Ginseng is the root of plants in the genus Panax, such as Korean ginseng (P. ginseng), South China ginseng (P. notoginseng), and American ginseng (P. quinquefolius), typically characterized by the presence of ginsenosides and gintonin.American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) native to Canada and the United States—although some species grow in warm regions—South China ginseng (P. notoginseng) native to Southwest China and Vietnam. Vietnamese ginseng (P. vietnamensis) is the southernmost ginseng known.
The root is most often available in dried form, either whole or sliced. Ginseng leaf, although not as highly prized, is sometimes also used.
In Korean cuisine, ginseng is used in various banchan (side dishes) and guk (soups), as well as tea and alcoholic beverages. Ginseng-infused tea and liquor, known as insamcha (literally "ginseng tea") and insamju ("ginseng liquor") is consumed.
Although ginseng has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, modern research is inconclusive about its biological effects.Preliminary clinical research indicates possible effects on memory, fatigue, menopause symptoms, and insulin response in people with mild diabetes.Out of 44 studies examined between 2005–2015, 29 showed positive, limited evidence, and 15 showed no effects.As of 2017, there is insufficient evidence to indicate that ginseng has any health effects.However ginsenosides, unique phytochemicals of the Panax species, are being studied for their potential biological properties.
Although the roots are used in traditional Chinese medicine, the leaves and stems contain larger quantities of the phytochemicals than the roots, and are easier to harvest.The constituents include steroid saponins known as ginsenosides,but the effects of these ginseng compounds have not been studied with high-quality clinical research as of 2017, and therefore remain unknown.