Ginseng exhibits a mutualistic relationship (a relationship where two organisms live with each other and benefit from each other) with certain bacteria such as Bacillus megaterium, Micrococcus luteus, B. cereus, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Lysinibacillus fusiformis. These bacteria are known to promote the growth of Ginseng. The bacteria live inside the tissues and roots where they help it suck up water and nutrients from the dirt. These bacteria are hence known as endophytic bacteria since they live within the bacteria. The bacteria help Ginseng to fix nitrogen as well while the bacteria get nutrients and shelter in return. It is found that these bacteria and plants do better with the bacteria being inside the plant rather than living outside it (18).

They also have a mutualistic relationship with fungi. The Fungi are located inside the roots of Ginseng and extend their hyphae throughout the surrounding soil which absorbs the nutrients. There have also been fungi that kill Ginseng including the Garlic Mustard fungi (20). One disease that commonly affects Ginseng is Alternaria Blight. It is caused by an Alternaria panax fungus which runs its mycelium (vegetative cells) throughout the stems of the Ginseng plant and causes cell death. The spores are released from conidia (asexual reproduction) and are carried by the wind and animals to other Ginseng plants. The fungus never harms the root of the plant but destroys the leaves. The shoots tend to grow back the next year. Another disease that occurs in Ginseng is called Damping-off. It is caused by Pythium, Phytophthora, and Fusarium. These pathogens live on the surface of the soil and usually causes leaf discoloration and collapse of the plant. The Wilt disease causes the leaves and berries to dry up. The fungus which causes the Wilt disease belongs to the Fusarium genus. It is considered dangerous because it kills the plants and spreads very quickly to other Ginseng plants which can destroy an entire Ginseng farm in a matter of days to weeks ruining the effort of the farmers (4)!

Photo By Eric Burkhart 

Used with permission from Hardings Ginseng Farm

Ginseng provides food for humans and animals even though the primary use is to be used as a tonic for humans. A tonic is a relaxant. It helps people feel well, relax, and increase immunity against cancers during treatments, colds, high blood pressure, and diabetes (13). Ginseng contains ginsenosides which are the chemicals produced in Ginseng responsible for the calming affects. These affect the hypothalamus (The part of the brain that moniters hormone levels, blood pressure, water balance, blood sugar, and other physiological parameters), pituitary glands (controls metabolism, body temperature, appetite, and water balance), and adrenal glands (which controls stress) in the human body. All of these glands work together and are affected as a whole by Ginseng. The Ginseng makes the adrenal glands release stress hormones so the person has a higher stress hormone level than someone who has not taken it. Then the body is able to react faster and easier when the environment induces stress (1). Research has proven that Ginseng affects the hypothalamus which then affects the pituitary glands and adrenal glands in one motion (16).

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