Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a species of the Panax genus, one of the major genera of flowering plants in Eastern Asia. It grows naturally at temperate elevations in East Asia, typically southern Korea and eastern China. Ginseng is also known as “Siberian ginseng”, but its natural origins have been frequently debated by botanists and herbalists. The plant has been given assorted common names including “man root” or “sang”. It is said to be effective for boosting both physical and mental energy levels.
Ginseng is a slow-growing perennial with a fleshy root. It is usually gnarled and has yellowish-red flesh with an earthy flavor. The plant takes up to six years to mature, and can reach heights of up to the 3 or 4 feet (1 to 1.3 m). The plant is grown in shady forested areas that are high in humidity and fertile soils. Ginseng grows best when it can be protected from direct sunlight, extreme heat, and extreme cold.
Ginseng plants have been found growing naturally across a narrow range of central North America along the Appalachian Mountains from New York southward into northern Georgia and Alabama. Ginseng is most abundant in the uplands where it is found growing in rich, moist soil. It has also been reported to grow on the sides of mountains and in some forested areas at elevations up to 3,800 feet (1,200 m).
The plant grows well under a variety of conditions. Ginseng flowers and fruits from May to September. When the plant blooms and produces seed pods, it is typically considered to be at its prime stage of growth. At this time many people grow ginseng for medicinal use. Seeds can be harvested from December through June or later depending on climatic conditions.