Ginseng is found in North America and in eastern Asia (mostly northeast China, Korea, Bhutan, eastern Siberia), typically in cooler climates. Ginseng is characterized by the presence of ginsenosides and gintonin. Panax vietnamensis, discovered in Vietnam, is the southernmost ginseng known.
Besides P. ginseng, many other plants are also known as or mistaken for the ginseng root. The most commonly known examples are xiyangshen, American ginseng (P. quinquefolius); Japanese ginseng (P. japonicus); crown prince ginseng (Pseudostellaria heterophylla); and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Although all have the name "ginseng", each plant has distinctly different functions. True ginseng plants belong only to the Panax genus.