Ginger vs. Ginseng: A Comprehensive Comparison

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Ginger and ginseng on green surface.

Ever find yourself wondering what the differences are between ginger and ginseng? They are both popular herbs derived from the root of a plant and are employed in various cooking styles and to prepare medicinal remedies.

However, ginseng and ginger are not the same. Ginseng is a type of plant that grows slowly and has thick roots, and is part of the Panax genus. On the other hand, ginger is a flowering plant that produces stems beneath the ground known as rhizomes.

So, is one better than the other? This comprehensive comparison will explore the history, similarities, and differences between ginger and ginseng. We will also discuss the various uses for each herb. So, let’s break it down!

Table of Contents


Piece of ginger on green surface.

A Brief History of Ginger

Ginger, a spice derived from the root of the leafy flowering ginger plant, is native to Southern China. Its discovery dates to 2700 BC when Chinese emperor, Sheng Nung, wrote of its medicinal properties in his book entitled “The Herbal.” In China, concoctions containing this potent spice were used to treat nausea, joint pain, and menstrual cramps.

Ginger was later introduced to India in its practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda, thought to have originated in 2000 BC with Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods in Hindu mythology, is one of the oldest holistic healing systems globally and continues to be practiced today. Ginger was an essential ingredient in developing remedies to treat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and various digestive issues.

From India, traders and travelers took ginger to the Middle East, Greece, Rome, and eventually to Europe. Ginger was commonly used as a form of currency and traded for goods such as gold, silver, frankincense, and myrrh.

Ginger continued its westward journey to Africa and the Americas with the slave trade. African slaves would take ginger with them on their journeys to help relieve nausea during long voyages. In the West Indies, slaves would use ginger to make a popular drink known as giro. This drink was made by boiling water and adding grated ginger, lime juice, and sugar.

Properties of Ginger and Uses

Ginger possesses warm, tangy, slightly bitter, and pepper-forward notes when incorporated into either medicine or food.

Ginger may be sliced and boiled to make herbal tea or added to medicinal cocktails. Furthermore, the root’s flesh may be ground or grated and incorporated into the base of a curry dish, a soup or stew, or into Grandma’s famous gingerbread cookies. What’s more, ginger boiled with sugar will result in a delightful treat known as candied ginger!

Health Benefits of Ginger

The health benefits of ginger are immense. It contains essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, it is an excellent source of vitamins C and B6. It can also do the following:

  • Alleviate inflammation
  • Improve digestion
  • Relieve nausea and vomiting
  • Treat cold and flu viruses
  • Improve brain function
  • Reduce muscle pain
  • Lower blood sugar levels

Recipes that Incorporate Ginger


Piece of ginseng on green surface

A Brief History of Ginseng

Ginseng is an herb derived from the root of the perennial flowering ginseng plant. Although there are 13 species, the Asian ginseng, believed to be the first, is native to Manchuria and Korea.

Its first recorded use in 2500 BC is evidenced in a book called “The Herbal,” written by the Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, who discussed its medical properties. Ginseng was believed to be prophylactic in preventing fatigue, headaches, and stress. Koreans also found it helpful in treating digestive illnesses.

During the 16th century, ginseng root was introduced to North America by French and British explorers. The Native Americans employed it as a remedy for sore throats, skin infections, and fevers. Eventually, ginseng became an essential ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

Properties and Uses of Ginseng

Ginseng possesses a sweet licorice flavor, earthy notes, and a bitter taste.

It can be consumed raw or sliced and boiled for herbal teas, soups, and medicines. Additionally, the root’s flesh may be grated and ground into a powder and incorporated into cookies.

Health Benefits of Ginseng

The consumption of ginseng carries various health benefits. It contains essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Moreover, it serves as a source of vitamins C and B12. It can also do the following:

  • Alleviate inflammation
  • Prevent fatigue
  • Improve mood
  • Boost immune system
  • Improve brain function
  • Lower blood sugar levels

Recipes that Incorporate Ginseng

Key Similarities between Ginger and Ginseng

Ginger and ginseng are both:

  • Herbs that have a long history of use in traditional practices of medicine;
  • Originally from Asia and were believed to be first discussed in Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung’s book on herbal healing entitled, “The Herbal”;
  • Great sources of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin C;
  • Effective in alleviating inflammation and improving brain function; and
  • Incorporated into cooking by boiling the root or grating and grinding it into a powder.

Key Differences between Ginger and Ginseng

Ginger and ginseng differ in the following ways:

  • Ginger is more heavily used in cooking than ginseng.
  • Ginseng can prevent fatigue and can impact mood, whereas ginger cannot.
  • Ginseng is believed to boost the function of the immune system, whereas ginger does not have an impact on immunity.
  • Ginseng is usually consumed in smaller quantities than ginger.
  • Ginger has a sweeter flavor, while ginseng is more bitter.


So, which is better? Ginger or ginseng? The answer is that it depends on:

  1. What health benefits you are seeking; or
  2. What flavors you wish to introduce into your cooking.

They both possess a long history of use and offer many benefits to health and well-being. If you want an herb that can help with digestion, inflammation, and pain relief, then opt for ginger. Comparatively, if you are looking for an adaptogen that can help improve energy levels and focus, then ginseng is the better option for you.

Have you incorporated ginger or ginseng into your cooking at home? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!


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About Savory Suitcase
Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie. 

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Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie.


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