Korean panax ginseng side effects

Adaptogens have recently become the buzziest thing in mainstream wellness, but in Chinese and Ayurvedic cultures, their health benefits have been touted for centuries. Take ginseng. It’s long been used in Eastern medicine, but Western science has only recently started looking into its benefits by comparison.

As more people around the world start working with the plant, it’s important to understand both how it can boost your health, as well as its side effects, says Dana Nahai, RDN. First of all, when speaking about ginseng, Nahai notes that we’re talking about a specific Panax variety, which is native to China, Korea, and North America. “It’s bitter on the palate, and the pharmacological effect is far more potent when used as a tea, tincture, or powder than when infused, fried, or eaten raw,” she says.

And when you’re looking for the herb, “quality and bioavailability count for everything,” she explains, adding that you should do your research on the herb or supplement before you buy it. The registered dietitian nutritionist advises buying the whole root intact.

Read all about ginseng’s supercharged benefits below.

1. It combats inflammation

“Ginsenosides, the class of plant that ginseng belongs to, may have anti-inflammatory effects, according to experimental results in Journal of Translational Medicine,” Nahai says. The research suggests that these ginsenosides target immune system pathways that ultimately combat inflammation.

2. It’s a potentially natural stimulant for focus and attention

“Ginseng acts as a natural stimulant and is prized for its effect on focus and attention; think of it as our earliest pharmacological treatment for ADHD” Nahai says. Although it’s traditionally been revered this way, recent studies have found mixed results. One study, however, discovered that ginseng did have a positive effect on children with ADHD and another study found that it also has a positive impact on Alzheimer’s.

3. It could improve sex drive in both women and men

“Like the sarsaparilla used to make old world root beer, ginseng contains compounds similar to cortisone. These materials stimulate the adrenal cortex, promoting the production of sex hormones, and making ginseng a centuries-long favorite for improving sex drive” Nahai says. Studies suggest that ginseng improves the sex drive in premenopausal women and can help men with erectile dysfunction. Researches aren’t certain how ginseng affects sexual dysfunction, though.

4. It could prevent and alleviate side effects of cancer.

Nuhai says, “Research has linked a positive association of ginseng use in breast cancer survivors. Findings have shown that patients who used ginseng prior to cancer treatment had a higher rate of survival, with use after treatment increasing quality of life.” Other studies have found that the fatigue associated with cancer treatment was lessened through the use of ginseng.

5. It can be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes

“Another study has linked ginseng supplementation with improved blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics,” Nahai says. The studies found that when diabetics took ginseng while consuming sugar, they saw less of a relative increase in their blood sugar level. Another study found that ginseng was able to make people more responsive to insulin, another important part of alleviating diabetes since insulin resistance is one of the biggest issues.

6. It helps prevent and combat the flu

Since we’re in the thick of flu season, you’re going to want to stock up on ginseng. Numerous studies have found that it’s effective in preventing the onslaught of certain strains of the flu.

But there are also potential side effects.

“Though considered safe, ginseng needs to be thought of as any compound with pharmacological effect: The poison is in the dose,” Nahai says, advocating moderation. “Ginseng is meant to be used as a supplement; an occasional additive, not a part of your daily dietary routine.”

Taking too much of the adaptogen has been linked to everything from headaches to digestive issues, sleep problems, high blood pressure, dizziness, heart palpitations, and more. Nahai says that people with high blood pressure or heart conditions should especially avoid ginseng.

Its environmental impact is something else to consider. And as is the case with any supplement, you should consult your doctor before adding it to your regimen.

If you are introducing adaptogens into your life, here are healthy snack recipes and a hot chocolate recipe to get you through the winter.

Why do people take ginseng?

Ginseng has traditionally been used for a number of medical conditions. However, its benefits for most of them haven’t been seriously researched.

There are two main types of ginseng: Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Studies have found that the different types have different benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine, American ginseng is considered less stimulating than the Asian variety.

Although many other herbs are called ginseng — like eleuthero, or Siberian ginseng — they do not contain the active ingredient of ginsenosides.

Some studies have found that ginseng may boost the immune system. There is some evidence that one particular type of American ginseng extract might decrease the number and severity of colds in adults.

Several studies in people have also shown that ginseng may lower blood sugar levels.

