Panax quinquefolius L.

Last updated: 14 Oct 2016

Scientific Name

Panax quinquefolius L.


Aralia quinquefolia (L.) Decne. & Planch., Ginseng quinquenfolium (L.) Alph.Wood, Panax americanus (Raf.) Raf., Panax americanus var. elatus Raf., Panax americanus var. obovatus (Raf.) Raf., Panax cuneatus Raf., Panax quinquefolius var. americanus Raf., Panax quinquefolius var. obovatus Raf. [1]

Vernacular Name

English American ginseng [2]
China Xi yang shen [2]
India Laksmana [2]

Geographical Distributions

Panax quinquefolious is native to Canada and the United States. It is recently cultivated in Guizhou, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, and Liaoning. [3]

Botanical Description

Panax quinquefolious is a member of Araliaceae family. [1] It is a perennial herb that can reach height of 20-50 cm tall. The rootstock is spindle-shaped. [3]

The leaves are palmately compound with the bases of petiole and petiolules consist of numerous lanceolate and stipule-like appendages. The leaflets are oblong-obovate measures of 8-14 x (2-)2.5-8 cm, membranous, sparsely setose on veins or glabrous adaxially, margin coarsely serrate or dentate, apex abruptly or boldly acuminate. [3]

The inflorescence is solitary, terminal umbel consists of 6-20-flowered. The peduncle is not exceeding petioles. The ovary is consists of 2-carpellate. [3]

The fruit is bright red and measures ca. 1.2 cm in diameter. [3]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

P. quinquefolius root extract has been reported to contain ginsenosides [4], sapogenins (panaxadiol or panaxatriol) [5], polysaccharide gycans (quinquifolan A, B and C) [6], and homodimeric protein (quinqueginsin) [7].

Plant Part Used

Roots. [8]

Traditional Use

P. quinquefolius has been a staple, if not centre point of many traditional Native American medical systems across the Eastern half of the continent.  Either the raw juice of the root or a root infusion has been used for its tonic properties by the Algonquin, Iroquois, Mohegan and Cherokee tribes. [8]

The Iroquois, Delaware, Meskwaki and Mohegan all revered P. quinquefolius as a panacea, to be used for almost any instance in which medical attention is required. [9] P. quinquefolius has also been used as a stimulant, [8] to rejuvenate both the body and mind [9].

One of the most prevalent uses is that of a gastrointestinal aid [10]. Having been used in cases of nausea, colic, and vomiting, [11] many Native American tribes view P. quinquefolius as a staple in treating gastrointestinal disorders.  In cases of vomiting, a decoction of the root has been used by the Iroquois and Houma tribes [9].

People of the Creek tribe in North America used a concoction with P. quinquefolius and ginger to relieve fever [12]. The Creek also used American ginseng as a diaphoretic in cases of fever.  The Iroquois used an infusion of the root in order to treat high fevers. In cases of respiratory and pulmonary maladies, P. quinquefolius has established itself as an effective treatment, according to many Native American tribes. The Cherokee also used the root as an expectorant [9]. The root has been used, not only in cases of treatment, but also as a prophylactic against mild respiratory infection [13]. The Creek used P. quinquefolius in order to ease general shortness of breath [14].

P. quinquefolius is also thought to have antispasmodic, and is therefore considered useful in cases of reflex nervous diseases, such as asthma and whooping cough [13]P. quinquefolius has been used in external applications as well as internal applications.  Often, a poultice of the root has been used to treat numerous skin disorders and wounds, specifically open wounds [9]. In cases of bleeding wounds, a poultice of the root has been used as a haemostat [9]. A poultice has also been applied to the eyes, in cases of mild infection [15]. A compound infusion has been used as ear drops in order to ease infection and earache [9].

