They both start with “gin”, they’re both plants, and they even look alike — it’s easy to see why many people get ginseng and ginger mixed up! Read on to learn more about the differences between ginseng and ginger, and the many health benefits of Panax quinquefolius.
What is Ginseng?
Ginseng is a plant with thick, fleshy roots. It is a common element of traditional Chinese medicine and has been used for centuries to help promote health. It is also a key component of traditional Indigenous medicine in many First Nations cultures.
There are two main common types of ginseng: Panax quinquefolius (North American ginseng) and Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng). Ginseng contains an active compound called ginsenosides. The primary difference between North American ginseng and Asian ginseng is the level of active compounds in each. North American ginseng is used more for its relaxing properties, whereas Asian ginseng typically has a more stimulating or energizing effect.
The Health Benefits of Ginseng
Ginseng has some incredibly powerful health benefits for your brain, body, and spirit, including:
- Protecting against respiratory illnesses. Over the past 20 years, Western researchers have been studying the effects of ginseng as a medicinal plant. One study showed that ginseng helped reduce the risk of developing cold and flu symptoms in seniors.
- Keeping your cardiovascular system healthy. Recent animal studies suggest that ginseng can help lower cholesterol levels. As an antioxidant, ginseng also helps reduce heart damage caused by free radicals.
- Reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers. Researchers have found that ginseng may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast and prostate cancer.
- Managing blood sugar and reducing the risk of diabetes. Long-term trials have shown that using an extract of North American ginseng resulted in a reduction in patients’ HbA1c levels.
How is Ginger Different from Ginseng?
Ginger is also a fleshy root plant — but that is where a lot of the similarities end. As a medicinal plant, ginger is commonly used to treat digestive issues, especially nausea and vomiting.
Ginger has a warm, spicy flavour, and contains vitamins A, B, C, and E, making it a popular choice in many kitchens. Ginseng, on the other hand, has a very mild, earthy flavour, making it an easy addition to many of your favourite recipes.
At the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association (OGGA), we’re passionate about growing high-quality, safe ginseng. Click around 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 how you can get involved.