Latin Name – Panax Ginseng
Asian ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. The plant originated in China and its cultivation spread around East Asia, where it is now grown in Korea, Japan, and China. The Asian ginseng plant is a flowering perennial, with a fleshy root, or rhizome, that is dried and ground into a powder for use as an herbal remedy.
Asian ginseng is one of several types of true ginseng. American ginseng, (Panax quinquefolius) is another type. An herb called Siberian ginseng or eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is not a true ginseng.
Traditionally ginseng was used as an herbal remedy for:
- Loss of appetite, gastric disturbances and vomiting
- Improving the health of people recovering from illness
- Increasing a sense of well-being and stamina
- Improving mental and physical performance
- As an aphrodisiac and for male sexual performance
In addition to the traditional uses, Asian ginseng is the subject of research for its potential immune-boosting and antioxidant effects. Although Asian ginseng is being studied for a variety of conditions, further research is warranted for specific benefits. Promising areas of inquiry are for blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes, chronic lung infection, impaired glucose tolerance, cardiovascular health, Alzheimer’s disease, and to enhance cognitive function.
The root of Asian ginseng contains active chemical components called ginsenosides (or panaxosides) that are thought to be responsible for the herb’s medicinal properties. The root is dried and used to make tablets or capsules, extracts, and teas, as well as creams or other preparations for external use.
Some studies have shown that Asian ginseng may lower blood glucose. Other studies indicate possible beneficial effects on immune function.
To date, research results on Asian ginseng are not conclusive enough to prove health claims associated with the herb. Only a handful of large clinical trials on Asian ginseng have been conducted. Most studies have been small or have had flaws in design and reporting. Some claims for health benefits have been based only on studies conducted in animals.
Side Effects and Cautions Summary
- Some sources suggest that the use of Asian ginseng be limited to 3 months because of concerns about the development of side effects. Other sources indicate severe side effects can occur after 1 to 3 weeks.
- Asian ginseng can cause allergic reactions.
- The most common side effects are headaches and sleep and gastrointestinal problems, and nervousness.
- There have been reports of breast tenderness, menstrual irregularities, and high or low blood pressure associated with the use of Asian ginseng products.
- Asian ginseng may lower levels of blood sugar; this effect may be seen more in people with diabetes. Therefore, people with diabetes should use extra caution with Asian ginseng, especially if they are using medicines to lower blood sugar or taking other herbs, such as bitter melon and fenugreek, that are also thought to lower blood sugar.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health to help ensure coordinated and safe care. Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.
- Ginseng, Asian (Panax ginseng). In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:265–277.
- Ginseng, Panax. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed on July 2, 2007.
- Ginseng. Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on June 28, 2007.
- Ginseng root. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:170–177.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hepatitis C and Complementary and Alternative Medicine: 2003 Update. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Web site. Accessed on July 9, 2007.
For More Information
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site: ods.od.nih.gov
NIH National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Ginseng Listing: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-ginseng.html
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Asian Ginseng fact sheet Created September 2005, Updated March 2008