A Deep-Rooted History of North American Ginseng


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TOP IMAGE © One For The Wall

For centuries, ginseng has been used to support overall health and wellness. Panax Quinquefolious ginseng (also known as North American Ginseng or NAG) is Canada’s largest field-grown horticultural export crop and one of our oldest trades.

The commercial history of the root is traced to the early 1800s when a Jesuit priest and missionary among the Iroquois found the plant near Montréal. Soon after, the Jesuits started shipping dried roots to China. Ginseng is believed to be the first trade between Canada and China.

In Ontario, the ginseng industry achieved its large-scale, commercial beginning through the efforts of Clarence and Albert Hellyer with wild ginseng seeds. Ontario’s clean water, unique terroir, and climate provide unmatched quality, distinctive taste, and aromatic fragrance.

To this day, growers are still producing ginseng in southwestern Ontario with this genetic heritage. Ginseng grown with the genetic lineage in its native soils is what contributes to its premium benefits.

Man Walking through ginseng field with bucket, ontario ginseng, ginseng recipes
© One For The Wall

What is Ginseng?

North American ginseng grows slowly, taking approximately three to five years to reach maturity. Light-coloured roots grow from a single stalk, with long oval leaves and red berries. The entire plant is captivating, but the true medicinal value lies in the root.

The Root of Health

Indigenous and Chinese cultures have long praised North American ginseng as the miracle “man-root,” due to its man-like shape and belief that it is beneficial for every part of the human body.

Ginseng contains an active compound called ginsenosides, and they have some incredibly powerful health benefits for your brain, body, and spirit, including stress reduction, improved cognitive function, improved immune system response, and reproductive support.

How is Ginseng Used?

Ginseng is found in a variety of product forms but is typically used as:

  • Dried root (bought whole or cut into slices)
  • Powdered root
  • Powered extracts (in capsules)
  • Tea
  • Tonic—this is the form often used by Chinese Medicine practitioners

How to Add Ginseng to Your Diet

Ginseng root has traditionally been used in tea, soup, and rice. Still, it can easily be added to many of today’s cuisines and modern functional foods like energy drinks and bars, smoothies, coffee, stir-fry, stews, oatmeal, and puddings.

Where Can I Buy North American Ginseng?

Ontario is one of the world’s leading suppliers of safe, high-quality ginseng. Look for the “Running Root” logo on consumer products. This ensures the product is grown in native Ontario soil and is 100 percent North American Ginseng. A list of ginseng retailers and certified sellers can be found on the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association (OGGA) website, ginsengontario.com.

Quick and Refreshing Ginseng Smoothies

Ginseng Smoothies and ingredients on counter, ginseng recipe
© Courtesy of Ontario Ginseng

Ginseng smoothies are a delicious and easy way to ensure you are getting in your daily servings of fruit and vegetables! Ginseng goes well in tropical, berry, and fresh green smoothies. Try adding Canadian ginseng to your favourite smoothie recipe to boost adaptogens that may improve your mood, immunity, and general health and wellness.

  • 1 cup (125 mL) prepared smoothie of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) Canadian Ginseng Root Powder
  1. For every 1 cup of prepared smoothie, add 1/2 teaspoon of Canadian ginseng root powder. Blend on high for 15 seconds or until well incorporated.
  2. Note: Ginseng’s unique flavour profile also pairs well with warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg.

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The ginseng industry in Canada is not only the largest field grown horticultural export crop but it is deeply “rooted” in Canadian heritage and history.


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