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Panax Ginseng

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated April 07, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Panax Ginseng Jeff Shaffer/Dawn Smith/Getty Images

Panax ginseng is one of several types of ginseng commonly used in herbal medicine. Other types of ginseng include American ginseng and Siberian ginseng. The active compounds in Panax ginseng are believed to be steroid-like components called ginsenosides.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, each type of ginseng is thought to have unique healing properties. Panax ginseng, for example, possesses "heating" properties, which help to improve circulation.

Health Benefits of Ginseng:

Although research on Panax ginseng is fairly limited, there's some evidence that the herb may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at several key study findings:

1) Mental Ability

Panax ginseng may improve cognitive performance during prolonged periods of mental activity, according to a 2005 study from the Journal of Psychopharmacology. In a clinical trial involving 30 healthy young adults, researchers found that those given Panax ginseng were less likely to experience mental fatigue while taking a test (compared to those given a placebo).

 

In addition, a 2000 study in Psychopharmacology showed that a combination of Panax ginseng and ginkgo biloba may help enhance memory in healthy middle-aged adults.

Learn about other Natural Ways to Improve Memory and find about the use of Fish Oil For Memory.

2) Diabetes

A small 2008 study from Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases showed that Panax ginseng may aid in diabetes management. The study involved 19 people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. Compared to those given a placebo for 12 weeks, study members who took Panax ginseng supplements for the same time period experienced greater improvements in blood sugar control.

Learn about Natural Remedies for Diabetes.

3) Erectile Dysfunction

Panax ginseng appears to be effective in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, suggests a 2002 study from the Journal of Urology. In tests on 45 men with erectile dysfunction, those who took Panax ginseng for eight weeks showed greater improvements than those given a placebo for the same time period.

In an earlier study of 90 men with erectile dysfunction, 60 percent of the participants reported improvement in their symptoms compared with 30 percent of those using the placebo. The study was published in the International Journal of Impotence Research.

Unlike prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction (which are usually taken when needed), ginseng only appears to be useful for erectile dysfunction if taken on a continuous basis.

More about Natural Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction.

Common Uses For Ginseng

Panax ginseng is typically promoted for the treatment or prevention of the following health problems:

 

 

Panax ginseng is also used to slow the aging process, enhance memory, boost stamina, stimulate the immune system and improve sports performance.

Common Uses For Panax Ginseng

Panax ginseng is available in different forms. White ginseng, for instance, is Panax ginseng that has been dried and peeled. Red ginseng, on the other hand, is unpeeled Panax ginseng that is steamed before drying. White and red ginseng are available in tinctures, liquid extracts, powders and capsules.

In traditional Chinese medicine, red ginseng is thought to promote "yang" energy to a greater degree than white ginseng. As a result, red ginseng may be overstimulating in some cases.

More Research

Other research suggests that Panax ginseng may not be helpful for some conditions. For instance, studies have found Panax ginseng ineffective for alleviating hot flashes, improving mood and boosting sports performance. In addition, the National Institutes of Health noted that there is not enough research to rate Panax ginseng's effectiveness in treatment of a number of conditions (including depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, colds, the flu, bronchitis, fever, digestive problems, fibromyalgia and anemia).

 

Side Effects of Panax Ginseng

Children or pregnant or nursing women should avoid Panax ginseng. People with hormone-dependent illnesses such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or cancers of the breast, ovaries, uterus, or prostate should avoid Panax ginseng because it may have estrogenic effects.

 

Panax ginseng may decrease the rate and force of heartbeats, so it shouldn't be used by people with heart disease (unless under the supervision of a healthcare provider).

Panax ginseng may lower blood sugar levels, so it shouldn't be taken by people with diabetes unless under a doctor's supervision. In addition, Panax ginseng may interact with insulin and other drugs for diabetes, such as metformin, glyburide, glimepiride and glipizide.

Panax ginseng may worsen insomnia.

Side effects of Panax ginseng may include nervousness, agitation, insomnia, diarrhea, headaches, high blood pressure and heart palpitations.

Herb-Drug Interactions for Panax Ginseng

Panax ginseng can increase the effect of blood-thinners (such as clopidogrel, ticlopidine, warfarin, heparin and aspirin), which may result in uncontrolled bleeding or hemorrhage. Certain herbs (such as danshen, devil's claw, eleuthero, garlic, ginger, horse chestnut, papain, red clover, and saw palmetto) can also increase the risk of bleeding if combined with ginseng.

Panax ginseng may affect heart rhythm and can increase potential side effects from theophylline (and similar asthma drugs), albuterol, clonidine and sildenafil citrate (Viagra).

Panax ginseng may interfere with the metabolism of monoamine oxidase (MOA) inhibitors, such as phenelzine sulfate, tranylcypromine sulfate and isocabaxazid. It's also believed to affect levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells) and may interact with antipsychotic drugs such as chlorpromazine and fluphenazine.

Panax ginseng stimulates the central nervous system, so it may increase the effects of prescription drugs that do the same (such as medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, and obesity). The combination may raise heart rate and blood pressure.

Panax ginseng has been found to interfere with the metabolism of drugs processed by an enzyme called cyp3A4. Ask your doctor to check if you are taking medications of this type.

Other Types of Ginseng

In traditional Chinese medicine, American ginseng is said to have "cooling" properties. This type of ginseng is often touted as a natural remedy for diabetes. American ginseng is also said to stimulate the immune system, improve strength and stamina, and treat and prevent some forms of cancer.

Also used to boost strength, stamina, and immunity, Siberian ginseng is sometimes taken to ease the side effects of chemotherapy. In addition, Siberian ginseng is thought to act as an adaptogen and protect against atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

Using Panax Ginseng

While Panax ginseng may help with certain health conditions, it's crucial to consult your care provider before using Panax ginseng (or any other herb) to treat a health condition.

Sources

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 Jun;101(6):655-60.

Choi HK et al. Clinical efficacy of Korean red ginseng for erectile dysfunction. International Journal of Impotence Research. 7.3 (1995):181-6.

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

National Institutes of Health. "Ginseng, Panax: MedlinePlus Supplements". April 2011.

Reay JL, Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. "Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity." J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jul;19(4):357-65.

University of Maryland Medical Center. "Asian ginseng". Last accessed May 2011.

Vuksan V, Sung MK, Sievenpiper JL, Stavro PM, Jenkins AL, Di Buono M, Lee KS, Leiter LA, Nam KY, Arnason JT, Choi M, Naeem A. "Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) improves glucose and insulin regulation in well-controlled, type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of efficacy and safety." Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2008 Jan;18(1):46-56.

Wesnes KA, Ward T, McGinty A, Petrini O. "The memory enhancing effects of a Ginkgo biloba/Panax ginseng combination in healthy middle-aged volunteers." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Nov;152(4):353-61.

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