Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
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The common name for a group of perennial herbs in the genus Panax, belonging to the aralia family (Araliaceae), native to the woodlands of the North Temperate Zone and cultivated for the aromatic root of the plant, which has been used medicinally in China. Panax ginseng (also known as P. schinseng; Asian ginseng) has been extensively cultivated in Manchuria (northeastern China) for thousands of years. Eventually, ginseng was in such demand in China that the supply became insufficient. Then, P. quinquefolius (American ginseng; see illustration) was discovered in eastern North America in the early to middle 1700s, and soon it was being exported to China in large quantities. The price paid for the dried roots was so high that the collectors nearly exterminated the plants in a relatively short time. Ginseng has been traditionally used in China as a general panacea for many ills, but there is no firm evidence that the drug has therapeutic value. See also: Apiales; Pharmacognosy
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