History

Panax ginseng is a perennial herb that starts flowering in its fourth year (1). It grows in the United States, Canada, and the mountainous forests of eastern Asia (2). The translucent, yellowish-brown roots are harvested when plants reach between 3 and 6 years of age (2). This herb has been used in the Orient for 5000 years as a tonic (3). According to traditional Chinese medicine's "philosphy of opposites," American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) is a "cool" or "yin" tonic used to treat "hot" symptoms such as stress, insomnia, palpitations, and headache, whereas Asian ginseng (P. ginseng L.) is "hot" or "yang" and is used to treat "cold" diseases (4). In the Orient, ginseng is considered a cure-all. This stems from the "Doctrine of Signatures," because the root is said to resemble a man's appearance and is therefore useful to treat all of man's ailments (5). Throughout history, the root has been

From Forensic Science and Medicine: Herbal Products: Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology, Second Edition Edited by: T. S. Tracy and R. L. Kingston © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ

used as a treatment for asthenia, atherosclerosis, blood and bleeding disorders, colitis, and relief of symptoms associated with aging, cancer, and senility (5). Ginseng is also widely believed to be an aphrodisiac (6).

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