There is some early evidence that ginseng might temporarily — and modestly — improve concentration and learning. In some studies of mental performance, ginseng has been combined with ginkgo. While these studies are intriguing, many experts feel that we need more evidence.

Ginseng has also been studied as a way to improve mood and boost endurance as well as treat cancer, heart disease, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, high blood pressure, menopausal symptoms, and other conditions. While some of these uses are promising, the evidence isn’t conclusive.

What are the health benefits of ginseng?

Share on PinterestGinseng is reported to have multiple health benefits. However, further research is required to confirm these.

Ginseng has traditionally been taken to aid a range of medical conditions.

More research is needed to confirm its benefit as a supplement. However, it is claimed that ginsenosides, chemical components found in ginseng, are responsible for the clinical effect of the herb.

Western scientists and health professionals often question the medicinal properties of ginseng. There is no conclusive evidence that determines its true effectiveness.

Ginseng products can vary in their quality and medicinal properties. Checking the ingredients of ginseng products before purchase is strongly recommended. Some products have been found to contain a small or negligible amount of ginseng, and some contain other substances.

Researchers suggest that the following health benefits are linked to ginseng:

Increased energy

Ginseng may help stimulate physical and mental activity in people who feel weak and tired. One study revealed that ginseng showed good results in helping cancer patients with fatigue.

However, the energy-boosting effects of ginseng were only seen in people currently undergoing treatment. Ginseng did not show statistically significant improvements in people who had already finished cancer treatment.

Sharper cognitive function

Share on PinterestGinseng has demonstrated effects on thinking power, but studies have been inconclusive.

Ginseng may improve thinking processes and cognition. Research published in The Cochrane Library examined the accuracy of this claim.

The study says that ginseng seems to demonstrate benefits for cognition, behavior, and quality of life. However, the authors of the review cautioned that despite some positive findings, studies included in the systematic review did not make a convincing case for the effectiveness of ginseng as a cognitive booster.

Richard Brown, M.D., an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, said about the study:

“It was a very careful review. But as with many Chinese herbs and treatments, while ginseng has been used by millions of people, there aren’t a lot of rigorous modern studies.”

Another study, published in Journal of Dairy Science, explored whether it would be possible to incorporate American ginseng into foods. The researchers developed ginseng-fortified milk with sufficient levels of ginseng to improve cognitive function.

However, it is not possible at this stage to know whether the inclusion of ginseng in a food product would have the desired cognitive effect.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Ginsenosides may have anti-inflammatory effects, according to experimental results in Journal of Translational Medicine.

Ginseng is often used to reduce inflammation. The researchers suggest that ginsenosides may be responsible for targeting pathways in the immune system that could reduce inflammation.

Treatment of erectile dysfunction

Men may take ginseng to treat erectile dysfunction.

A 2002 Korean study revealed that 60 percent of men who took ginseng noticed an improvement in their symptoms. Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology also claimed to provide “evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.”

However, a more recent systematic review has been carried out.

In assessing the effectiveness of red ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction, the review demonstrated that the number of trials, total sample size, and the quality of the experimental methods were not satisfactory for demonstrating ongoing clinical benefit.

More research is needed to confirm ginseng as a reliable treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Flu prevention

Research on the effects of ginseng on mice suggests a between ginseng and the treatment and prevention of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Findings suggested that red ginseng extract could improve the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with the influenza virus. However, many studies of the preventive actions of ginseng against viruses were later discredited as unreliable.

Lowering blood sugar

Several studies suggest that ginseng may help lower blood sugar and help treat diabetes. Ginsenosides may affect insulin production in the pancreas and improve insulin resistance using other mechanisms.

More clinical studies and standardization of ginseng root are needed to consider ginseng as a possible complementary therapy for diabetes. This is so that researchers can investigate what specific doses are effective.

yungshu chao/iStock/Getty Images

Ginseng is a root herb championed in traditional medicine for its health benefits. The two main kinds of ginseng vary as a result of the climates they grow in. Although both types contain active compounds called ginsenosides, Oriental ginseng has been found to lower blood pressure, while American ginseng does not. Also, Oriental ginseng has a stimulating effect, whereas American ginseng has a more relaxing, stress-relieving effect.

