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HERBS: Ginseng (Asian)

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Ginseng (Asian)

Ginseng (Asian)

Scientific name

Panax ginseng

Other names

Chinese ginseng, panax, ren shen, jintsam, ninjin, Asiatic ginseng, Japanese ginseng, Oriental ginseng, Korean red ginseng

Brand name

Ginsana�, G115�, Ginsai�

Purported uses

  • To treat angina: Some laboratory studies show that Panax ginseng can increase the synthesis of nitric oxide, a vasodilator, but there is no proof from clinical trials that it can treat angina.�
  • To treat diabetes: No scientific evidence supports this use.�
  • To maintain general health: No scientific evidence supports this use. The long-term effects of Panax ginseng are not known.
  • To treat HIV and AIDS: Research in humans shows that Panax ginseng stimulates certain aspects of the immune system, and although one small clinical trial supports this use, more research is necessary.
  • To stimulate the immune system: Clinical trials support this use, although the long-term effects of Panax ginseng are still not known.�
  • To improve blood clotting: No scientific evidence supports this use.�
  • To relieve pain: No scientific evidence supports this use.�
  • To treat sexual dysfunction: One clinical trial supports the use of Panax ginseng for male erectile dysfunction.
  • To improve strength and stamina: Several clinical trials do not support this use.


Discontinue ginseng at least one week before surgery.


Panax ginseng may have estrogenic activity, but data are inconsistent. Patients with hormone-sensitive disease should not consume panax ginseng.

Adverse reactions

  • Common: Usually well tolerated.
  • Reported: Dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, and nervousness.
  • Case report: A 26 year old male with no history of mental illness became manic following chronic consumption of 250 mg panax ginseng capsules three times a day. Symptoms, including irritability, insomnia, flight of ideas, and rapid speech, resolved following discontinuation of supplement.

Drug interactions

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Panax ginseng may cause manic-like symptoms when combined with MAOIs.
  • Insulin and sulfonylureas: Panax ginseng may increase the hypoglycemic effect of insulin and sulfonylureas.
  • Anticoagulants: Panax ginseng may antagonize the effects of anticoagulants.


1. Baranov AI. Medicinal uses of ginseng and related plants in the Soviet Union: recent trends in the Soviet literature. J Ethnopharmacol 1982;6:339-53.

2. Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York: CRC Press; 1999.

3. Attele AS, Wu JA, Yuan CS. Ginseng pharmacology: multiple constituents and multiple actions. Biochem Pharmacol 1999;58:1685-93.

4. Cheng TO. Panax (ginseng) is not a panacea. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:3329.

5. Nah JJ, et al. Effect of ginsenosides, active components of ginseng, on capsaicin-induced pain-related behavior. Neuropharmacology 2000;39:2180-4.

6. Shin HR, et al. The cancer-preventive potential of panax ginseng: a review of human and experimental evidence. Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:565-76.

7. Yun TK, Choi SY. Non-organ specific cancer prevention of ginseng: a prospective study in Korea. Int J Epidemiol 1998;27:359-64.

8. Cabral de Oliveira AC, et al. Protective effects of panax ginseng on muscle injury and inflammation after eccentric exercise. Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol 2001;130:369-77.

9. Engelberg D, McCutcheon A, Wiseman S. A case of ginseng-induced mania. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2001;21:535-6.

10. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 2001.

11. Hall T, et al. Evaluation of consistency of standardized Asian ginseng products in the ginseng evaluation program. Herbalgram 2001;52:31-45.

12. 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 healthy young adults. Physiol Behav 2002;75:739-51.

13. Lim DS, et al. Anti-septicaemic effect of polysaccharide from Panax ginseng by macrophage activation. J Infect 2002;45:32-8.

14. Hong, B, 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;168:2070-3.

15. Ang-lee M, et al. Herbal medicines and perioperative care. JAMA 2001;286:208-16.

16. Vogler BK, Pittler MH, Ernst E. The efficacy of ginseng. A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1999;55:567-75.

17. Cho YK, et al. Long-term intake of Korean red ginseng in HIV-1-infected patients: development of resistance mutation to zidovudine is delayed. Int Immunopharmacol 2001;1:1295-305.

18. 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.

19. Scaglione F, et al. Efficacy and safety of the standardized ginseng extract G115 for potentiating vaccination against common cold and-or influenza syndrome. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1996;22:65-72.

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