Ginseng. Panax quinquefolius.
Ginseng. Panax quinquefolius L, Panax.U. S. 1870. Ginseng, Fr., G., Sp. Ginsen, It.—American ginseng grows in rich, cool woods, especially along the mountains from Quebec and Ontario, south to Georgia. The root is the part employed. This is collected to the extent of about 100,000 pounds annually in the United States and shipped largely to Shanghai. It is also cultivated. (A. J. P., 1891; Ph. Era, 1895, 359.) It is not used in America, but is exported to China. While supplied with ginseng exclusively from their own country, which furnished the root only in small quantities, the Chinese entertained the most extravagant notions of its virtues, considering it a remedy for all diseases, and as possessing almost miraculous powers in preserving health, invigorating the system, and prolonging life. It is said to have been worth its weight in gold at Pekin, and the first shipment from North America to Canton yielded enormous profits. John Henry Wilson (P. J., July, 1888) states that there are in the Chinese market five ginsengs, four of them of Asiatic origin, derived from Panax Ginseng C. A. Meyer, the fifth, the American ginseng, from Panax quinquefolium. According to E. M. Holmes, T'ang-shen, which is used by the poor of China as a substitute for the costly ginseng, is a root of a new campanulaceous plant, Codonopsis Tangshen, and is exported from Hankow and Oo-chang to the extent of five hundred tons annually. (P. J., xxi.) For an account of the Chinese methods of using ginseng, see P. J., vi, 86.
On account of the growing scarcity of the American ginseng plant, experiments have been made by the State of Pennsylvania to determine whether it can be grown profitably, resulting in the conclusion that in five years an acre of ground would yield a profit of fifteen hundred dollars, without allowance for rental, but, according to Jackson (P. J., lxx, p. 785), many precautions are necessary for success. The cultivated roots were larger than those of the wild plant. For an account of the ginseng cultivation in Corea, see P. J., 1885, 732; and of its collection in the United States, see D. C., 1884, 33. (For details of culture and preparation, see Bulletin 62, Pennsylvania State Agricultural Experiment Station; Bulletin No. 16, Division of Botany, U. S. Department of Agriculture; J. U. Lloyd's paper, Proc. A. Ph. A., 1901, p. 90; Ph. Era, 1900, p. 581; 1903, p. 497; P. J., 1904, p. 652.)
The root is fleshy, somewhat spindle-shaped, from 5 to 12 cm. long, and 1 to 2.5 cm. thick, and terminated by one or more stem scars. Frequently there are two portions, sometimes three or more, connected at their upper extremity, and bearing a supposed, though very remote, resemblance to the human figure, from which circumstance it is said that the Chinese name ginseng originated. When dried, the root is yellowish-white and wrinkled externally, and within consists usually of a hard central portion, surrounded by a soft whitish bark. It has a feeble odor, and a sweet, slightly aromatic taste, somewhat analogous to that of licorice root. It contains a glucosidal principle, panaquilon, besides saponin, a bitter principle, a volatile oil, resin, sugar, mucilage and starch. S. S. Garrigues prepared panaquilon, to which he gave the formula C12H25O9, by heating a cold infusion so as to separate the albumen, filter, concentrate to a syrupy consistence, precipitate by a concentrated solution of sodium sulphate, wash the precipitate thoroughly with the saline solution, and then treat it with alcohol, which dissolves the principle in question, and yields it on evaporation. To purify it, he dissolved it in water, treated the solution with animal charcoal, again evaporated, and dissolved the residue in absolute alcohol, which is finally distilled off. Panaquilon is an amorphous, yellow powder, soluble in water and alcohol, but not in ether, of a sweet bitterish taste, and has the characteristic property that, when treated with strong acids, it is converted into a white substance, insoluble in water, with the escape of carbon dioxide and water. Garriguea proposed for this white substance the name of panacon, C11H19O4. (A. J. P., xxvi, 511.) Davydow (A. J. P., 1890, 338) investigated these principles discovered by Garrigues, but adds nothing new to our information concerning them. The root is sometimes submitted, before being dried, to a process of clarification, which renders it translucent and horny, and enhances its value as an article of export. The extraordinary medicinal virtues formerly ascribed to ginseng had no other existence than in the imagination of the Chinese. It is little more than a demulcent, and in this country is rarely employed as a medicine. Some persons, however, are in the habit of chewing it, having acquired a relish for its taste, and it is sold chiefly to supply the wants of these.