China.
Saponins constitute the primary biologically active component of Ginseng. American Ginseng contains the following saponins: Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, Rg1, Rg2, Ro, and F2 , among others. The saponin content has been reported to be higher in wild roots and in woods grown roots than in cultivated roots.
Cultivated Panax quinquefolium is dominated by Re, Rc and Rb1 and lacks completely Rf. Woods grown American Ginseng is dominated by Re and Rb1. Wild American Ginseng is dominated by Rg1. American Ginseng root fiber contains much higher Rg2 and Rg3 concentrations than Chinese or Korean Ginseng and is dominated by Rc, Re and Rb1. Wild and woods grown American Ginseng has much more Rg1 and Rb1 than cultivated American Ginseng.
Rg1 has shown mild CNS (Central Nervous System) stimulant activity and anti-fatigue action. However, large doses of the same substance depresses the CNS. Rb1, another Ginseng saponin, has shown CNS-depressant activity, is anticonvulsant, analgesic, antipyretic and is antipsychotic. This antagonistic activity of the various saponins probably explains much of the regulating, adaptogenic activity associated with Ginseng.
Ginseng is considered to be the quintessential adaptogenic herb. Laboratory animals as well as humans that are consuming Ginseng have been found to adapt to dark and light more easily, handle high and low temperatures more easily, perform work more efficiently, and in general adapt to a wide range of stresses more effectively. Anti-fatigue activity has been demonstrated in both animal and human models. The mechanism by which Ginseng helps humans cope with stress is being intensively studied, but it is believed to be due to peripheral and neurogenic stimulation of the adrenal cortex, among other mechanism.
American Ginseng, like Asian Ginseng, has a double-direction mechanism by which it regulates the CNS and endocrine system. Ginseng tends to stimulate weakened or exhausted animals while it has a sedating effect on hyperactive animals. It is also dose dependent.
In spite of its long history in America, modern research into American Ginseng has only just begun---in fact, it is still in its infancy even though it has become a major economic crop. Most research on Ginseng has been done in Asia and Europe on Asian species. Much needs to be done to explain the actions of this powerful tonic herb, the only Chinese tonic herb that comes exclusively from America.
Preparation and Utilization
Use as you would Ginseng for energy. American Ginseng comes in a multitude of varieties. Raw roots can be cooked with other herbs, either Yin tonics or Yang tonics as desired. If you like, combine it with other varieties of Ginseng to create a balanced Ginseng blend that suits your constitution and condition. Fresh roots are sometimes available from herb shops in the Fall for a short period of time. These may be consumed by eating several small slices per day, up to 1/2 or even one ginseng root per day. Or one or two fresh roots may be placed in a bottle of fine alcohol (32% or higher) and extracted for a month or longer before consuming one ounce per day, or less often if desired, as a tonic.
1. Asparagus Root and Ophiopogon to strengthen the Lungs, generate yin and to clear the mind
2. Schizandra Fruit to build yin, tonify the Lungs and strengthen the mind
3. Licorice Root and Jujube Date to tonify the yin of the Stomach
4. Dendrobium and Raw Rehmannia to relieve thirst and shortness of breath due to qi and yin exhaustion
Varieties and Grading
There are three major categories of American Ginseng: 1. wild, 2. woods grown; and 3. cultivated.
Wild American Ginseng roots are much more common than Asian Ginseng roots. They can be expensive, but not nearly so expensive as their Asian relatives. High quality American roots that have grown in the remote mountainous regions of upstate New York and in Canada can be very powerful and therefore can be expensive. Old roots are of course considered to be the best. Very expensive American roots often are allowed to keep their rootlets. But most wild American Ginseng roots are carefully clipped down to the main root. This is unfortunate, because the rootlets contain a very high concentration of ginsenosides. At some herb shops, you can purchase these wild Ginseng rootlets. They contain almost twice as much ginsenoside as do the roots. However, the root contains the ginsenosides in the optimum ratios and also contain other active components that makes it the main part of the herb.
Personally, I do not like very pretty, perfectly manicured Ginseng, wild or cultivated. I like the gnarly, twisted ones that nobody else wants. I especially like the ones that have been attacked by an insect or seems to have been damaged in some other way. Sung Jin Park taught me that the best Ginseng is Ginseng that had to struggle to survive. In its own struggle it had to adapt, and in adapting it had to produce more ginsenosides and other substances that helped to survive. My friends are often surprised when we get in a new batch of Ginseng how I select the ugliest root for myself. They all think I am being very humble, but actually I’m picking out the premium root for myself. Besides, nobody else would want such an ugly root, and if you try to sell it or give it away, people think you’re nasty. Once they’re dried and cleaned, and ultimately boiled, who cares? Actually a study conducted at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science discovered (to their surprise) that "roots which were diseased (moldy or burned) when harvested were generally higher in total ginsenosides than were their healthy counterparts.
Woods grown American Ginseng is often sold as wild ginseng. It is less expensive than wild but looks very similar, and in fact is chemically almost identical. Woods grown Ginseng is grown from wild seed by casting the seeds in the forest. Just like Chinese and Korean forest grown Ginseng, this Ginseng is superb.
Cultivated American Ginseng is inexpensive but of generally fine quality. The difference in quality and price will generally depend upon the region the roots were grown in and the age of the roots. Older roots are better. In cultivated American Ginseng, larger roots are not necessarily better. Check the head for notches. The more notches the better, because it indicates the root is older. Also, roots that appear to have had a rougher life are often more potent. If there are any striations, it is a higher than average quality cultivated root. Cultivated American Ginseng almost always comes carefully manicured, that is, without any rootlets or side roots. The root hairs have more ginsenosides than the roots, so pick the root hairs up separately if they are available.