Various Native American tribes have used the root in order to not only treat infertility, but increase the sex drive of women. [16]

Preclinical Data


Antifungal activity

A homodimeric protein named quinqueginsin has been isolated from the roots of P. quinquefolius.  In in vitro studies, the protein displayed a variety of biological activities, including antifungal activity and activity toward the human immunodeficiency virus-1 reverse transcriptase, making it of potential value in the war against AIDS. [7]

Antidiabetic activity 

An H2O extract of P. quinquefolius roots has been demonstrated to exhibit significant hypoglycaemic activity in mice. Activity-guided fractionation of the extract led to isolation of three glycans, quinquefolans A, B, and C, which displayed hypoglycemic effects in normal and alloxan-induced hyperglycemic mice. [6]

The effect of ginsenoside-Rb2 purified from Panax sp. was examined in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. The rats of the ginsenoside-Rb2-treated group showed a significant decrease of blood glucose level. A moderate (but statistically insignificant) increase in the hepatic glycogen content was observed. Furthermore, the ginsenoside-Rb2-treated group showed a significant rise of glucokinase activity in the liver, while there was a significant decrease in the activity of glucose-6-phosphatase. [17]

Neuroprotective activity

P. quinquefolius stem-leaves saponins extract has been reported to increase learning capability in rat models. GSLS 30 ip shortened the latency of avoidance prolonged by scopolamine 0.8 sc from 5.2 +/- 1.3 s to 3.9 +/- 0.8 s (d 1 learning acquisition) and from 2.2 +/- 0.6 s to 0.8 +/- 0.3 s (3 x 24 h memory acquisition). In retention, GSLS 30 ip shortened the latency prolonged by cycloheximide 2.5 and 5 ip from 3.4 +/- 1.0 s to 1.4 +/- 0.5 s (4 h memory) and from 1.6 +/- 0.3 s to 0.9 +/- 0.2 s (24 h memory), and increased the avoidance number decreased by cycloheximide 5 from 38.1 +/- 8.8% to 72.4 +/- 10.8% (4 h memory). [18]

This acetylcholine facilitation could make Panax sp. beneficial in Alzheimer’s therapy. The ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg1 have been reported to be neuroprotective, and specifically Rb1 (found in higher concentrations in Panax sp.) have been reported to protect the brain from ischemic and reperfusion injuries in animal studies. [19] Other neuroprotective activity of the Rb1 ginsenosides is the inhibition of dopaminergic activation induced by cocaine at the presynaptic DA receptors in laboratory mice. [20]

P. quinquefolius aqueous extract has been reported to exhibit neuroprotective activity during ischemia, due to inhibition of the sodium channel activity. [21]

Immunosuppression activity

The proliferation of splenic lymphocytes, the humoral immune response to sheep red blood cells, and the phagocytotic function of intraperitoneal macrophages were all suppressed by cold water (4°C) swim stress for 5 min in rats and for 3 min in mice.  The levels of serum corticosterone increased. Ginseng root saponins (100 mg/kg) or ginsenoside Rb1 completely antagonized the immunosuppression induced by the swim test, and inhibited the increase of serum corticosterone in these animals, but increased the level of serum corticosterone further in the swim test mice. [22]

Rb1 (2.5 and 5.0 mg/kg) in ginseng saponin was significantly elevated both the total and maximum heat production in young rats (3-6 months) and improved their cold tolerance under severe cold (-10 degrees C under helium-oxygen). [23]

 Anticancer activity

P. quinquefolius root extract has been demonstrated to exhibit estrogen-like effects on estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells by inducing pS2 expression. Because P. quinquefolius does not exhibit a proliferative effect, it may play a protective role against breast cancer rather than serve as a mitogen. [24][25][26]

Another study show that Panax sp. was significant to induce the growth of MCF-7 cells independent of estrogenic activity by 27-fold over that of untreated control cells. [27]

Anti-aging activity

Rb1 extracted from P. quinquefolius has been reported to exert anti-aging activity. Result obtained show that Rb1 has no effect on receptor binding or on acetylcholinesterase activity, but facilitates the release of acetylcholine (ACh) from the hippocampus in rats. The increase in ACh release is associated with an increased uptake of choline into nerve endings, reportedly with calcium influx unaltered. [28]

Another studied show that treatment with Rb1 and Rg1 elicited an obvious decrease of [Ca2+]i content, especially in aged rate rats. In addition, Rb1 and Rg1 significantly stimulated the activity of Na+, K+-ATPase while Rbl inhibited the activity of Ca2+, Mg2+-ATPase and calmodulin, thus explain the mechanisms of their antiaging function. [29]

Sexual activity

P. quinquefolius has been reported to facilitate male adult Spraque-Dawley rat copulatory behaviour. Result obtained show that P. quinquefolius treated male rats demonstrated a significant decrease in mount, intromission and ejaculation latencies compared to vehicle controls. [30]