Fresh Oriental Ginseng

Oriental ginseng, scientifically known as Panax ginseng, is native to China and Korea and is sometimes called Asian ginseng or Korean ginseng. Fresh Oriental ginseng is often referred to as white ginseng, after its natural color. When dried, it turns tan. In a 2012 study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” on hypertensive rats, the introduction of ginseng to the rats thickened the walls of their blood vessels and lowered their blood pressure. This suggests Oriental ginseng may prevent high blood pressure and even lower blood pressure in humans.

Red Ginseng

Red ginseng is Oriental ginseng processed with heat that turns it red and prolongs its shelf life. Scientists confirmed in a study published in “General Pharmacology” in 2000 that red ginseng also reduces blood pressure in hypertensive rats. In a study published in the “American Journal of Chinese Medicine” in 2000, researchers treated one group of hypertensive patients with red ginseng and the other hypertensive group without ginseng. They found that the red ginseng group experienced increased blood flow compared to the nonginseng group. Because increased blood flow is associated with lower blood pressure, this suggests red ginseng helps alleviate hypertension in people.

American Ginseng

American ginseng, or Panax quinquefolium, is native to the Appalachian mountains of the United States. In a 2005 study published in “Hypertension,” scientists looked at the immediate effects of American ginseng by measuring participants’ blood pressure every 10 minutes for 160 minutes. Compared with participants given a placebo, those given ginseng experienced no difference in mean blood pressure levels. Scientists found no association between American ginseng and blood pressure. In a 2006 study published the same journal, researchers found that American ginseng had no long-term effect on blood pressure either. After participants’ blood pressure levels were checked regularly during three months of taking either ginseng or a placebo, researchers found no difference in blood pressure between the ginseng and placebo groups.

How to Consume Ginseng

To consume fresh ginseng, cut a few thin slices of the root and add it to boiling water to make ginseng tea. You can also mix it into food by simmering a few slices in your soup or other dishes. Ginseng is available in powder and capsule form as well. You can add the powder to smoothies or sprinkle it over your food. When you buy packaged ginseng, make sure it includes “Panax” as part of its name. According to the American Cancer Society, ginseng products from Siberia, Alaska, Brazil and other areas can be mislabeled. Commission E, Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs, recommends 1 to 2 grams of ginseng per day for up to three months.

Panax Ginseng

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Ginseng is an herb also known as Anchi Ginseng, Baie Rouge, Canadian Ginseng, Ginseng à Cinq Folioles, Ginseng Américain, Ginseng Americano, Ginseng Root, North American Ginseng, Occidental Ginseng, Ontario Ginseng, Panax Quinquefolia, Racine de Ginseng, Red Berry, Ren Shen, Sang, Shang, Shi Yang Seng, Xi Yang Shen and other names.

Ginseng has been used in alternative medicine as a possibly effective aid in lowering blood sugar after a meal in patients with diabetes type 2, and for respiratory infections.

Ginseng has also been used to improve athletic performance. However, research has shown that ginseng may not be effective in treating this condition.

Other uses not proven with research have included attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), breast cancer, cancer related fatigue, menopausal symptoms, memory loss, anemia, insomnia, bleeding disorders, digestive disorders and other conditions.

It is not certain whether ginseng is effective in treating any medical condition. Medicinal use of this product has not been approved by the FDA. Ginseng should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.

Ginseng is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.

Ginseng may also be used for purposes not listed in this product guide.

Follow all directions on the product label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

Before using ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider. You may not be able to use ginseng if you have certain medical conditions.

Ask a doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider if it is safe for you to use this product if you have:

  • diabetes;
  • hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrioses or uterine fibroids;
  • insomnia;
  • a mental disorder such as schizophrenia; or
  • an upcoming surgery.

Ginseng is considered likely unsafe to use during pregnancy.

It is not known whether ginseng passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.


Asian ginseng

Also listed as:

Table of Contents > Herbs > Asian ginseng

Overview Plant description What is it Made of? Available Forms How to Take it Precautions Possible Interactions Supporting Research

Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The name “ginseng” refers to both American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), which are made up of similar chemicals. Siberian ginseng, or Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), is a completely different plant and does not have the same active ingredients. Both Asian and American ginseng contain substances called ginsenosides, which researchers think are the active ingredients.

Like American ginseng, Asian ginseng is a gnarled root that looks like a human body with stringy shoots for arms and legs. Long ago, herbalists thought that because of the way ginseng looks it could treat many problems, from fatigue and stress to asthma and cancer. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ginseng is often combined with other herbs.

