|Panax quinquefolius foliage and fruit|
The plant's forked root and leaves were traditionally used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans. Since the 19th century, the roots have been collected by "sang hunters" and sold to Chinese or Hong Kong traders, who often pay very high prices for particularly old wild roots.
It is also known by its Chinese name huaqishen (simplified Chinese: 花旗参; traditional Chinese: 花旗參; Mandarin Pinyin: huāqíshēn; Jyutping: faa1kei4sam1; literally "Flower Flag ginseng") or xiyangshen (simplified Chinese: 西洋参; traditional Chinese: 西洋參; Mandarin Pinyin: xīyángshēn; Jyutping: sai1joeng4sam1; literally "west ocean ginseng").
American ginseng was formerly particularly widespread in the Appalachian and Ozark regions (and adjacent forested regions such as Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario), but due to its popularity and unique habitat requirements, the wild plant has been overharvested, as well as lost through destruction of its habitat, and is thus rare in most parts of the United States and Canada. Ginseng is also negatively affected by deer browsing, urbanization, and habitat fragmentation. It is also grown commercially, under artificial shade, woods cultivated, or wild-simulated methods, in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and usually harvested after three to four years depending on cultivation technique; the wild-simulated method often requires up to 10 years before harvest. Many ginseng growers in Wisconsin are represented by the "Ginseng Board of Wisconsin", whose seal is often sought-after on ginseng products to certify they are genuine. Wisconsin, particularly Marathon County, accounts for about 95% of production in the United States. It is also widely grown in Ontario, Canada.
Like Panax ginseng, American ginseng contains dammarane-type ginsenosides, or saponins, as the major biologically active constituents. Dammarane-type ginsenosides include two classifications: 20(S)-protopanaxadiol (PPD) and 20(S)-protopanaxatriol (PPT). American ginseng contains high levels of Rb1, Rd (PPD classification), and Re (PPT classification) ginsenosides—higher than that of P. ginseng in one study.
When taken orally, PPD-type ginsenosides are mostly metabolized by intestinal bacteria (anaerobes) to PPD monoglucoside, 20-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-20(S)-protopanaxadiol (M1). In humans, M1 is detected in plasma from seven hours after intake of PPD-type ginsenosides and in urine from 12 hours after intake. These findings indicate M1 is the final metabolite of PPD-type ginsenosides.
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- Oh, S.-H.; Lee, B.-H. (2004). "A ginseng saponin metabolite-induced apoptosis in HepG2 cells involves a mitochondria-mediated pathway and its downstream caspase-8 activation and Bid cleavage". Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 194 (3): 221–229. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2003.09.011. PMID 14761678.
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- "There is More to a Forest than Trees" by Lynn Davis, College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech
- "Roots and Regulations: The Unfolding Story of Pennsylvania Ginseng", by Melissa Beattie-Moss