What Is American Ginseng?

This medicinal root may fight fatigue and prevent colds

Ginseng root, capsules, tea, and extract

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a root used in herbal medicine. Both Native American healers and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have utilized it.

Research suggests it may boost energy, stimulate the immune system, and lower blood sugars.

This article will look at the evidence for possible health benefits, side effects, and how to buy, prepare, and store American ginseng.

A member of the ivy family, American ginseng roots are available whole as well as in supplement and tea forms. The plant is native to North America.

What Is American Ginseng Used For?

The overall evidence for American ginseng's potential health benefits is limited. However, the available pool of research is growing. Some research suggests this root could help treat:

So far, much of the evidence is from lab and animal studies. Human trials are in the earliest stages. They'll reveal more about American ginseng's safety and effectiveness.


Preliminary research suggests American ginseng may fight fatigue. It has this in common with the more common Panax ginseng, a.k.a. Asian or Korean ginseng.

A 2018 review of studies said American and Asian ginseng may be viable for treating fatigue from chronic illness. Researchers added that there's a "critical need" for more and stronger trials.

An older study said it appeared to improve cancer-related fatigue—and without side effects. The researchers called for more research into this treatment.

Mental Function

Evidence is growing that American ginseng can improve mental function.

  • A 2020 study demonstrated more activity in some brain regions during processes using working (short-term) memory.
  • A 2019 review of research said it appears to enhance cognitive function and alertness.
  • A 2019 study said American ginseng plus whole coffee fruit extract and Bacopa monniera appeared to increase working memory.
  • A 2015 study showed an increase in working memory in middle-aged people.

Some studies noted improved mental function after just a single dose of American ginseng.


Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is important for managing and preventing diabetes.

A 2018 study found adding American ginseng to diabetes treatments helped keep blood sugars in line.

Randomized, controlled trials done in 2019 and 2020—studies where participants were assigned to either a real or fake treatment group by chance—said American ginseng improved:

Ongoing research is looking at American ginseng use in treating pre-diabetes as well.

Cold and Flu

American ginseng may offer protection against viral respiratory tract infections, including influenza, flu-like illnesses, and the common cold, according to a 2017 review.

A 2020 analysis of research said American ginseng might be helpful in preventing and treating seasonal respiratory infections. However, researchers said the evidence wasn't strong enough for firm conclusions.


Research is promising for American ginseng as a treatment for:

  • Fatigue
  • Mental function
  • Diabetes
  • Cold, flu, and other respiratory infections

However, it's in the early stages and more work is needed.

Possible Side Effects

American ginseng is believed to be generally safe. Still, it may lead to side effects including:

The long-term side effects of ginseng use aren't known.

Drug interactions are possible. Unless your doctor has advised it, don't take American ginseng with:

  • Coumadin (warfarin): It may reduce the drug's effectiveness.
  • Depression medications called MAOIs: The combination may cause anxiety, headache, restlessness, and insomnia.
  • Blood sugar-lowering drugs: It may low blood sugar too much.
  • Antipsychotic medications: It may increase effects and side effects.
  • Stimulants: It may increase the effects and side effects.

Pregnant women should not take American ginseng. It's closely related to Panax ginseng, which is linked to possible birth defects.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

American ginseng is sold online and in many stores that sell natural foods, herbal medicine, and supplements.

Dietary supplements aren't well regulated in the United States. To ensure quality, look for seals on the label from:

  • U.S. Pharmacopeia
  • NSF International
  • ConsumerLab

Standardized dosing for American ginseng isn't established. Follow the recommendations on the label or your doctor's advice.

Store supplements, tea, and the root in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does American ginseng look like?

The root of the American ginseng plant looks like a forked parsnip. It grows wild in Eastern and Central U.S., especially the Appalachian and Ozark mountains.

Ginseng root
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Do American ginseng and Panax ginseng have the same effects?

American and Asian ginseng both contain compounds called ginsenosides, so their effects may be similar. However, every herb variety is unique. Information about one doesn't necessarily apply to another.


