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American ginseng is a perennial deciduous plant native to wooded areas of the northern and central United States and southeastern Canada. A close relative to Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and more distantly related to Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), American ginseng has dark green, compound leaves, which consist of five serrate, oval-shaped leaflets. The plant flowers from June through August, bearing a single cluster of greenish yellow flowers, which eventually produce small, bright-red berries. The fleshy, forked root of the plant, which is usually harvested at 10 to 15 centimeters in length but may be as long as 50 centimeters in older plants, is used for health purposes. Most American ginseng used commercially is cultivated in Wisconsin in patches shaded with tarpaulins to mimic the plant's natural woodland growing conditions.
American ginseng contains a group of saponin compounds known as ginsenosides, out of which nine individual ginsenosides have been identified. Some American ginseng extracts are standardized to provide consistent ginsenoside concentrations.
Typical dosage recommendations for American ginseng range from 2 to 9 grams of dried root per day. Standardized extracts usually include dosage recommendations in the label information. Ginseng has no known toxicity associated with standard doses.