This is a great question because the term “ginseng” gets thrown around a lot as a common name for many different herbs. Depending who you’re speaking with, it’s sometimes difficult to decipher which form of ginseng is being discussed. Here is a list of commonly known herbs that are referred to as ginseng, based on the geographical location where they commonly grow wild. This list shows us that not only are there different forms, but some of the so-called “ginsengs” are not even in the same genus of plants:
– Panax ginseng: better known as Korean, Asian, Oriental, Chinese or even Red Ginseng
– Panax quinqefolius: better known as American Ginseng
– Eleutherococcus senticosus: better known as Siberian or Russian Ginseng
– Withania somnifera: better known as Ashwaganda but also sometimes referred to as Indian Ginseng
All of these herbs have been described as a type of ginseng because of their traditional abilities to invigorate and rejuvenate the individual. In other words, they all help the body to better deal with stress. However, each herb has shown an affinity for different organs and the ability to achieve this through various mechanisms within the body. For example, Eleuthrococcus senticosus is commonly used to improve immune function, while Withania somnifera has clinically been indicated for poor conversion and activation of thyroid hormone.
Getting back to the question at hand, Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius are quite similar herbs because they both contain active ingredients known as ginsenosides. Nevertheless, they are unique because there are different types of ginsenosides that are found in different proportions in each plant. These proportions and types dictate what therapeutic effect they have on the human body (and it should be noted that wild-crafted herbs may have a wide variation of proportions in the same species – so standardization can be important with certain ingredients).
Panax ginseng is traditionally known as the true ginseng because it typically has a higher percentage of overall ginsenosides. Research has shown that it enhances physical and mental performance under stressful circumstances, as well as promotes healthy blood sugar regulation. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) standpoint, Korean ginseng is also very warming, promoting heat and the production of Yang energy.
Panax quinquefolius, on the other hand, is sometimes thought of as the weaker ginseng (due to lesser ginsenoside content) and is indicated in TCM for Yin and Qi deficiency. It is primarily indicated for improving immune function, relieving nervousness and aiding digestion in cases of stress or anxiety. Like Panax ginseng though, it shares the ability to regulate blood sugar.
While neither herb is necessarily considered superior, AOR has chosen to use Panax ginseng over Panax quinquefolius in its formulations because of its supporting research for improving cognitive function and reducing mental fatigue. These actions complement other ingredients found in OrthoMind and the Rhodiola plus Ginseng combination product to best target mental and physical performance.
Simply put, Panax ginseng is better indicated because its actions closely resemble the therapeutic actions that these AOR products aim to achieve.
Ginsengs. Natural Standard Professional Monograph. Retrieved April 10, 2013 from www.naturalstandard.com
Panax quinquefolius. Health Canada Drugs and Health Products: Single Ingredient Monographs. Retrieved April 10, 2013 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=29&lang=eng
Panax ginseng. Health Canada Drugs and Health Products: Single Ingredient Monographs. Retrieved April 10, 2013 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=146&lang=eng