Today, ginseng is sometimes called an “adaptogen,” which is a substance that is supposed to help the body better cope with mental or physical stress. Scientists have not found any evidence that adaptogens exist. But ginseng has been studied for several conditions, and it is one of the most popular herbs in the United States.

Many studies of Asian or Korean ginseng have used combinations of herbs. So it is not always possible to say whether ginseng by itself produced the results. Research on Asian ginseng has included the following conditions:

Cold and flu

It has been said that Asian ginseng boosts the immune system, which might help the body fight off infection and disease. The best evidence is that it may help reduce your risk of getting a cold or flu. Studies have found that ginseng seems to increase the number of immune cells in the blood and improve the immune system’s response to a flu vaccine. In one study, 227 people got either ginseng or placebo for 12 weeks, and got a flu vaccine after 4 weeks. The number of colds and flu were two-thirds lower in the group that took ginseng.

Two studies found that ginseng lowered the chance of getting a cold. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 323 people, those who took 400 mg of ginseng daily for 4 months had fewer colds. When they did get a cold, it was less severe and shorter than the colds of people who took placebo.

Heart health

Asian ginseng seems to be an antioxidant. Antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals, which are substances that can damage DNA and contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. Preliminary studies suggest Asian ginseng may improve the symptoms of heart disease in people. It also may decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.

Asian ginseng’s effect on blood pressure is more complicated. Some studies suggest it lowers blood pressure while others found that it causes blood pressure to rise. This has led researchers to question if ginseng increases blood pressure at usual doses, but lowers it when doses are higher. Until researchers know for sure, you should not take ginseng if you have high blood pressure unless your doctor tells you it is OK.

Type 2 diabetes

Although American ginseng has been studied more for diabetes, both types of Panax ginsengs may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, in a few studies it looked like Asian or Korean ginseng raised blood sugar levels. Some people think that the ginsenosides in American ginseng might lower blood sugar while different ginsenosides in Asian ginseng could raise blood sugar levels. Until researchers know more, you should not take ginseng if you have diabetes without your doctor’s supervision and monitoring.

Mental performance

People who take ginseng often say they feel more alert. Several studies report that Asian ginseng may slightly improve thinking or learning. Early research shows that Asian ginseng may improve performance on such things as mental arithmetic, concentration, memory, and other measures. Some studies have also found a positive effect with the combination of Asian ginseng and Ginkgo biloba.

Most of the studies have found that ginseng does improve mental performance. But they have measured different kinds of mental function. That makes it hard to know exactly what the effects of ginseng are. For example, one study found that people who took ginseng increased their ability for abstract thought. But it did not create any changes in their reaction time or concentration levels.

Physical endurance

There have been a number of studies using Asian ginseng for athletic performance in people and laboratory animals. Results have been mixed, with some studies showing better strength and endurance, others showing improved agility or reaction time, and others showing no effect at all. Even so, athletes often take Asian ginseng to boost both endurance and strength. Asian ginseng was also found to reduce fatigue in a study of 332 people.

Stress and well-being

Asian ginseng is sometimes credited with helping the body deal with physical or mental stress. While these properties can be difficult to study, there is some evidence that ginseng (both Asian and American) can improve quality of life, although quality of life can be hard to measure, too.

A study of 501 men and women living in Mexico City found better quality of life measures (energy, sleep, sex life, personal satisfaction, and well-being) in those taking Asian ginseng. Another well-designed study found that people who took a nutritional supplement with ginseng said they had better quality of life than those taking the same supplement without ginseng.

Fertility/erectile dysfunction

Asian ginseng is widely believed to boost sexual performance. But there are not many studies to back this up. In animal studies, Asian ginseng has increased sperm production, sexual activity, and sexual performance. A study of 46 men has also shown an increase in sperm count as well as motility. Another study in 60 men found that Asian ginseng increased sex drive and decreased erection problems. Also, in one study of 45 men, those who took 900 mg of Korean ginseng 3 times per day for 8 weeks had less trouble getting an erection than those who took placebo.


Several studies suggest that Asian ginseng may reduce the risk of some types of cancers. In one observational study, researchers followed 4,634 people for 5 years. They found that those who took ginseng had lower risks of lung, liver, pancreatic, ovarian, and stomach cancers. But the study could not be sure that other things, including healthy eating habits, were responsible for the lower risk of cancer. The study also found that taking ginseng only 3 times a year led to a big reduction in cancer risk.

