Ginger root and ginseng root are not the same; ginger is a different plant than any of the types of ginseng root. Ginger is native to Asia, and is the underground stem of the Zingiber officinale plant. Ginseng root can refer to American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius; Asian ginseng, Panax ginseng; or Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus. All three plants have different origins and perform different functions, but they are collectively called ginseng.
Traditional uses of ginger root include treatments for gastrointestinal issues including upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea. It is also used as a digestive aid. Modern health care professionals recommend ginger root for treating the nausea and vomiting that accompany pregnancy and chemotherapy. Ginger can also be used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Ginger can be found in a variety of forms. These include extracts, capsules, oils, a spice in foods, or as a fresh root.
Asian ginseng, which has traditionally used for fatigue, stress, asthma and cancer, was often combined with other herbs to promote longevity, strength and wisdom. Asian ginseng is often referred to as an “adaptogen” for its role in helping the body deal with stress; however, there is no scientific evidence of adaptogens. Asian ginseng has been studied for its role in immune system health, cardiovascular health, type 2 diabetes, mental performance, physical endurance, stress, well being, fertility and erectile dysfunction. Asian ginseng can be found in several forms: capsules, powders, dried or fresh, and in water and alcohol liquid extracts.
American ginseng belongs to the same Panax genus as Asian ginseng, has a similar chemical makeup, and is also thought to be an adaptogen. American ginseng was traditionally used by Native Americans as a treatment for headaches, fever, indigestion and fertility, and was also used as a stimulant. Much of the research on Panax ginseng has focused on Asian ginseng; however, researchers have studied the impact of American ginseng on type 2 diabetes, cancer, colds and flu, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and immune system enhancement. American ginseng can be found dried, in extracts, powders, capsules and tablets. It can also found in combination formulas with other herbs.
Siberian ginseng behaves differently than Asian and American ginseng. Also believed to be an adaptogen, Siberian ginseng is thought to stimulate the immune system. Siberian ginseng has been traditionally used in Russian to prevent colds and flu, and to promote energy, vitality and longevity. Most research on Siberian ginseng has been conducted in Russia. Studies have investigated its impact on colds and flu, herpes viral infection, mental performance, physical performance and quality of life. Siberian ginseng can be found in powders, capsules and tablets, as well as solid and liquid extracts, and dried for tea.
Before beginning use of ginger or any of the ginseng varieties, talk to your healthcare provider, and always inform her if you are using herbal supplements. Herbal products can interact with other herbs, supplements or medications, and may cause side effects.
Laura Wright started writing professionally in 2010. She has worked with women's health issues and gender-based violence, and as a research associate on human rights with The Protection Project. She earned both a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and anthropology and a Master of Public Health from West Virginia University.