American Ginseng Medical Usage
Ginseng has been used predominately by Chinese as a precious herb to balance the body and prolong the quality of life for over a thousand years. The name ginseng is used to refer to both American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), which belong to the genus Panax and have a somewhat similar chemical makeup. But they have different medical usage for the human body and we should not be confused when consuming them in everyday usage.
The American ginseng has gained wide popularity to the public as there are many medical studies that have been published over the last decade to validate and gain deeper understanding of ginseng’s health benefits. Laboratory studies in animals have found that American ginseng is effective in boosting the immune system, and as an antioxidant. Other studies show that American ginseng might have therapeutic potential for inflammatory diseases. Research on American ginseng has focused on a number of conditions, including the following (Note: The following information is provided by University of Maryland Medical Center):
Several human studies show that American ginseng lowered blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. The effect was seen both on fasting blood sugar and on postprandial (after eating) glucose levels. One study found that people with Type 2 diabetes who took American ginseng before or together with a high sugar drink experienced less of an increase in blood glucose levels. Other studies suggest that American ginseng prevents diabetes-related complications including retinal and cardiac functional changes by reducing stress. More research is needed.
One study in mice found that the American ginseng berry was more effective at lowering blood sugar levels than the root.
Colds and flu
In two studies, people who took a specific product called Cold FX for 4 months got fewer colds than people who took a placebo. And those who got colds found their symptoms did not last as long compared to those who took a placebo.
Immune system enhancement
Some scientists believe American ginseng enhances the immune system. In theory, this improvement in immune function could help the body fight off infection and disease. Several clinical studies have shown that American ginseng does boost the performance of cells that play a role in immunity.
American ginseng has been shown to inhibit tumor growth. In one laboratory study on colorectal cancer cells, researchers found that American ginseng possessed powerful anti-cancer properties.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
One preliminary study suggests that American ginseng, in combination with ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), may help treat ADHD. More research is needed.
One preliminary study found that daily consumption of American ginseng enhanced cognitive function in mice. More research is needed.
Precautions When Using American Ginseng:
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider that is qualified in the field of botanical medicine. Always tell your doctor about any herbs you may be taking.
Side effects are rare, but may include:
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use ginseng without talking to your doctor:
Medications for diabetes -- American ginseng may lower blood sugar levels, so it could interfere with the effectiveness of prescription drugs for diabetes. Talk to your doctor before taking American ginseng if you are taking medicines for diabetes, including insulin and oral hypoglycemic agents, such as metformin (Glucophage).
Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) -- One small study suggested that American ginseng might decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin), a blood-thinning medication. If you take any blood-thinning medications, talk to your doctor before taking ginseng.
MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) -- Ginseng may increase the risk of side effects when taken with MAOIs, a type of antidepressant. There have been reports of interaction between ginseng and phenelzine (Nardil) causing headaches, tremors, and mania. MAOIs include:
Antipsychotic medications -- American ginseng may increase the effects of medications used to treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. So they should not be taken together.
Stimulants -- Ginseng may increase the stimulant effect and side effects of some medications taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin).
Morphine -- Asian ginseng may block the painkilling effects of morphine.