There is another species of American Ginseng that appears on the market, known as Pearl Ginseng, or Dwarf Ginseng. Its official name is Panax trifolius. Pearl Ginseng comes in a wide variety of qualities depending on its source. Low grade Pearl Ginseng (which sells for around $20 per ounce) is very poor quality and very low in ginsenosides. Higher priced Pearl Ginseng (selling price around $160 per ounce), on the other hand is superb and highly prized. The difference is in the source and the age. Pearl Ginseng must grow in very a place where the winters are very cold, and they must be at least eight years old to be worth the price.
Panax Quinquefolium has been used by Native-Americans since prehistoric times. Numerous legends describe the use of Ginseng in America. It was used by the Seneca elders to give strength and as medicine. Crow women used it to promote a relatively painless and quick childbirth. The Seminole used it to stop nosebleed, to treat shortness of breath and as a aphrodisiac. The Penebscots, who ironically called it "Man Root," used it to increase the fertility of women. However, it was never as highly esteemed by Native-Americans as it long since has been by the people of Asia.
American Ginseng was first observed by a non-native American in 1716 by Father Joseph-Francois Lafitau. Lafitau was a Jesuit missionary working among the Mohawks, a forest-dwelling tribe, north of Montreal when he found the root growing in Canadian virgin forest. Lafitau had recently read a report on Asian Ginseng by another Jesuit priest, Father Petrus Jartoux. Father Jartoux was in China, which had opened up during the reign of Emperor Kang (1661-1722) serving as a missionary in Peking (now Beijing). Jartoux, an accomplished cartographer, drew for the emperor the first accurate map of Manchuria, or northern China. While in the northern region, he observed Ginseng growing and speculated that the same plant could likely be growing in Canada due to the similarity of the forested regions. Father Lafitau actively began to search for the same herb in the Canadian forests. After several months searching, his work was rewarded when he found a Ginseng plant growing near his new house in a forested region. He showed the roots to Chinese merchants, who were extremely excited at the "discovery." They taught Lafitau how they wanted the roots prepared, and exportation of American Ginseng to China commenced in 1717.
These earliest exports went to China the long way---via France or England. Commerce expanded rapidly, and by the 1770’s a brisk trade was established. There is a record of 55 tons being shipped to China out of Boston in 1773 on a single ship. The first recorded direct shipment to China took place out of New York in 1784, on the Empress of China with a cargo made up entirely of Ginseng, which it subsequently exchanged for silk and tea. As the Northwest Territory was explored, Ginseng was found to be growing profusely. During the late 1700’s, records indicate that about 70 tons per year of American Ginseng was shipped to China out of New England, and much more was shipped out of New France (Canada). The trade apparently dried up for unknown reasons during the first the first two decades of the 19th century, but picked up again prior to the U.S. Civil War, and in 1858 over 180 tons was shipped to China. Between 1820 and 1903, 17 million pounds of Ginseng was exported. The vast majority of the Ginseng collected and cultivated in American continued to be exported to China, where American Ginseng had become highly coveted, in many cases even more so than the Asian species.
Many people made large fortunes trading in Ginseng. Even Daniel Boone was a Ginseng trader. Records show that in the winter of 1787-88, Daniel Boone, his sons and a number of employed hands spent most of the winter camped out in the hills of western Virginia (now West Virginia) and eastern Kentucky and collected nearly 15 tons of wild Ginseng. However, the boat carrying the Ginseng to market overturned and was ruined. The next year Boone repeated his collecting, but records indicate that he had to sell his Ginseng at a low price because he had not prepared the Ginseng properly.
The white settlers in America exploited this incredible resource without consciousness or ecological caution, as they did with so many resources during that period, and by the end of the nineteenth century the supply of wild American Ginseng had virtually dried up. However, the demand in China for American Ginseng remained. In the 1870’s Abraham Whisman, a Virginian, became the first American to cultivate American Ginseng, and by the end of the century American Ginseng was being widely cultivated. However in 1904 a fungus attacked the entire American Ginseng crop and virtually wiped out the industry. It did not recover for many years. And the fungus, along with mismanagement of the wild resource eliminated wild Ginseng from many of its natural habitats throughout America. It took decades for the wild crop to recover sufficiently to once again become the object of commerce.
By the 1980’s, American Ginseng had once again became a major export product, and it is now the most valuable legal cash crop in America. In 1989, 1800 tons of cultivated American Ginseng was exported to China by the U.S. and Canada at a value of over $75 million and over 150 tons of wild ginseng was exported at a value of over $30 million.
In spite of the herbs name, "American" Ginseng, Panax quinquefolium is now being widely grown in China. Since 1975, when it became popular in Hong Kong, and ultimately in mainland China, Panax quinquefolium has been grown in twenty of China’s provinces, and in particular in five northeastern regions. For example, one Canadian variety of Panax quinquefolium which the Chinese call Wu Long Ginseng, has been successfully grown on a large scale in the far northeast of China in Heilongjiang province. China has currently equaled the production scale and output of America and Canada combined. Most of this Chinese-grown American Ginseng is sold in the Chinese domestic market, in Hong Kong and throughout Southeast Asia. Some of this Ginseng has entered into the world market in various Chinese products, where it is generally refered to simply as Panax Ginseng. China has openly stated its policy and goal of becoming the world’s largest producer of Panax quinquefolium.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.