Analgesic activity

P. quinquefolius extract has been demonstrated analgesic activity in mice. Compared to placebo, pain markers in the rodent chronic pain model were significantly decreased in the P. quinquefolius extract group. [31]

Sedative activity

P. quinquefolius extract has been demonstrated sedative effects by the interaction with ligand-bindings of GABA(A) receptors and modulated brainstem GABAergic mechanisms in animal study. The regulation of GABAergic neurotransmission may be an important action of P. quinquefolius. [32]

Lipid peroxidation activity

Ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg1 were found to inhibit both Vit C-NADPH and Fe2(+)-cysteine induced lipid peroxidation of rat liver and brain microsomes. The inhibitory effect of Rb1 and Rg1 was obvious in liver microsomes, especially in Vit C-NADPH induced lipid peroxidation of liver microsomes. Besides, Rb1 was shown to be more potent than Rg1 in inhibiting Vit C-NADPH or Fe2(+)-cysteine induced lipid peroxidation. The inhibitory effect of Rb1 on Vit C-NADPH induced lipid peroxidation was similar to that of Vit E at the same concentration. [33]

Saponins extracted from the stems and leaves of P. quinquefolius has been reported to improves the lipid profile of hyperlipidemic rats and has antioxidant properties in cultured rat cardiac myocytes. The reduction of LDL oxidation by P. quinquefolius saponin may provide a protective effect against the detrimental actions of Ox-LDL. [34]

Antioxidant activity

P. quinquefolius has been demonstrated an antioxidant properties. Results obtained indicate that P. quinquefolius extract exhibits effective antioxidant activity in both lipid and aqueous mediums by both chelation of metal ions and scavenging of free radicals. [35]

P. quinquefolius saponins (PQS) that are extracted from the stems and leaves were used to study the potential interaction of lower concentrations of PQS (1-100 microg/ml) with vitamin C on the reduction of LDL oxidation. Results obtained show that PQS not only have direct antioxidant property but at low concentrations, their actions can be enhanced by vitamin C. [36]

Ginsenoside Rb1, predominantly in P. quinquefolius root has been reported to reduce the free radical damage to the cultured myocardiocytes of Wistar rat. [37]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Antidiabetic activity

In a human study, a glucose challenge test was conducted with ten non-diabetic and nine Type II diabetic subjects (regular medications and diet adherence along with the ginseng). The subjects were randomized to take either placebo or 3 g P. quinquefolius root either 40 minutes before or together with a 25 g oral glucose challenge.  In nondiabetic subjects, no differences were found in prostprandial glycemia between placebo and ginseng when administered together with the glucose challenge. When the ginseng was taken 40 minutes before the glucose challenge, significant reductions were observed. In individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus, the same was true whether capsules were taken before or together with the glucose challenge.  The results were that P. quinquefolius attenuated postprandial glycemia in both study groups. [38]

The effects of further reductions in blood sugar were studied with the increasing dosages of P. quinquefolius root or alterations in dosage time. The results were that P. quinquefolius root reduced postprandial glucose irrespective of dose and time of administration. No more than 3 g P. quinquefolius was required at any time in relation to the challenge to achieve reductions. A conclusion by the authors was that due to the reductions of glycemia at the 2-h diagnostic end point, there may be implications for diabetes diagnosis and treatment. [39]

Another study done in non-diabetics refined these findings. It indicated that postprandial glycemia was reduced the greatest when P. quinquefolius was administered 40 minutes prior to a glucose challenge compared to administration 20, 10 or zero minutes before the challenge. There were no differences noted between the doses given, 1 g, 2 g or 3 g. [40]

Anti-aging activity

P. quinquefolius has also been reported to have anti-aging effects in human study. 36 cases were administered with American ginseng compound liquor as a treated group, 35 cases were administered with P. quinquefolius liquor only as a control group. The total effective rates of the treated group and the control group on symptoms associated with aging were 88.89% and 68.57% respectively (P less than 0.05). [41]

Neuroprotective activity

A combination herbal product containing P. quinquefolius extract, (200 mg) and Ginkgo biloba extract (50 mg) was tested for its ability to improve the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 36 children ranging in age from 3 to 17 years who fit the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. The preliminary results obtained show that herbal extract combination may improve symptoms of ADHD and should encourage further research on the use of P. quinquefolius and Ginkgo biloba extracts to treat ADHD symptoms. [42]