Several studies suggest that Asian ginseng slows down or stops the growth of tumors, although researchers are not yet sure how it might work in humans. More research is needed.

Menopausal symptoms

There have been only a few studies of ginseng for menopausal symptoms. Two well-designed studies evaluating red Korean (Asian) ginseng suggest it may relieve some of the symptoms of menopause, improving sense of well-being and mood, particularly feelings of depression. People took ginseng along with a vitamin and mineral supplement. Other studies show no effect.

Plant description

The ginseng plant has leaves that grow in a circle around a straight stem. Yellowish-green, umbrella-shaped flowers grow in the center and produce red berries. Ginseng has a taproot that looks a little like the human body, with 2 “arms” and 2 “legs.” Wrinkles around the neck of the root tell how old the plant is. Ginseng is not ready to be used as medicine until it has grown for about 6 years.

Asian or Chinese and Korean ginseng are the same plants, but grown in different areas. American ginseng is a relative of the same species, native to North America.

What is it Made of?

Asian ginseng supplements are made from the ginseng root, and the long, thin offshoots, called root hairs. Both Asian or Korean and American ginseng have ginsenosides, saponins that are ginseng’s active ingredients. Asian ginseng also contains glycans (panaxans), polysaccharide fraction DPG-3-2, peptides, maltol, B vitamins, flavonoids, and volatile oil.

Available Forms

White ginseng (dried, peeled) or red ginseng (unpeeled root, steamed before drying) is available in water, water-and-alcohol, or alcohol liquid extracts, and in powders or capsules. Asian ginseng root is also available for making decoctions (boiling the root in water).

Read the label carefully to make sure you get the type of ginseng you want. If you are looking for Asian ginseng, make sure you buy Korean, red, or Panax ginseng. If you are looking for American ginseng, you should buy Panax quinquefolius. Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), which is sometimes called Siberian ginseng, does not have the same active ingredients as Asian or American ginseng.

How to Take it


Do not give ginseng to a child.


Asian ginseng comes in different forms and is often used in combination with other herbs or nutrients. Talk with an experienced health care practitioner to find the right dose for you.

Healthy people who want to boost physical or mental performance, prevent illness, or better resist stress should take Asian ginseng in cycles. For example, take every day for 2 to 3 weeks, then stop for 3 weeks, then start back.


The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care under the supervision of a health care provider, qualified in the field of botanical medicine.

Asian ginseng should not be taken continuously; take periodic breaks and consult a trained herbal prescriber if you are considering long-term use.

Asian ginseng may cause nervousness or sleeplessness, especially if taken at high doses or combined with caffeine. Other side effects are rare, but may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Nose bleed
  • Breast pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

To avoid hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, even in people without diabetes, take Asian ginseng with food.

People with high blood pressure should not take Asian ginseng products without their doctor’s supervision. People who are ill or have low blood pressure should take caution when using Asian ginseng.

People with bipolar disorder should not take ginseng because it may increase the risk of mania.

People with an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Crohn disease, should ask their doctors before taking Asian ginseng. Theoretically, Asian ginseng may boost an already overactive immune system.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take Asian ginseng. Asian ginseng may cause vaginal bleeding.

Women who have a history of breast cancer should not take ginseng.

Stop taking Asian ginseng at least 7 days prior to surgery. Asian ginseng may act as a blood thinner, increasing the risk of bleeding during or after a procedure.

Possible Interactions

If you are currently taking any of the following medications, you should not use Asian ginseng without first talking to your health care provider:

ACE inhibitors (blood pressure medications): Asian ginseng may interact with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors used to lower high blood pressure. These medications include:

Calcium channel blockers (heart and blood pressure medications): Asian ginseng may make certain heart medications, including calcium channel blockers, work differently than intended. These medications include:

  • Amlodipine (Norvasc)
  • Diltiazem (Cardizem)
  • Nifedipine (Procardia)

Blood-thinners (anticoagulants and antiplatelets): Asian ginseng may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you already take blood thinners, such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or clopidogrel (Plavix).

Caffeine: Ginseng may make the effect of caffeine stronger, possibly causing nervousness, sweating, insomnia, or irregular heartbeat.

