What’s the Difference Between Korean, Red, and American Ginseng?


Ginseng is a highly popular and well-researched medicinal herb that offers outstanding benefits such as better immunity, improved energy levels, and a healthier brain. This herb is typically dried and manufactured into concentrated liquid extracts or powders that are then integrated into capsules and tablets. The three main varieties of ginseng herb are American ginseng, Korean ginseng, and Red ginseng. In this article, we aim to discuss the distinct properties and different benefits provided by all three.

American Ginseng

American ginseng, also known as Panax quinquefolius, is a variation of the popular herb that’s mainly grown in North America. American ginseng is labeled as an adaptogen, which is a substance that is known to boost the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, and emotional stressors.  Modern research shows huge promise for American ginseng to help treat fatigue, diabetes, colds, flu, digestion problems, and respiratory issues while improving mental function. Due to its high demand, wild American ginseng has been categorized as a threatened or endangered species in various states in North America.

Korean Ginseng

Korean ginseng has several different names but is most commonly known as Panax ginseng or Asian ginseng. Renowned in China, Korea, and Japan for over a millennium, Korean ginseng is said to assist in preventing stress-related issues like exhaustion, immune system depletion, and organ dysfunction. Korean ginseng also has a reputation for alleviating erectile dysfunction in men. Other benefits provided by this root include improved brain health, a better immune system, lower blood pressure, and improved blood circulation. 

Red Ginseng

Similar to Korean ginseng, Red ginseng is produced from the root of the Panax ginseng plant. However, Red Ginseng undergoes a different processing method which contributes to its unique taste, appearance, and health benefits when compared to Korean ginseng. Red ginseng gets its color from the process of steaming and drying it undergoes before use, which also gives it a sweeter taste when compared to Korean ginseng. The benefits of Red ginseng include reduced inflammation, better sexual function, and enhanced cardiovascular health.


American ginseng, Korean ginseng, and Red ginseng all feature active pharmacological compounds called ginsenosides which are known for their anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Studies show ginsenosides to have a protective effect against different neurological disorders and to improve spatial and long-term memory, enhance nerve growth, and improve mental work capacity. Adding to that, ginsenosides are known to assist in preventing inflammatory diseases early on. There is also a claim that ginsenosides display beneficial anti-cancer effects.

The Difference Between American and Korean Ginseng

Different Active Ingredients

While both American, Red, and Korean ginseng offer excellent benefits from ginsenosides, they have different variants in their blueprint. American ginseng offers a rich source of the Rb1 group of ginsenosides while Korean and Red ginsengs feature a higher amount of the Rg1 group of ginsenosides. The different chemical makeup of these popular variants results in differing potencies. Whereas American ginseng produces a mild ‘qi’ boosting effect,  Korean and Red ginsengs come with a stronger effect.

Different Effects When Taken

American, Korean, and Red ginsengs produce different effects on the human body when consumed. The American variant produces a more relaxing effect and is ideal for hot weather conditions due to its cooling nature. Meanwhile, Korean and Red ginsengs provide a more stimulating effect and are warmer by nature, making them a great fit for colder seasons. For the most part, Korean and Red ginsengs may be considered the hotter Yang side of ginseng while the American variant is the cooler Yin side of ginseng.

Different Classification and Appearance

While Korean, Red, and American ginsengs belong to the Araliaceae or ivy family, they are different species from one another because of their origins and how they grow. American ginseng features serrated leaves that grow uniformly. On the other hand, Korean and Red ginsengs have leaves that are smooth along the edges that grow in a less structured manner.

How to Take Ginseng

As mentioned in this article, ginseng can be consumed in powder, tablet, capsule, and oil forms. Ginseng may be incorporated into different soups and dishes for added flavoring. This herb may also be stewed in water and served as tea. It’s ideal to start with a lower daily amount and increase the volume over time, depending on your individual needs and the advice of your healthcare provider.

Safety and Side Effects of Taking Ginseng

Based on scientific research, taking ginseng appears to be a safe approach to strengthening the body. Side effects are rare and are typically caused by taking excessive doses. Side effects include insomnia, restlessness, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, and elevated blood pressure. Individuals with low or high blood pressure should take caution when using ginseng products and should consult a healthcare practitioner before supplementing ginseng. Furthermore, while taking ginseng is generally safe, it may adversely affect the efficacy of certain medications, so always double-check with your doctor whether ginseng would have an impact on the medications you’re taking.


American ginseng, Red ginseng, and Korean ginseng are among the leading types of the popular immunity-boosting medicinal herb. Although all of them feature the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the ginsenoside compound, they have different chemical makeups and produce different effects. American ginseng produces a cooling and relaxing effect while Korean and Red ginsengs create a warmer and invigorating feeling. Whether you’d like certain benefits provided by ginseng or are simply looking to improve your overall health, it’s always best to talk first with your healthcare provider especially if you’re currently on medications.

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