This dietary supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines. [43]

Side effects

P. quinquefolius root is reported safe in recommended dosages. [43]

The ginsengs may cause menopausal bleeding in some women. [44]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

Based on pharmacology, do not use P. quinquefoilus herb in combination with insulin, glyburide, glipizide, metformin, rosiglitazone, pioglitazone, glimepiride, tolbutamide, tolazamide, acarbose, acetohexamide, chlorpropamide, miglitol, repaglinide, nateglinide [6] tacrine, donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine, [28] phenelzine, tranylcypromine, isocarboxazid, [45] warfarin, heparin, dalteparin, tinzaparin, enoxaparin, danaparoid sodium, antithrombin III, lipirudin, argatroban, bivalirudin, aspirin, dipyridamole, anagrelide, cilostazol, clopidogrel, ticlopidine, abciximab, tirofiban, and eptifibatide [46].

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.


No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Panax quinquefolius L. [homepage on the Internet. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23, cited 2016 Oct 14]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume IV M-Q. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 395.
  3. Flora of China. Panax quinquefolius Linnaeus. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2016 Oct 14]. Available from:
  4. Wang X, Sakuma T, Asafu-Adjaye E, Shiu GK. Determination of ginsenosides in plant extracts from Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius L. by LC/MC/MS. Anal Chem. 1999;71(8):1579-1584.
  5. Chen SE, Staba EJ. American ginseng. II. Analysis of ginsenosides and their sapogenins in biological fluids. J Nat Prod. 1980;43(4):463-466.
  6. Oshima Y, Sato K, Hikino H. Isolation and hypoglycaemic activity of quinquefolans A, B, and C, glycans of Panax quinquefolius roots. J Nat Prod. 1987;50(2):188-190.
  7. Wang HX, Ng TB. Quinquenginsin, a novel protein with anti-human immunodeficiency virus, antifungal, ribonuclease and cell-free translation-inhibitory activities from American ginseng roots. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2000;269(1):203-208.
  8. Chichoke AJ. Secrets of Native American herbal remedies: A comprehensive guide to the Native American tradition of using herbs and the mind/body/spirit connection for improving health and well-being. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam; 2001.
  9. Moerman DE.  Native American ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press; 2009.
  10. El-Baz M. Wild plant teas and coffees of Missouri. Morrisville, NC: Lulu Enterprises, Inc; 2006.
  11. Tierra L. Healing with the herbs of life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press; 2003.
  12. Pritts KD. Ginseng: How to find, grow, and use America's Forest Gold.  Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books; 1995.
  13. Hutchens AR.  Indian herbalogy of North America. Boston, Massachusetts:  Shambala; 1991.
  14. Kuhn MA, Winston D. Winston & Kuhn's herbal therapy and supplements: A scientific and traditional approach. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 2001.
  15. Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical botany: Plants affecting human health. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2003.
  16. Balch PA. Prescription for herbal healing: An easy-to-use A-Z reference to hundreds of common disorders and their herbal remedies. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc; 2002.
  17. Yokozawa T, Kobayashi T, Oura H, Kawashima Y. Studies on the mechanism of the hypoglycaemic activity of ginsenodie-Rb2 in streptozotocin-diabetic rats. Chem Pharm Bull. 1985;33(2):869-872.
  18. Ma TC, Yu QH, Chen MH. Effects of ginseng stem-leaves saponins on one-way avoidance behaviour in rats. Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1991;12(5):403-406.
  19. Liu M, Zhang JT. [Protective effects of ginsenoside Rb1 and Rg1 on cultured hippocampal neurons]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1995;30(9):674-678.
  20. Kim HS, Kim KS, Oh KW. Inhibition by ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg1 of cocaine-induced hyperactivity, conditioned place preference, and postsynaptic dopamine receptor supersensitivity in mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999;63(3):407-412.
  21. Liu D, Li B, Liu Y, Atlete AS, Kyle JW, Yuan CS. Voltage-dependent inhibition of brain Na(+) channels by American ginseng. Eur J Pharmacol. 2001;413(1):47-54.
