What is it?
Panax ginseng is used for improving thinking, concentration, memory and work efficiency, physical stamina, and athletic endurance.
Some people use Panax ginseng to help them cope with stress and as a general tonic for improving well-being. They sometimes call Panax ginseng an “adaptogen” when it’s used in this way.
Panax ginseng is also used for depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), for boosting the immune system, and for fighting particular infections in a lung disease called cystic fibrosis. These infections are caused by a bacterium named Pseudomonas.
Some people use Panax ginseng to treat breast cancer and prevent ovarian cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, and skin cancer.
Other uses include treatment of anemia, diabetes, inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis), fever, hangover, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma.
Panax ginseng is also used for bleeding disorders, loss of appetite, vomiting, intestinal problems, fibromyalgia, sleeping problems (insomnia), nerve pain, joint pain, dizziness, headache, convulsions, disorders of pregnancy and childbirth, hot flashes due to menopause, and to slow the aging process.
Some men use Panax ginseng on the skin of the penis as part of a multi-ingredient product for treating early orgasm (premature ejaculation). Men also use it for erectile dysfunction (ED). There is some evidence that Panax ginseng is effective for these uses.
In manufacturing, Panax ginseng is used to make soaps, cosmetics, and as a flavoring in beverages.
Ginseng has been used as a medicine for over two thousand years. Today, approximately 6 million Americans use it regularly.
Some people consider the age of the ginseng roots important. In 1976, a 400-year-old root of Manchurian ginseng from the mountains of China reportedly sold for $10,000 per ounce.
In Western medicine, Panax ginseng is used as a stimulant to make people more active. But, in contrast, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Panax ginseng is used to make people feel calmer. It is also widely used in China for the heart and blood vessels. Higher doses are generally used in TCM than in Western medicine.
Be aware that Panax ginseng products are not always what they claim. The contents of products labeled as containing Panax ginseng can vary greatly. Many contain little or no Panax ginseng.
Panax ginseng interacts with many prescription drugs. See the section below titled “Are there any interactions with medications?” If you take medications, talk to your healthcare provider before taking Panax ginseng.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for GINSENG, PANAX are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence shows that taking Panax ginseng root daily for 12 weeks can improve mental performance in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Taking Panax ginseng by mouth seems to improve lung function and some symptoms of COPD.
- Mental function. Taking Panax ginseng by mouth might improve abstract thinking, mental arithmetic skills, and reaction times in healthy, middle-aged people but not in young adults. Panax ginseng alone does not seem to improve memory, but there is some evidence that a combination of Panax ginseng and ginkgo leaf extract can improve memory in otherwise healthy people between the ages of 38 and 66.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED). Taking Panax ginseng by mouth seems to improve sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction.
- High blood pressure. Early evidence shows that taking Panax ginseng might slightly decrease blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
- Premature ejaculation. Applying a cream containing Panax ginseng, angelica root, Cistanches deserticola, Zanthoxyl species, torlidis seed, clover flower, asiasari root, cinnamon bark, and toad venom (SS Cream) to the penis one hour before intercourse and washing off immediately before intercourse seems to help prevent premature ejaculation
- Sexual arousal. Taking powdered Korean red ginseng, a specific form of Panax ginseng, seems to improve sexual arousal and satisfaction in postmenopausal women. Also, using a specific product containing Korean red ginseng and other ingredients (ArginMax) seems to improve sexual desire in women.
Possibly ineffective for...
- Athletic performance. Taking Panax ginseng by mouth for up to 8 weeks does not improve exercise performance.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Bad breath. Early evidence suggests that taking Korean red ginseng, a type of Panax ginseng, daily for 10 weeks helps reduce bad breath, particularly in people with bad breath caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection.
- Breast cancer. Some studies conducted in China suggest that some people with breast cancer treated with any form of ginseng (American or Panax) have a higher quality of life and lower risk of death. However, this might not be a result of taking the ginseng, because the people in the study were also more likely to be treated with the prescription cancer drug tamoxifen. It is difficult to know how much of the benefit to attribute to ginseng.
- Infection of the airways in the lung (bronchitis). Taking Panax ginseng, combined with antibiotics, might be more effective in killing bacteria than antibiotic treatment alone.
- Cancer. Research suggests that taking ginseng by mouth might decrease the occurrence of some types of cancer, including stomach cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, ovarian cancer, and skin cancer. Also, early research suggests that taking Panax ginseng (Cultivated Wild Ginseng Pharmacopuncture) intravenously (by IV) might stop or slow the progression of lung cancer.
- Common cold. There is some evidence that taking a specific Panax ginseng extract (G115) by mouth can decrease the chance of catching a cold.
