Know Your Ginseng: Species of Ginseng

Did you know there are 13 different species of ginseng? It’s likely a word that you’ve heard before, but the term ginseng is often loosely and inaccurately used.

The word Panax comes from the Greek word “panakeia”, which means “all healing”.

There are two main species in the ginseng genus which belong to the Araliacea family of plants. Panax quinquefolius is one species and is commonly referred to as Canadian, North American, Western, Ontario, or American ginseng, and Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer (after the botanist who named the plant) and is commonly referred to as Asian, Chinese, China White or Korean ginseng. If the ginseng root is boiled and/or steamed, it is referred to as Red ginseng (as opposed to white).

Some other species that belong to the ginseng genus are Panax japonicus (Japanese Ginseng), Panax pseudoginseng (Himalayan ginseng), Panax notoginseng (Sanqui ginseng), Panax trifolius (Dwarf ginseng), and Panax vietnamensis (Vietnamese ginseng). However, these species are not readily available for commercial trade or have enough clinical studies to support health benefits.

Moreover, while there is scientific data on Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera), Brazilian or South American ginseng (Pfaffia paniculata) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) these do not belong to the ginseng genus and are therefore improperly named.

Identifying Canadian Ginseng

The ginseng plant is a leafy green crop that grows to about a foot in height and produces bright red berries and a root. The root grown in Canada is generally around 2-4 inches in length and, once dried, is a tan/light brown.

The texture of the dried root is gnarled and slightly wrinkled. The flavour of ginseng root is slightly bitter and earthy, with a touch of sweetness. Some also describe it as highly aromatic with a sweet flavour and earthy undertones.

Why Canadian Ginseng?

We are proud to say that ginseng grown in the fertile soil of Ontario, Canada is far superior quality than ginseng grown elsewhere, and here are a few reasons why:

Ginseng is Native to Canada

Ontario-grown Canadian ginseng is of premium quality because it is native to our lands. A combination of the rich soils, clean water and specific climatic conditions, the strong colonial lines, the stringent government regulations, and the careful production practices of the growers create the inability for others to compete. These unique growing conditions or terroir create distinct flavours and properties that cannot be replicated in ginseng is grown elsewhere.

While ginseng can be grown in other parts of the world it will never match the one-of-a-kind taste or the quality of Canadian ginseng.

Production is Consistent

Ontario’s ginseng harvest is always consistent because of the techniques used, the limited number of growers, and the small geographical area of production. Growers have also established high-quality and technologically advanced processing facilities for storage, drying, and washing. This consistency ensures Ontario-grown Canadian ginseng’s quality, aroma, and taste remain unmatched by Panax quinquefolius grown elsewhere in the world.

We are a Global Leader

Canada is a global leader in ginseng exports, with 90% of ginseng produced being exported. Ontario is currently the largest producer in the world of North American ginseng.

Research Moves Us Forward

Ontario Ginseng Growers Association, in partnership with government and universities, undertake and fund vast amounts of research to further our knowledge, primarily focusing on health and wellness and improved production methods.

We Focus on Growing Safely

Ontario Ginseng Growers Association has taken an active part in the development of Good Agricultural Collection Practices (GACP) Program, which is approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Our industry’s GACP Program provide tools to growers to assess on-farm food safety risks and implementation practices to eliminate them. It also provides product traceability and ensures proper management of pest control products, which are highly regulated with high standards as set by Health Canada.

Where to Buy Canadian Ginseng

Always be sure to look for the “Running Root” logo on consumer products, this ensures the product is 100% Canadian ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), grown in native Ontario soils. Our partner retailers, online or local, can be found in our ginseng retailer list.

At the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association (OGGA), we’re passionate about educating consumers about high-quality, North American ginseng. Visit our website to learn more about this amazing plant—including some recipe ideas for adding ginseng into your daily routine!—or reach out to learn more about how you can get involved.