English: American ginseng

Chinese: 西洋参

Parts used: Dried roots

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Stomach Heart Kidney Lung

Scientific name: Panax quinquefolius

Use of Xi Yang Shen (american ginseng) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices, dry.

Dosage: 3-9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Benefits the Qi, generates Fluids and nourishes the Yin. Nourishes Lung Yin. Calms restlessness.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Xi Yang Shen may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coughing Asthma Phlegm Fatigue Diabetes Dry mouth Night sweats Fever

Contraindications*: Use with caution for those with symptoms of a Cold Damp Stomach.

Common TCM formulas in which Xi Yang Shen is used*

Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1852 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears summerheat. Augments the Qi. Nourishes the Yin. Generates Body Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: HyperthermiaHeat stroke and others

Xi Yang Shen is a king ingredient in Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang, Xi Yang Shen augments the Qi, generates Body Fluids, nourishes the Yin, and clears Heat.

Read more about Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Xi Yang Shen's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Xi Yang Shen belongs to the 'Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Qi tonics are typically sweet and they tend to enter the Spleen and Lungs because these Organs are most involved with the production of Qi.

Furthermore Xi Yang Shen is Cool in nature. This means that Xi Yang Shen tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Xi Yang Shen can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Xi Yang Shen also tastes Bitter and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like Xi Yang Shen tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Xi Yang Shen is thought to target the Stomach, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on Xi Yang Shen

A cup of American ginseng infusion could protect cellular DNA from oxidative stress within at least 2 h from consumption.1

American ginseng has been shown to be effective in improving glycemic control in type 2 diabetes through increasing post-prandial insulin levels and decreasing postprandial glycemic response.2

P. quinquefolius (a ginsenoside-rich extract of American ginseng) can acutely benefit working memory and extend the age range of good working memory in middle-aged individuals.3

Addition of American ginseng extract to conventional therapy in diabetes with concomitant hypertension improved arterial stiffness and attenuated systolic blood pressure.4


1. Szeto YT, Sin YS, Pak SC, Kalle W. (2015). American ginseng tea protects cellular DNA within 2 h from consumption: results of a pilot study in healthy human volunteers. Int J Food Sci Nutr. , 66(7):815-8. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2015.1088937.

2. Mucalo I, Rahelić D, Jovanovski E, Bozikov V, Romić Z, Vuksan V. (2012). Effect of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Coll Antropol. , 36(4):1435-40.

3. Ossoukhova A, Owen L, Savage K, Meyer M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Pipingas A, Wesnes K, Scholey A. (2015). Improved working memory performance following administration of a single dose of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) to healthy middle-age adults. Hum Psychopharmacol. , 30(2):108-22. doi: 10.1002/hup.2463.

4. Mucalo I, Jovanovski E, Rahelić D, Božikov V, Romić Z, Vuksan V. (2013). Effect of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) on arterial stiffness in subjects with type-2 diabetes and concomitant hypertension. J Ethnopharmacol. , 150(1):148-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.08.015.