Definition of Ginseng

Ginseng: Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Today, ginseng" refers to both American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng). These plants have a similar chemical makeup and contain steroid-like components, ginsenosides, which are believed to be the active ingredients. On the other hand, Siberian ginseng or Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), on the other hand, is a completely unrelated plant and without the active ginsenosides.

Panax ginseng may improve cognitive performance, aid in diabetes management, and improve erectile dysfunction. Studies have found Panax ginseng ineffective for hot flashes, improving mood and athletic performance. More research is needed concerning depression, chronic fatigue, cancer, colds and flu, bronchitis, fever, digestive problems, fibromyalgia and anemia. Ginseng can cause elevation in blood pressure, headache, vomiting, insomnia, and nose bleeding. Ginseng can also cause falsely abnormal blood tests for digoxin level in persons taking the drug for heart disease. It is unclear whether ginseng may affect female hormones. Its use in pregnancy is not recommended. Ginseng may affect the action of the normal blood clotting element (platelets). It should be avoided in patients taking aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin] or naproxen [Aleve]), or medications to prevent blood clotting (anticoagulants) such as warfarin (Coumadin). Ginseng may also cause headaches, tremors, nervousness, and sleeplessness. It should be avoided in persons with manic disorder and psychosis.

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Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012

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