What is it?
Ginseng is an herb that has been used as traditional medicine as a tonic to boost immune system and acts as a stimulant. The root of this herb is used as medicine. There is the Asian ginseng and also the American ginseng. Asian ginseng comes from the plant called Panax ginseng.
American ginseng contains chemicals called ginsenosides that affects insulin levels in the body and hence lower blood sugar. The other chemicals are called polysaccharides which acts on the immune system. Panax ginseng contains many active substances especially ginsenosides or panaxosides.
There have been scientific evidence that American ginseng helps to prevent common cold and lower sugar level in diabetic patients.
Asian Panax ginseng has scientific evidence to prove that it helps with memory, thinking, and lower sugar level in diabetic patients, improve male sexual function and premature ejaculation as well as improves lung function in those with chronic obstructive lung disease.
However, there are currently insufficient evidence based studies that prove its effectiveness in certain conditions like stress, anemia, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and breast cancer, hot flush during menopausal period, athletic performance, insomnia, ADHD, HIV and gastritis. More studies are required to verify such claims.
Possible side effects
Ginseng at appropriate dose is generally safe for most adult and children. But there are some possible side effects include diarrhea, dizziness, palpitations, itching, insomnia, headache and nervousness.
It is not recommended for lactating/pregnant women as it may be linked to possible birth defects during pregnancy.
People with hormone sensitive conditions like fibroids, breast cancers, ovary cancer, uterine cancer and endometriosis should not take ginseng as ginseng contains ginsenosides which act like estrogen and may make conditions worse.
Diabetic patients should monitor their sugar level as ginseng will reduce blood sugar levels.
Patients with bleeding disorders should avoid ginseng as it affects blood clotting.
People with auto-immune diseases like SLE, rheumatoid arthritis should avoid Panax ginseng as the latter affects immune system and may make condition worse.
1. Diabetic medications: American and Panax Ginseng will lower sugar levels and hence it should be taken with caution for patients with diabetes.
2. Warfarin: American and Panax Ginseng may reduce the effectiveness of warfarin and increases risk of blood clotting.
3. Anti-coagulants and anti-platelets: Panax ginseng slows blood clotting and may increase bleeding tendencies when taken with such medications.
4. Anti-depressants especially MAOIs: Taking ginseng with these anti-depressants might cause side effects such as anxiousness, restlessness, headache and insomnia.
5. Immune-suppressant: As Panax ginseng increases and boost the immune system, it may render the immune-suppressants drugs less efficient.
6. Medications broken down by liver enzymes cytochrome P450: Panax Ginseng slows down the liver enzymes break down of medications that are metabolized by the liver and hence increasing their side effects. Examples of such medications include lovastatin, ketoconazole, Itraconazole, olanzapine, theophylline, phenytoin, tolbutamide and fexofenadine.
There is no scientific guidelines on the dosage of ginseng. Please follow the instructions on product label and if in doubt consult your doctor first.
There is a cream containing Panax ginseng seem to help in men with premature ejaculation. It is safe when applied to the penis an hour before intercourse and washed off thereafter.