Diabetes medications, including insulin: Ginseng may lower blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

Drugs that suppress the immune system: Asian ginseng may boost the immune system and may interact with drugs taken to treat an autoimmune disease or drugs taken after organ transplant.

Stimulants: Ginseng may increase the stimulant effect and side effects of some medications taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin).

MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors): Ginseng may increase the risk of mania when taken with MAOIs, a kind of antidepressant. There have been reports of interaction between ginseng and phenelzine (Nardil) causing headaches, tremors, and mania. MAOIs include:

  • Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
  • Phenelzine (Nardil)
  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate)

Morphine: Asian ginseng may block the painkilling effects of morphine.

Furosemide (Lasix): Some researchers think Asian ginseng may interfere with Lasix, a diuretic (water pill) that helps the body get rid of excess fluid.

Other medications: Asian ginseng may interact with medications that are broken down by the liver. To be safe, if you take any medications, ask your doctor before taking Asian ginseng.

Supporting Research

Adams LL, Gatchel RJ. Complementary and alternative medicine: applications and implications for cognitive functioning in elderly populations. Alt Ther. 2000;7(2):52-61.

Ang-Lee MK, Moss J, Yuan C-S. Herbal medicines and perioperative care. JAMA. 2001;286(2):208-16.

Biondo PD, Robbins SJ, Walsh JD, McCargar LJ, Harber VJ, Field CJ. A randomized controlled crossover trial of the effect of ginseng consumption on the immune response to moderate exercise in healthy sedentary men. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Oct;33(5):966-75.

Bucci LR. Selected herbals and human exercise performance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(2 Suppl):624S-36S.

Cardinal BJ, Engels HJ. Ginseng does not enhance psychological well-being in healthy, young adults: Results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001;101:655-60.

Chen CF, Chiou WF, Zhang JT. Comparison of the pharmacological effects of Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolium. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2008 Sep;29(9):1103-8.

Coleman CI, Hebert JH, Reddy P. The effects of Panax ginseng on quality of life. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2003;28(1):5-15.

Fugh-Berman A. Herb-drug interactions. Lancet. 2000;355:134-8.

Gyllenhaal C, Merritt SL, Peterson SD, et al. Efficacy and safety of herbal stimulants and sedatives in sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev. 2000;4(2):229-251.

Harkey MR, Henderson GL, Gershwin ME, et al. Variability in commercial ginseng products: an analysis of 25 preparations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73:1101-6.

Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-7.

Hong B, Ji YH, Hong JH, et al. A double-blind crossover study evaluating the efficacy of korean red ginseng in patients with erectile dysfunction: a preliminary report. J Urol. 2002;168(5):2070-3.

Izzo AA, Ernst E. Interactions between herbal medicines and prescribed drugs: a systematic review. Drugs. 2001;61(15):2163-75.

Jiang X, Williams KM, Liauw WS, et al. Effect of St John’s wort and ginseng on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of warfarin in healthy subjects. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2004;57(5):592-9.

Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Wesnes KA. Modulation of cognition and mood following administration of single doses of Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and a ginkgo/ginseng combination to heathy young adults. Physiol Behav. 2002;75:739-51.

Kim JH, Park CY, Lee SJ. Effects of Sun Ginseng on subjective quality of life in cancer patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2006;31:331-4.

Liu J, Burdette JE, Xu H, et al. Evaluation of estrogenic activity of plant extracts for the potential treatment of menopausal symptoms. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49(5):2472-9.

Mantle D, Lennard TWJ, Pickering AT. Therapeutic applications of medicinal plants in the treatment of breast cancer: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy and tolerability. Adverse Drug React Toxicol Rev. 2000;19(3):2223-40.

Mantle D, Pickering AT, Perry AK. Medicinal plant extracts for the treatment of dementia: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy, and tolerability. CNS Drugs. 2000;13:201-13.

McElhaney JE, Gravenstein S, Cole SK, et al. A placebo-controlled trial of a proprietary extract of North American ginseng (CVT-E002) to prevent acute respiratory illness in institutionalized older adults. J Am GeriatrSoc. 2004;52:13-19.

McElhaney JE, Goel V, Toane B, et al. Efficacy of COLD-fX in the prevention of respiratory symptoms in community-dwelling adults: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12:153-7.