  22. Luo YM, Cheng XJ, Yuan WX. Effects of ginseng root saponins and ginsenoside Rb1 on immunity in cold water swim stress mice and rats. Zhongguo Yao Li Xua Bao. 1993;14(5):401-404.
  23. Wang LC, Lee TF. Effect of ginseng saponins on cold tolerance in young and elderly rats. Planta Med. 2000;66(2):144-147.
  24. Duda RB, Taback B, Kessel B, et al. pS2 expression induced by American ginseng in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Ann Surg Oncol. 1996;3(6):515-520.
  25. Duda RB, Zhong Y, Navas V, Li MZ, Toy BR, Alavarez JG. American ginseng and breast cancer therapeutic agents synergistically inhibit MCF-7 breast cancer cell growth. J Surg Oncol. 1999;72(4):230-239.
  26. Liu J, Burdette JE, Xu H, et al. Evaluation of estrogenic activity of plant extracts for the potential treatment of menopausal symptoms. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49(5):2472-2479.
  27. Amato P, Christophe S, Mellon PL. Estrogenic activity of herbs commonly used as remedies for menopausal symptoms. Menopause. 2002;9(2):145-150.
  28. Benishin CG, Lee R, Wang LC, Liu HJ. Effects of ginsenoside Rb1 on central cholinergic metabolism. Pharmacology. 1991;42(4):223-229.
  29. Liu M, Zhang J. Effects of ginsenoside Rb1 and Rg1 on synaptosomal free calcium level, ATPase and calmodulin in rat hippocampus. Chin Med J (Engl). 1995;108(7):544-547.
  30. Murphy LL, Cadena RS, Chávez D, Ferraro JS. Effect of American ginseng (Panax quiquenfolium) on male copulatory behaviour in the rat. Physiol Behav. 1998;64(4):445-450.
  31. Yang JC, Pang CS, Tsang SF, Ng KF. Effect of American ginseng extract (Panax quinquefolius) on formalin-induced nociception in mice. Am J Chin Med. 2001;29(1):149-154.
  32. Yuan CS, Attele AS, Wu JA, Liu D. Modulation of American ginseng on brainstem GABAergic effects in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998;62(3):215-222.
  33. Huang YS. [Effect of ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg1 on lipid peroxidation of rat in vitro]. Zhongguo Yi Xue Ke Xue Yuan Xue Bao. 1989;11(6):460-462.
  34. Li J, Huang M, Teoh H, Man RY. Panax quinquefolium saponins protects low density lipoproteins from oxidation. Life Sci. 1999;64(1):53-62.
  35. Kitts DD, Wijewickreme AN, Hu C. Antioxidant properties of a North American ginseng extract. Mol Cell Biochem. 2000;203(1):1-10.
  36. Li JP, Huang M, Teoh H, Ma RY. Interactions between Panax quinquefolium saponins and vitamin C are observed in vitro. Mol Cell Biochem. 2000;204(1-2):77-82.
  37. Jiang Y, Zhong GG, Chen L, Ma XY. Influences of ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, and Rb3 on electric and contractile activities of normal and damaged cultured myocardiocytes. Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1992;13(5):403-406.
  38. Vuksan V, Sievenpiper JL, Koo VY, et al. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) reduces postprandial glycemia in nondiabetic subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(7):1009-1013.
  39. Vuksan V, Stavro MP, Sievenpiper JL, et al. Similar postprandial glycemic reductions with escalation of dose and administration time of American ginseng in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2000;23(9):1221-1226.
  40. Vuksan V, Sievenpiper JL, Wong J, et al. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) attenuates postprandial glycemia in a time-dependent but not dos-dependent manner in healthy individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73(4):753-758.
  41. Cui J, Chen KJ. [American ginseng compound liquor on retarding-aging process]. Zhong Xi Yi Jie Za Zhi. 1991;11(8):457-460.
  42. Lyon MR, Cline JC, Totosy de Zepetnek J, Shan JJ, Pang P, Benishin C. Effect of the herbal extract combination Panax quinquefolium and Ginkgo biloba on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A pilot study. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2001;26(3):221-228.
  43. Barnes J, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal medicines: A guide for healthcare professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2002.
  44. Hopkina MP, Androff L, Benninghoff AS. Ginseng face cream and unexplained vaginal bleeding. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1988;159(5):1121-1122.
  45. Jones BD, Runikis AM. Interaction of ginseng with phenelzine. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987;7(3):201-202.
  46. Janetzky K, Morreale AP. Probable interaction between warfarin and ginseng. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1997;54(6):692-693.