Current evaluation of the millennium phytomedicine--ginseng (I): etymology, pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, market and regulations

Curr Med Chem. 2009;16(19):2475-84. doi: 10.2174/092986709788682146.


The dawning of this millennium broke new ground in life science and technology, presented us genomic and proteomic revolution, nanotechnology innovation, and high performance liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) used for separating and identifying new chemical entities at pico-, or even femto-concentrations. Applications of these high technologies to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) opened a new chapter in the ancient medicine, and prompted us to re-evaluate the thousand-year-old phytomedicine- ginseng from current perspectives. We, therefore, collected the latest information (mostly within 10 years) on ginseng, and condensed the information into two parts of this review serial. The present part covers etymology of ginseng, its pharmacognosy (natural origin, physical appearance, chemical properties, and specie identification), its cultivation and processing-related metabolic changes in active ingredients, standardized analytical methods used for quality control of various ginseng products, modern analytical methods used to identify and classify more than 100 chemical entities (many were recently unfolded) derived from ginseng species and their metabolites. The global markets and production of ginseng and relevant government regulations are herein updated to exchange information and understandings about current people's uses and cultivation of ginseng. The second part of the review serial will classify all these 100 chemical entities separated from various ginseng species into different groups based on their structural similarities, and summarize bioactivities of these entities. The second part of the review serial will also focus on recent findings of ginseng pharmacology and its clinical trials for various diseases, and brief side effects of ginseng.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ginsenosides / chemistry*
  • Ginsenosides / pharmacology
  • Ginsenosides / standards
  • Government Regulation
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / economics*
  • Panax / chemistry*
  • Panax / metabolism
  • Phytotherapy


  • Ginsenosides