Mucalo I, Jovanovski E, Rahelic D, Bozikov V, Rmoic Z, Vuksan V. Effect of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) on arterial stiffness in subjects with type-2 diabetes and concomitant hypertension. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013;150(1):148-53.

Park SE, Park C, Kim SH, Hossain MA, Kim MY, Chung HY, et al. Korean red ginseng extract induces apoptosis and decreases telomerase activity in human leukemia cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jan 21;121(2):304-12.

Predy GN, Goel V, Lovlin R, et al. Efficacy of an extract of North American ginseng containing poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides for preventing upper respiratory tract infections: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2005;173:1043-8.

Reay JL, Scholey AB, Kennedy DO. Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2010 Aug;25(6):462-71.

Sinclaire S. Male infertility: nutritional and environmental considerations. Alt Med Rev. 2000;5(1):28-38.

Sung J, Han K-H, Zo J-H, et al. Effects of red ginseng upon vascular endothelial function in patients with essential hypertension. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2000;28(2):205-16.

Wargovich MJ. Colon cancer chemoprevention with ginseng and other botanicals. J Korean Med Sci. 2001;16 Suppl:S81-S86.

Review Date: 6/22/2015
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Generic Name: ginseng (GIN seng)
Brand Name:

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Jul 24, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

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Important Information

Follow all directions on the product label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

Before taking this medicine

Before using ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider. You may not be able to use ginseng if you have certain medical conditions.

Ask a doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider if it is safe for you to use this product if you have:

  • diabetes;

  • hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrioses or uterine fibroids;

  • insomnia;

  • a mental disorder such as schizophrenia; or

  • an upcoming surgery.

Ginseng is considered likely unsafe to use during pregnancy.

It is not known whether ginseng passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.

How should I take ginseng?

When considering the use of herbal supplements, seek the advice of your doctor. You may also consider consulting a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal/health supplements.

If you choose to use ginseng, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider. Do not use more of this product than is recommended on the label.

Do not use different formulations of ginseng (such as tablets, liquids, and others) at the same time, unless specifically directed to do so by a health care professional. Using different formulations together increases the risk of an overdose.

Call your doctor if the condition you are treating with ginseng does not improve, or if it gets worse while using this product.

If you need surgery or dental work, stop taking ginseng at least 2 weeks ahead of time.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra ginseng to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while taking ginseng?

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

Avoid using ginseng together with other herbal/health supplements that can lower blood sugar, such as alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, devil’s claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, psyllium, and others.

Ginseng side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Although not all side effects are known, ginseng is thought to be likely safe for most people, when taken by mouth for a short period of time.

Stop using ginseng and call your healthcare provider at once if you have:

  • severe skin reaction–fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.

Common side effects may include:

  • diarrhea;

  • insomnia;

  • headache;

  • rapid heartbeat;

  • increased or decreased blood pressure;

  • breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect ginseng?

Other drugs may interact with ginseng, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Do not take ginseng without medical advice if you are using any of the following medications:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with ginseng, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this product guide.

Further information

  • Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before using any herbal/health supplement. Whether you are treated by a medical doctor or a practitioner trained in the use of natural medicines/supplements, make sure all your healthcare providers know about all of your medical conditions and treatments.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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Also known as: Asian ginseng, ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, Panax ginseng, American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius.

Potential uses: The two varieties of ginseng, Asian and American, are claimed to boost the immune system and promote a sense of well-being and stamina. There are also claims that ginseng can control blood glucose and blood pressure levels and relieve menopausal symptoms, depression, and anxiety. It’s possible that ginseng can alleviate certain side effects of cancer and its treatment, such as fatigue.

Usual dose: Although there is no standard recommended dose, a recent study of ginseng for cancer-related fatigue used daily doses ranging from 750 to 2,000 milligrams for 8 weeks. Due to potential side effects, many experts recommend using ginseng for 3 months or less. Ginseng comes in different forms; the root is dried and used to make tablets or capsules, extracts, and teas, as well as creams or other preparations for external use.

Are there any risks? Ginseng can cause side effects such as headaches, sleep problems, restlessness, a faster heart rate, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as allergic reactions. Some women may experience breast tenderness and menstrual irregularities. Ginseng may lower levels of blood sugar, so people with diabetes who are already taking medications to control blood sugar need to be extra cautious.

What does the research show? Small studies have suggested that ginseng may help alleviate cancer-related fatigue. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are conducting a clinical trial of American ginseng as a treatment for this side effect.

