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August 17, 1979

History of Ginseng

Author Affiliations

Ohio State University Columbus

JAMA. 1979;242(7):616. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300070014009

To the Editor.—  Although the wellresearched article by Ronald K. Siegel, PhD, "Ginseng Abuse Syndrome: Problems With the Panacea" (241:1614, 1979) described the pharmacologic effects of ginseng adequately, I believe that the history of this herb should be discussed in greater detail, because the health food industry has been active in ascribing and promoting an exotic, novel quality to ginseng that is not deserved.Ginseng has been known in the United States since colonial times. The plant Panax ginseng (Schinseng) grows wild in the forests of many states and from earliest times has been gathered for export, not for home consumption. Daniel Boone was active in the ginseng trade in 1788, and George Washington mentions the gathering of the plant in his diary.1 All of the US ginseng production, wild or cultivated, was exported to the Orient, and the plant played a large part in opening trade with China.