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Asian Ginseng



Background

Asian ginseng is native to the Far East, including China and Korea, and has been used for health-related purposes for at least 2,000 years. Asian ginseng is one of several types of ginseng (another is American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius). The terms red ginseng and white ginseng refer to Asian ginseng roots prepared in two different ways. The herb called Siberian ginseng or eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is not related to true ginseng.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Asian ginseng was used as a tonic that was believed to replenish energy. Today, Asian ginseng is used as a dietary supplement to improve general well-being, physical stamina, and concentration; stimulate immune function; slow the aging process; and relieve various health problems such as respiratory disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and menopausal hot flashes.

The root of Asian ginseng contains chemical components called ginsenosides (or panaxosides) that are thought to contribute to the herb’s claimed health-related properties.

How Much Do We Know?

There have been many studies of Asian ginseng in people, but few have been high quality. Therefore, our understanding of Asian ginseng’s health effects is limited.

What Have We Learned?

There’s currently no conclusive evidence supporting any health benefits of Asian ginseng.

What Do We Know About Safety?

Short-term use of Asian ginseng in recommended amounts appears to be safe for most people. However, questions have been raised about its long-term safety, and some experts recommend against its use by infants, children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The most common side effects of ginseng are headaches, sleep problems, and digestive problems.

Some evidence suggests that Asian ginseng might affect blood sugar and blood pressure. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, consult your health care provider before using Asian ginseng.

The risk of interactions between ginseng and medications is believed to be low, but there are uncertainties about whether ginseng might interact with certain medications, such as the anticoagulant (blood thinner) warfarin (Coumadin). If you’re taking medication, consult your health care provider before using Asian ginseng.

Keep in Mind

Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Key References

  • Geng J, Dong J, Ni H, et al. Ginseng for cognition. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010;(12):CD007769. Accessed at http://www.thecochranelibrary.com(link is external) on March 31, 2015.
  • Ginseng, panax. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/ on March 30, 2015. [Database subscription].
  • Ginseng root. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:170-177.
  • Gurley BJ, Fifer EK, Gardner Z. Pharmacokinetic herb-drug interactions (part 2): drug interactions involving popular botanical dietary supplements and their clinical relevance. Planta Medica. 2012;78(13):1490-1514.
  • Jia L, Soldati, F. Ginseng, Asian. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:348-362.
  • Karmazyn M, Moey M, Gan XT. Therapeutic potential of ginseng in the management of cardiovascular disorders. Drugs. 2011;71(15):1989-2008.
  • Shergis JL, Zhang AL, Zhou W, et al. Panax ginseng in randomised controlled trials: a systematic review. Phytotherapy Research. 2013;27(7):949-965.

-NIH



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