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Ginseng 

Botanical name(s):

Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng, an endangered species), Panax repens. Family: Araliaceae

Other name(s):

American ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, man-root, Schinsent

General description

Ginseng is a popular herb. A common name for ginseng is "man-root." This is because the root is shaped like a person. It has benefits for the whole body. The medicinal part is made of the dried main and lateral root and root hairs.

Ginseng commonly refers to Panax quinquefolius L. (American ginseng) or Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer (Korean ginseng). Siberian Ginseng comes from a slightly different family than Panax. It’s called Eleutherocossus Senticosus Maxim. Both families of ginseng share the same chemical constituents. Panax ginseng contains saponin glycosides. These are also known as ginsenosides. Siberian ginseng doesn’t contain ginsenosides. But it has another class of compounds called eleutherosides. In all cases, they’re called adaptogens.

Medically valid uses

Animal studies show that ginseng improves stamina. It may also increase the activity of the immune system. There are no established uses for ginseng in humans.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Ginseng is claimed to do the following:

  • Boost the immune system

  • Improve memory

  • Improve physical and mental performance

  • Improve glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes

  • Strengthen adrenal and reproductive glands

  • Speed recovery time from illnesses

  • Ease withdrawal from cocaine

  • Protect against the effects of radiation

  • Prevent upper respiratory infections

  • Stop blood from coagulating

  • Act like an antidepressant

  • Improve the body’s ability to respond to stressful situations

  • Widen blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure.

Dosing format

You can take ginseng in doses of 1 to 2 grams of root 3 or 4 times per day. You should only use it for 3 to 4 weeks. How much to take and how long to take it can vary depending upon what it is being used for. Always walk with your healthcare provider before using it.

Ginseng comes in the form of tea, dried herbs, powder, or capsules.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Ginseng can cause side effects in some cases. These include headaches, digestive and sleep problems.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines. Children should only use ginseng if their healthcare provider says to.

Don’t use ginseng if you have certain health issues. These include low blood sugar, high blood pressure, or heart problems.

If you’re taking medicines that lower blood sugar, talk to your healthcare provider before using ginseng. It may lower your blood sugar too much.

There are no other known food or medicine interactions with ginseng.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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