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Last modified on May 8, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Ginseng: benefits, dosage, side-effects

Find out all about ginseng, including what it does, the benefits of taking it and how much you might need

Written by Cheryl Freedman on December 11, 2018
Reviewed by Dr Sarah Schenker on December 18, 2018

What is ginseng and what does it do?

Ginseng is a popular herbal remedy that grows in parts of Asia and northern America. The roots of ginseng plants have been used as a herbal remedy for centuries in China, Korea and other Asian countries.

Traditionally, ginseng has been used:

  • to boost energy
  • improve cognition function
  • reduce blood sugar
  • eliminate stress
  • balance cholesterol
  • prevent sexual problems in men1,2

Nowadays, ginseng is most commonly used as a herb to beat tiredness and restore vitality.3

There are two types of ginseng:

  • white ginseng – this is made using dried ginseng root
  • red ginseng – the root is dried, then steamed4

Ginseng is available as capsules, liquid extract or as a tea.

Benefits of ginseng

What does ginseng do in the body?

The main active ingredients in ginseng are ginsenosides, which scientists think have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.5

Ginseng is also thought to have the following effects:

It can help beat fatigue: ginseng can be used for short-term treatment of fatigue, weakness and lack of vitality, according to the European Medicines Agency’s Committee on Herbal Medicine Products (HMPC).6

It can stabilise blood sugar: a number of studies suggest ginseng can help to regulate blood sugar levels. For example, a 2018 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reported that Panax ginseng reduced blood sugar within one hour of consuming it.7

It may support your brain: scientists think ginseng has a stimulatory effect on the brain.8 In fact, the above study found that after taking ginseng, participants performed better on a mental arithmetic test than those taking the placebo.9

Meanwhile, a 2010 study by Northumbria University reported that 400mg of ginseng taken daily for eight days increased participants’ sense of calmness and ability to perform mental arithmetic.10 However, other studies into ginseng’s effect on memory and concentration have had mixed results, so more research is needed.

It can increase blood circulation: in 2013, Korean scientists also reported that red ginseng in particular can dilate blood vessels – improving the flow of blood not just through each vein, but throughout the whole circulatory system.11

If you’re interested in taking ginseng, talk to your GP or a healthcare professional before you do.


How much ginseng is safe to take?

There is no standard dose of ginseng, so make sure you follow the instructions on the label carefully. Ginseng root medicines should only be used by adults and taken for no longer than three months.12

If you are on medication, talk to your GP before taking ginseng – it can interact with certain medicines, including warfarin and aspirin.13

The following groups should not take ginseng:

  • children under 12 – this has not been proven safe
  • pregnant or breastfeeding women – scientists are not certain this is safe
  • people with diabetes, as ginseng can interact with blood sugar levels


What are the side-effects of taking ginseng?

Ginseng is considered safe to take. However, side-effects reported from ginseng include:

  • allergic reactions, such as itching or a rash
  • digestive problems including nausea and diarrhoea
  • headaches
  • sleep issues
  • changes to blood pressure14

Ginseng is a stimulant, so you may also experience more enhanced effects after drinking caffeine, such as a racing heart and insomnia.15

If you experience any of the symptoms above, stop taking ginseng and talk to your GP.

Shop Ginseng

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

1. Medical News Today. What are the health benefits of ginseng?
2. Arlene Semeco. Healthline. 8 proven health benefits of ginseng
3. European Medicines Agency. Assessment report on Panax Ginseng C. A. Meyer, radix
4. Baeg IH, So SH. The world ginseng market and the ginseng (Korea)
5. Kim JH, et al. Role of ginsenosides, the main active components of Panax ginseng, in inflammatory responses and diseases
6. As source 3
7. Reay JL, Kennedy DO, Scholey A. Effects of Panax ginseng, consumed with and without glucose, on blood glucose levels and cognitive performance during sustained ‘mentally demanding’ tasks
8. Ong W-Y, et al. Protective effects of ginseng on neurological disorders
9. As Source 7
10. Reay JL, Scholey AB, Kennedy DO. Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults
11. Kang J, et al. Study on improving blood flow with Korean red ginseng substances using digital infrared thermal imaging and Dopler sonography: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with parallel design
12. As Source 3
13. As Source 1
14. As Source 1
15. As Source 1

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