The term ginseng refers to several species of the genus Panax. For more than 2,000 years, the roots of this slow-growing plant have been valued in Chinese medicine. The two most commonly used species are Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer), which is mostly extinct in its natural range but is still cultivated, and American ginseng (P. quinquefolius L.), which is both harvested from the wild and cultivated. Panax ginseng should not be confused with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). In Russia, Siberian ginseng was promoted as a cheaper alternative to ginseng and was believed to have identical benefits. However, Siberian ginseng does not contain the ginsenosides that are present in the Panax species, which are believed to be active ingredients and have been studied scientifically.
General: Allheilkraut, Araliaceae (family), chikusetsu ginseng, chosen ninjin, dwarf ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus, five-fingers, five-leaf ginseng, ginseng radix, G115®, Ginsengwurzel, ginsenosides (Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, Rf and Rg1), GTTC (Ginseng and Tang-kuei Ten Combination), hakusan, hakushan, higeninjin, hongshen, hungseng, hungsheng, hunseng, insam, jenseng, jenshen, jinpi, kao-li-seng, korean ginseng, hua qi shen, kraftwurzel, man root, minjin, nhan sam, ninjin, ninzin, niuhan, Oriental ginseng, otane ninjin, panax de chine, panax notoginseng, panax vietnamensis (Vietnamese Ginseng), Panax psuedoginseng Wall. var. notoginseng, Panax psuedoginseng var. major, Panax psuedoginseng, Panax trifolius L., pannag, proprietary ginseng root extract (Cold-FX, CV Technologies Inc., Edmonton, AB), racine de ginseng, renshen, sanchi ginseng, san-pi, sang, schinsent, sei yang sam, seng, shanshen, shen-sai-seng, shenshaishanshen, shenghaishen, siyojin, t'ang-sne, tartar root, true ginseng, tyosenninzin, Western ginseng, Western sea ginseng, xi shen, xi yang shen, yakuyo ninjin, yakuyo ninzin, yang shen yeh-shan-seng, yuan-seng, yuansheng, zhuzishen.
synonyms: Asian ginseng, Asiatic ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Gincosan (a combination of 120mg Ginkgo biloba and 200mg Panax ginseng), ginseng asiatique, ginseng radix, ginseng root, Japanese ginseng, jintsam, Korean red, Korean red ginseng, ninjin, Oriental ginseng, P. ginseng,P. schinseng, red ginseng, ren shen, sang, shen.
American ginseng synonyms: Anchi ginseng, Canadian ginseng, North American ginseng, Ontario ginseng, P. quinquefolius, red berry, ren shen, sang, tienchi ginseng, Wisconsin ginseng.
Siberian ginseng synonyms: Acanthopanax senticosus, ci wu jia, ciwujia, devil's bush, devil's shrub, eleuthera, eleuthero, eleuthero ginseng, eleutherococ, eleutherococcus, eleutherococci radix, Eleutherococcus senticosus, shigoka, touch-me-not, wild pepper, wu-jia, wu-jia-pi, ussuri, ussurian thorny pepperbrush.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Several studies report that ginseng can modestly improve thinking or learning. Mental performance has been assessed using standardized measurements of reaction time, concentration, learning, math, and logic. Benefits have been seen both in healthy young people and in older ill patients. Effects have also been reported for the combination use of ginseng with
Type 2 diabetes (adult-onset)
Several human studies report that ginseng may lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Long-term effects are not clear, and it is not known what doses are safe or effective. People with diabetes should seek the care of a qualified healthcare practitioner, and should not use ginseng instead of more proven therapies. Effects of ginseng in type 1 diabetes ("insulin dependent") are not well studied.
A small number of studies report that ginseng taken by mouth may lower the risk of being affected by various cancers, especially if ginseng powder or extract is used. Study results are controversial. Additional trials are necessary before a clear conclusion can be reached.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Ginseng was reported to improve pulmonary function and exercise capacity in patients with COPD in one study. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Congestive heart failure
Evidence from a small amount of research is unclear in this area.
Coronary artery (heart) disease
Several studies from China report that ginseng in combination with various other herbs may reduce symptoms of coronary artery disease. Without further evidence of the effects of ginseng specifically, a firm conclusion cannot be reached.
Ginseng is commonly used by athletes with the intention of improving stamina. However, it remains unclear if ginseng taken by mouth significantly affects exercise performance. Numerous studies have been published in this area, with mixed results. Better studies are necessary before a clear conclusion can be reached.
A small amount of research using ginseng extract G115® (with or without multivitamins) reports improvements in patients with fatigue of various causes. However, these results are preliminary, and studies have not been high quality.
Preliminary evidence in infants with peri-anal abscess or fistula-in-ano suggests that a treatment of GTTC (Ginseng and Tang-kuei Ten Combination) may accelerate recovery. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
High blood pressure
Preliminary research suggests that ginseng may lower blood pressure (systolic and diastolic). It is not clear what doses may be safe or effective. Well-conducted studies are needed to confirm these early results.
Immune system enhancement
A small number of studies report that ginseng may stimulate activity of immune cells in the body, improve the effectiveness of antibiotics in people with acute bronchitis, and enhance the body's response to influenza vaccines. Additional studies are necessary before a clear conclusion can be reached.
Intracranial pressure (ICP)
Preliminary study of Xuesaitong injection (XSTI, a preparation of
Low white blood cell counts
Poorly described preliminary research reports improved blood counts in patients with aplastic anemia using ginseng in combination with other herbs, and improved white blood cell counts in patients with neutropenia using high doses of ginsenosides. Reliable studies are needed before a conclusion can be reached. Notably, there are reports of blood cell counts dropping after ginseng use.
Evidence from a small amount of research is unclear in this area. Some studies report improvements in depression and sense of well-being, without changes in hormone levels.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
In patients treated with Hochu-ekki-to, which contains ginseng and several other herbs, urinary MRSA has been reported to decrease after a 10-week treatment period. Further study of ginseng alone is necessary in order to draw firm conclusions.
A small study conducted in patients with multi-infarct dementia reports that an herbal combination known as Fuyuan mixture, which contains ginseng, may have therapeutic benefits. The effects of ginseng alone are not clear, and no firm conclusion can be drawn.
Quality of life
Preliminary research of Siberian ginseng (
Sense of well-being
Several studies have examined the effects of ginseng (with or without multivitamins) on overall well-being in healthy and ill patients, when taken for up to 12 weeks. Most trials are not high quality, and results are mixed. However, it remains inconclusive if ginseng is beneficial in this area for anybody.
Poorly described research in patients treated with Shenmai and Shengmai injection (a ginseng preparation), report that there may be some related cardiac improvement. More in-depth and reliable studies are needed before a clear conclusion can be drawn.