Ginseng: The “Man Root” Explained

ginseng for pets, ginseng for cats, ginseng for dogs, the man root explained Practically everyone has heard of ginseng – it is available in herbal supplements, teas, and even skin and hair care products.  But do you know what ginseng really is and exactly what it does?

Many of the herbal formulas used here at Natchez Trace Veterinary Services contain ginseng as one of the main ingredients, so we thought you may be interested in the history, use and effects of this amazing herb.


The ancient Chinese believed that the root of the plant was the crystallization of the essence of the earth in the shape of a man and that this plant had rejuvenating, recuperative, and curative action.
-Symmetry Herbal


Chinese ginseng was discovered over 5,000 years ago in the mountains of Manchuria, China. The ancients believed that its human shape was powerful symbol of divine harmony on earth and that the herb had strength-giving and rejuvenating powers. American Ginseng was later discovered in North America by a Jesuit priest working among the Iroquois Indians in Canada.  He had heard  reports of the amazing herb that the Chinese were using and, deducting that the French Canadian environment was similar to that of Manchuria, started searching for a  North America version of the same herb. American Ginseng was soon discovered growing near Montreal, Canada.

A mature root is shaped  like a human, earning it the name “Ren Shen” which means “Man Root” in Chinese. The term “ginseng” actually refers to all eleven of the species within Panax, which is a genus of slow growing perennial plants with fleshy roots of the family Araliaceae.  This herb is broken into two main species in herbal medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine: Chinese and American Ginseng, each with it’s own unique effects on the body.

The differences between American and Asian ginsengs are well documented not only by Chinese traditional doctors, but also by modern scientists, It is found that the differences in the active, constituents may account for the differing medicinal uses of American and Asian ginseng. Shibata’s group and Staba and his colleagues found that the types of saponins in American ginseng are similar to those in Asian ginseng, the exceptions that ginsenosides Ra and Rf found in Asian ginseng are absent from American ginseng. There are some differences in quantity of ginsenosides Rg and Re groups between American ginseng and Asian ginseng. Furthermore, the relative abundance of panaxadiols and panaxatrios differs in the two ginseng species. American ginseng contains very few ginsenosides with central nervous system stimulating activity, it is regarded as a “cooling agent”.
Symmetry Herbal


Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng)

Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) is considered “warming” and is named Ren Shen in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a Qi tonic found in many herbal formulas and has been found to strengthen the lung, spleen and stomach.  This herb especially helpful for those suffering from IBS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, chronic diarrhea, and diabetes. Panax ginseng is also used for anxiety, depression, boosting the immune system, and certain infections in cystic fibrosis. Asian Ginseng should not be taken constantly but on a schedule of two months of taking the herb then two weeks without. The side effects or overdose symptoms of Asian Ginseng are high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations. In China, Mung Bean Soup is often used to treat the overdosage symptoms of Asian Ginseng.

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolium)

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolium) is considered “cooling” and is named Xi Yang Shen in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is often found in herbal formulas to treat Yin Deficiencies and has been found to strengthen the lungs, heart and kidneys. This herb especially helpful for those with insomnia, night sweats, nervousness, and hot hands and feet. The side effects or overdosage symptoms of American Ginseng are high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia and anxiety.

General Benefits

Both Chinese and American varieties are known to be adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens are substances that help the body restore itself to health without side effects.

Below is a list of benefits that both types of this herb have been shown to provide:

  • Improve health when recovering from illness
  • Increase well-being and stamina
  • Improve mental performance
  • Improve physical performance
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Increase energy
  • Increase endurance
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce the effects of stress
  • Help prevent infections
  • Alleviate some effects of aging
  • Decrease degeneration of the blood system
  •  Increase mental capacity
  •  Increase physical capacity

Ginseng for Pets

The Center for Integrative Animal Health considers ginseng to be the supreme tonic in chinese medicine, stating this herb increases longevity, energy, bone strength and muscle tone. They also indicate that American (panax) ginseng is the top choice for older pets and female pets. According to CIAH, you calculate the dosage by weight from the human products used to the weight of your pet. “For instance if it is in a capsule and the recommended dosage in two to three capsules twice a day for an adult person and you have a fifty pound older dog, one may give one capsule twice a day. If you are administering tinctures, be careful with cats, because they often times have too high an alcohol content for cats, so you would want to boil off the alcohol before administering or dilute it greatly. Again, consult with a naturally trained veterinarian. If you are using ginseng long term, use for only two to three months at a time and then give a break and stop it for a few weeks.” 


The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that while ginseng side effects rarely occur, they might include high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia and anxiety. Talk with your doctor before taking any type of ginseng supplement if you suffer from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or bipolar disorder. American ginseng might interact with the effectiveness of anticoagulant medications and certain kinds of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MOAIs. Asian ginseng might affect calcium channel blockers and increase the effects of stimulants. Livestrong