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Scientific names: Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer or Panax quinquefolius L.

Common names: Ginseng is also known as P. ginseng: radix ginseng, Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, or Oriental ginseng; P. quinquefolius: American ginseng or Canadian ginseng

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Ginseng?

In the eastern and central US and Canada, American ginseng is found in rich, cool woods; a large crop is grown commercially in Wisconsin. Asian ginseng is cultivated in Korea and China. The short plant grows 3 to 7 compound leaves that drop in the fall and bears a cluster of red or yellowish colored fruits from June to July. The shape of the root varies among species and has been used to distinguish types of ginseng. The root contains the highest amount of active ginsenosides. Ginsenoside content varies with the age of the root, season of harvest, and preservation method. While at least 4 ginsenosides are detectable in most young roots, the content more than doubles after 6 years of growth. High-quality ginseng generally is collected in the fall after 5 to 6 years of growth.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Ginseng is perhaps the most widely recognized plant used in traditional medicine and now plays a major role in herbal health care. For more than 2,000 years, various forms have been used in medicine. The name Panax derives from the Greek word for “all healing”. Ginseng root's man-shaped figure (shen-seng means “man-root”) led proponents of the doctrine of signatures, an ancient philosophy, to believe that the root could strengthen any part of the body. Through the ages, the root has been used in the treatment of loss of strength, hardened arteries, blood and bleeding disorders, and colitis, and to relieve the symptoms of aging, cancer, and senility.

General uses

Ginseng is widely used for its antistress, anticancer, immune system modulation, cardiovascular, CNS, and hormonal effects, and for improvement of athletic performance, but these uses have not been confirmed by clinical trials.

What is the recommended dosage?

According to the Complete German Commission E Monographs, crude preparations of dried root powder 1 to 2 g can be taken daily for up to 3 months. In numerous clinical trials, the dosage of crude root has ranged from 0.5 to 3 g/day and the dose of extracts has generally ranged from 100 to 400 mg.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not been established aside from known hypersensitivity.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

Limited evidence exists for any established interactions, with most data derived from laboratory studies and healthy volunteers. Very few case reports exist; however, use ginseng cautiously with the following medicines: antidiabetic drugs/insulin, antipsychotic drugs, caffeine and other stimulants, furosemide, imatinib, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and nifedipine. Reports of interactions with warfarin and antiviral drugs are conflicting.

Side Effects

It is estimated that more than 6 million people ingest ginseng regularly in the United States. There have been few reports of severe reactions and a very low incidence of adverse events has been reported in clinical trials. Allergic reactions have been reported. Inappropriate use of P. ginseng or ginseng abuse syndrome includes symptoms such as high blood pressure, diarrhea, sleeplessness, breast pain, skin rash, confusion, and depression.

Toxicities

None known.

References

  1. Ginseng. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; September 2011.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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