- Heart failure. Administering ginseng intravenously (by IV) seems to improve symptoms of heart failure.
- Diabetes. There is inconsistent evidence about the effects of Panax ginseng on diabetes. Some research shows that taking Panax ginseng by mouth daily can improve blood sugar levels. However, other research suggests that taking Panax ginseng (AIPOP, Gangdown-Do, Korea) or Korean red ginseng extract (Spectrum Laboratories, Gardena, CA) by mouth does not improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
- Fatigue. Early evidence shows that taking a specific product containing Panax ginseng, vitamins, and minerals (Pharmaton) might reduce symptoms of fatigue.
- HIV. Early evidence shows that Korean red ginseng, a particular form of Panax ginseng, might increase immune function but does not affect how much of the HIV virus is circulating in the blood of people with HIV
- Prediabetes. Taking a combination of Korean red ginseng and cheonggukjang, a type of fermented soybean paste, can reduce blood sugar levels in people with prediabetes.
- Influenza. There is some evidence that taking a specific Panax ginseng extract (G115) by mouth beginning 4 weeks before a flu shot and continuing for 8 weeks after can decrease the risk of getting the flu.
- Memory. Taking a specific Panax ginseng extract (G115) together with vitamins, minerals and dimethylaminoethanol bitartrate might improve memory in older people with memory problems.
- Postmenopausal conditions. Some early research suggests that Panax ginseng might improve quality of life and menopausal symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia, and depression in postmenopausal women. However, Panax ginseng does not appear to reduce hot flashes.
- Quality of life. While some research suggests that Panax ginseng might improve quality of life, other research shows no benefit.
- Wrinkled skin. Early research shows that taking a combination of Korean red ginseng root with Torilus fructus and Corni fructus daily for 24 weeks might reduce wrinkles, but does not appear to affect skin moisture, elasticity, thickness, or color.
- Fluid retention.
- Stomach inflammation and other digestive problems.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) .
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Panax ginseng is often referred to as a general well-being medication, because it affects many different systems of the body.
Are there safety concerns?
The most common side effect is trouble sleeping (insomnia). Less commonly, people experience menstrual problems, breast pain, increased heart rate, high or low blood pressure, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, itching, rash, dizziness, mood changes, vaginal bleeding, and other side effects.
Uncommon side effects that have been reported include severe rash called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, liver damage, and severe allergic reactions.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Panax ginseng is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taking by mouth during pregnancy. One of the chemicals in Panax ginseng has been found to cause birth defects in animals. Do not use Panax ginseng if you are pregnant.
Not enough is known about the safety of Panax ginseng during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and don’t use it.
Infants and children: Panax ginseng is LIKELY UNSAFE in infants and children. Using Panax ginseng in babies has been linked to poisoning that can be fatal. The safety of Panax ginseng in older children is not known. Until more is known, do not use Panax ginseng even in older children.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Panax ginseng seems to increase the activity of the immune system. It might make auto-immune diseases worse. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you have any auto-immune condition.
Bleeding conditions: Panax ginseng seems to interfere with blood clotting. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you have a bleeding condition.
Heart conditions: Panax ginseng can affect heart rhythm and blood pressure slightly on the first day it is used. However, there are usually no changes with continued use. Nevertheless, Panax ginseng has not been studied in people with cardiovascular disease. Use Panax ginseng with caution if you have heart disease.
Diabetes: Panax ginseng might lower blood sugar. In people with diabetes who are taking medications to lower blood sugar, adding Panax ginseng might lower blood sugar too much. Monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes and use Panax ginseng.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Panax ginseng contains chemicals (ginsenosides) that can act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use Panax ginseng.
Trouble sleeping (insomnia): High doses of Panax ginseng have been linked with insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, use Panax ginseng with caution.
Schizophrenia (a mental disorder): High doses of Panax ginseng have been linked with sleep problems and agitation in people with schizophrenia. Be careful when using Panax ginseng if you have schizophrenia.
Organ transplant: Panax ginseng might make the immune system more active. This could interfere with the effectiveness of medications that are given after an organ transplant to reduce the chance that the organ will be rejected. If you have received an organ transplant, don’t use Panax ginseng.
Are there interactions with medications?
- The body breaks down alcohol to get rid of it. Taking Panax ginseng might increase how fast your body gets rid of alcohol.
- Caffeine can speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, caffeine can make you feel jittery and speed up your heartbeat. Panax ginseng might also speed up the nervous system. Taking Panax ginseng along with caffeine might cause serious problems, including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking caffeine along with Panax ginseng.
- Panax ginseng might have some of the same effects as estrogen. However, Panax ginseng is not as strong as estrogen pills. Taking Panax ginseng along with estrogen pills might decrease the effects of estrogen pills.
Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.
- Furosemide (Lasix)
- Some scientists think that Panax ginseng might decrease how well furosemide (Lasix) works. But there isn't enough information to know if this is a big concern.
- Panax ginseng might decrease blood sugar. Insulin is also used to decrease blood sugar. Taking Panax ginseng along with insulin might cause your blood sugar to be too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your insulin might need to be changed.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6) substrates)
- Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Panax ginseng might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking Panax ginseng along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking Panax ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), clozapine (Clozaril), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), donepezil (Aricept), fentanyl (Duragesic), flecainide (Tambocor), fluoxetine (Prozac), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ondansetron (Zofran), tramadol (Ultram), trazodone (Desyrel), and others.
- Medications for depression (MAOIs)
- Panax ginseng might stimulate the body. Some medications used for depression can also stimulate the body. Taking Panax ginseng with these medications used for depression might cause too much stimulation. This might cause side effects such as anxiousness, headache, restlessness, and insomnia.
Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Panax ginseng might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking Panax ginseng along with diabetes medications could add to the effects of diabetic medications and lower blood sugar too much. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
- Medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat (QT interval-prolonging drugs)
- Panax ginseng may cause an abnormal heartbeat when taken short-term. Taking Panax ginseng with drugs that can cause an irregular heartbeat might cause serious side effects, including heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).
Some medications that affect the heartbeat include amiodarone (Cordarone), disopyramide (Norpace), dofetilide (Tikosyn), ibutilide (Corvert), procainamide (Pronestyl), quinidine, sotalol (Betapace), thioridazine (Mellaril), and many others.
- Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
- Panax ginseng increases the immune system. By increasing the immune system, Panax ginseng might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
- Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
- Panax ginseng might slow blood clotting. Taking Panax ginseng along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, cilostazol (Pletal), clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
- Nifedipine (Procardia)
- Panax ginseng might affect how much nifedipine is available in the body. Taking Panax ginseng along with nifedipine might increase the blood pressure lowering effects of nifedipine.
- Raltegravir is a drug used to treat people with HIV. Raltegravir has been associated with liver toxicity in some people. Taking Panax ginseng with raltegravir might increase the risk of liver toxicity in some people taking raltegravir.
- Stimulant drugs
- Stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and speed up your heartbeat. Panax ginseng might also speed up the nervous system. Taking Panax ginseng along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with Panax ginseng.
Some stimulant drugs include diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and many others.
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. There is some concern that Panax ginseng might decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin). But it's not clear if this interaction is a big problem. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Fexofenadine is taken to treat seasonal allergies. When taken together with fexofenadine, Panax ginseng might reduce how much fexofenadine is available in the body. However, there isn't enough information to know if this is a big concern.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A1 (CYP1A1) substrates)
- Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Panax ginseng might increase how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking Panax ginseng along with some medications that are changed by the liver can decrease the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking Panax ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications that are changed by the liver include chlorzoxazone, theophylline, and bufuralol.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Bitter orange
- Taking Panax ginseng along with bitter orange might increase the risk of the type of irregular heart rhythm, which can be life-threatening.
- Country mallow
- Country mallow contains ephedra. Ephedra can make the heart beat irregularly. Taking Panax ginseng along with country mallow might increase the risk of irregular heartbeats, which can be life-threatening.
- Ephedra can make the heart beat irregularly. Taking Panax ginseng along with ephedra might increase the risk of irregular heartbeats, which can be life-threatening.
- Herbs and supplements that lower blood sugar
- Panax ginseng might lower blood sugar. Taking Panax ginseng along with other herbs and supplements that lower blood sugar might make the blood sugar too low. Some of these products include bitter melon, ginger, goat's rue, fenugreek, kudzu, willow bark, and others.
- Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
- Using Panax ginseng with other herbs that can slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bleeding in some people. These other herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, ginger, ginkgo, red clover, turmeric, vitamin E, willow, and others.
Are there interactions with foods?
- The body breaks down alcohol to get rid of it. Taking Panax ginseng might increase how fast your body gets rid of alcohol.
- Coffee, tea
- Coffee and tea contain caffeine. Caffeine can speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, caffeine can make you feel jittery and speed up your heartbeat. Panax ginseng might also speed up the nervous system. Taking Panax ginseng along with caffeine might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking caffeine along with Panax ginseng.
What dose is used?
- For treating type 2 diabetes: 200 mg daily.
- For erectile dysfunction: Panax ginseng 900 mg three times daily.
- For premature ejaculation: a cream (SS-Cream) containing Panax ginseng and other ingredients has been applied to the glans penis one hour before intercourse and washed off before intercourse.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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