Evidence is growing that American ginseng may help improve fatigue, mental function, diabetes, and respiratory infections like the cold and flu. Side effects and drug interactions are possible.

This herbal treatment is widely available in multiple forms. Follow dosage recommendations on the label.

A Word From Verywell

Alternative medicine shouldn't be a substitute for standard care. Use proven first-line treatments, then talk to your doctor about adding alternatives like American ginseng and other herbal remedies.

15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mancuso C, Santangelo R. Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius: From pharmacology to toxicologyFood Chem Toxicol. 2017;107(Pt A):362–372. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2017.07.019

  2. Arring NM, Millstine D, Marks LA, Nail LM. Ginseng as a treatment for fatigue: A systematic reviewJ Altern Complement Med. 2018;24(7):624–633. doi:10.1089/acm.2017.0361

  3. Barton DL, Liu H, Dakhil SR, et al. Wisconsin Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) to improve cancer-related fatigue: a randomized, double-blind trial, N07C2J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013;105(16):1230-1238. doi:10.1093/jnci/djt181

  4. White DJ, Camfield DA, Ossoukhova A, et al. Effects of Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng) on the steady state visually evoked potential during cognitive performanceHum Psychopharmacol. 2020;35(6):1-6. doi:10.1002/hup.2756

  5. Kennedy DO. Phytochemicals for improving aspects of cognitive function and psychological state potentially relevant to sports performanceSports Med. 2019;49(Suppl 1):39-58. doi:10.1007/s40279-018-1007-0

  6. Best T, Clarke C, Nuzum N, Teo WP. Acute effects of combined Bacopa, American ginseng and whole coffee fruit on working memory and cerebral haemodynamic response of the prefrontal cortex: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study [published online ahead of print, 2019 Nov 18]. Nutr Neurosci. 2019;1–12. doi:10.1080/1028415X.2019.1690288

  7. Ossoukhova A, Owen L, Savage K, et al. Improved working memory performance following administration of a single dose of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) to healthy middle-age adultsHum Psychopharmacol. 2015;30(2):108-122. doi:10.1002/hup.2463

  8. Jenkins AL, Morgan LM, Bishop J, Jovanovski E, Jenkins DJA, Vuksan V. Co-administration of a konjac-based fibre blend and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) on glycaemic control and serum lipids in type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled, cross-over clinical trialEur J Nutr. 2018;57(6):2217–2225. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1496-x

  9. Jovanovski E, Lea-Duvnjak-Smircic, Komishon A, et al. Vascular effects of combined enriched Korean Red ginseng (Panax Ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius) administration in individuals with hypertension and type 2 diabetes: A randomized controlled trialComplement Ther Med. 2020;49:102338. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102338

  10. Vuksan V, Xu ZZ, Jovanovski E, et al. Efficacy and safety of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) extract on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a double-blind, randomized, cross-over clinical trialEur J Nutr. 2019;58(3):1237-1245. doi:10.1007/s00394-018-1642-0

  11. Feinberg T, Wieland LS, Miller LE, et al. Polyherbal dietary supplementation for prediabetic adults: study protocol for a randomized controlled trialTrials. 2019;20(1):24. Published 2019 Jan 7. doi:10.1186/s13063-018-3032-6

  12. Mousa HA. Prevention and treatment of influenza, influenza-like illness, and common cold by herbal, complementary, and natural therapiesJ Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017;22(1):166–174. doi:10.1177/2156587216641831

  13. Antonelli M, Donelli D, Firenzuoli F. Ginseng integrative supplementation for seasonal acute upper respiratory infections: A systematic review and meta-analysisComplement Ther Med. 2020;52:102457. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102457

  14. PennState Hershey: Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. American ginseng.

  15. Lewicka A, Szymański Ł, Rusiecka K, et al. Supplementation of plants with immunomodulatory properties during pregnancy and lactation-maternal and offspring health effectsNutrients. 2019;11(8):1958. doi:10.3390/nu11081958

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.