What is it?
American ginseng is an herb. The root is used to make medicine.
American ginseng is used for stress, to boost the immune system, and as a general tonic and stimulant.
American ginseng is often used to fight infections such as colds and flu. There is some evidence that it might help prevent colds and flu and make symptoms milder when infections do occur.
American ginseng is used for other infections including HIV/AIDS, infections of the intestine (dysentery), and particular infections (Pseudomonas infections) that are common in people with cystic fibrosis.
Some people use American ginseng to improve digestion and for loss of appetite, as well as for vomiting, inflammation of the colon (colitis), and inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis).
American ginseng is also used for low iron in the blood (anemia), diabetes, trouble sleeping (insomnia), nerve pain, erectile dysfunction (ED), fever, hangover symptoms, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), blood and bleeding disorders, cancer, painful joints, dizziness, headaches, convulsions, fibromyalgia, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), memory loss, and as an anti-aging aid.
You may also see American ginseng listed as an ingredient in some soft drinks. Oils and extracts made from American ginseng are used in soaps and cosmetics.
Don’t confuse American ginseng with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) or Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng). They have different medicinal effects.
Wild American ginseng is becoming rare because it is so popular and has so many uses. Some states have declared American ginseng a threatened or endangered species because so many people try to harvest it.
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, AMERICAN are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Lowering blood sugar after a meal in people with type 2 diabetes. Taking 3 grams of American ginseng by mouth, up to two hours before a meal, can significantly lower blood sugar after a meal in patients with type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, larger doses don’t seem to lower blood sugar more. Different American ginseng products may have different effects. Researchers think that is because they contain different amounts of the active chemicals called ginsenosides.
- Preventing respiratory tract infections such as the common cold or influenza in adults. Some evidence suggests that taking a specific American ginseng extract called CVT-E002 (Cold-FX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada), 200 mg twice daily over a 3-4 month period during influenza season, might help slightly to prevent cold or flu symptoms in adults between the ages of 18 and 65. People older than 65 seem to need a flu shot at month 2 along with this treatment in order to decrease their risk of getting the flu or colds. This extract also seems to help make symptoms milder and last a shorter length of time when infections do occur. Some evidence suggests that the extract might not reduce the chance of getting the first cold of a season, but it seems to reduce the risk of getting repeat colds in a season.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is preliminary evidence that a specific combination product (AD-fX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada), containing American ginseng extract in combination with ginkgo leaf extract, might help improve ADHD symptoms such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness in children aged 3-17 years.
- Breast cancer. Some studies conducted in China suggest that breast cancer patients treated with any form of ginseng (American or Panax) do better and feel better. But this may not be a result of taking the ginseng, because the patients 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.
- Athletic performance. Taking 1600 mg of American ginseng by mouth for 4 weeks does not seem to improve athletic performance, even though lab tests confirm it may decrease muscle damage during exercise.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of American ginseng for these uses.
American ginseng contains chemicals called ginsenosides that seem to affect insulin levels in the body and lower blood sugar. Other chemicals, called polysaccharides, might affect the immune system.
American ginseng is POSSIBLY SAFE in adults and children when used short-term. It can cause some side effects including diarrhea, itching, trouble sleeping (insomnia), headache, and nervousness. In some people, American ginseng might also cause rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure or decreased blood pressure, breast tenderness, vaginal bleeding in women, and other side effects. Uncommon side effects that have been reported include a severe rash called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, liver damage, and severe allergic reaction.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: American ginseng is POSSIBLY UNSAFE in pregnancy. One of the chemicals in Panax ginseng, a plant related to American ginseng, has been linked to possible birth defects. Do not take American ginseng if you are pregnant.
Not enough is known about the safety of American ginseng during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: American ginseng might lower blood sugar. In people with diabetes who are taking medications to lower blood sugar, adding American ginseng might lower it too much. Monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes and use American ginseng.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: American ginseng preparations that contain chemicals called ginsenosides might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use American ginseng that contains ginsenosides. However, some American ginseng extracts have had the ginsenosides removed (Cold-fX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada). American ginseng extracts such as these that contain no ginsenosides or contain only a low concentration of ginsenosides do not appear to act like estrogen.
Trouble sleeping (insomnia): High doses of American ginseng have been linked with insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, use American ginseng with caution.
Schizophrenia (a mental disorder): High doses of American ginseng have been linked with sleep problems and agitation in people with schizophrenia . Be careful when using American ginseng if you have schizophrenia.
Surgery: American ginseng might affect blood sugar levels and might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking American ginseng at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Do not take this combination.
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. American ginseng has been reported to decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin). Decreasing the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) might increase the risk of clotting. It is unclear why this interaction might occur. To avoid this interaction, do not take American ginseng if you take warfarin (Coumadin).
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications for depression (MAOIs)
American ginseng might stimulate the body. Some medications used for depression can also stimulate the body. Taking American ginseng along with these medications used for depression 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)
American ginseng might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking American ginseng along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. 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.
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
There are no known interactions with foods.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For reducing blood sugar after a meal in people with type 2 diabetes: 3 grams up to 2 hours before a meal. American ginseng should be taken within 2 hours of a meal. If it is taken too long before eating, the blood sugar might become too low.
- For preventing upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold or flu: a specific American ginseng extract called CVT-E002 (Cold-fX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada) 200 mg twice daily for 3-4 months has been used.
American Ginseng, Anchi Ginseng, Baie Rouge, Canadian Ginseng, Ginseng, Ginseng à Cinq Folioles, Ginseng Américain, Ginseng Americano, Ginseng d'Amérique, Ginseng D’Amérique du Nord, Ginseng Canadien, Ginseng de l’Ontario, Ginseng du Wisconsin, Ginseng Occidental, Ginseng Root, North American Ginseng, Occidental Ginseng, Ontario Ginseng, Panax Quinquefolia, Panax Quinquefolium, Panax quinquefolius, Racine de Ginseng, Red Berry, Ren Shen, Sang, Shang, Shi Yang Seng, Wisconsin Ginseng, Xi Yang Shen.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Ginseng, American page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/967.html.
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Last reviewed - 06/17/2013
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