The term ginseng refers to several species of the genus Panax of the Araliaceae family. The two most commonly used ginseng species are Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Panax species should not be confused with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), which is from a different plant family.
The word "ginseng" comes from ren-shen, the Chinese word for the plant, which means "essence of the earth in the form of a man" or "man-root," referring to the root's human-like shape.
Panax ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for more than 2,000 years. Its uses include increasing appetite and strength, enhancing memory and physical performance, reducing fatigue and stress, and improving overall quality of life. Shengmai (also called shenmai) is a combination of Panax ginseng, Schisandra fruit, and Ophiopogon japonicus that has also been used in TCM to treat heart and respiratory diseases.
American ginseng has been used as a folk remedy by many Native American tribes, as a mild stimulant, digestive aid, and for ailments such as headache, female infertility, fever, and earache.
Ginseng has been used traditionally to treat cancer and, in modern times, to prevent cancer. Evidence supports ginseng use in decreasing cold symptoms, and improving mental performance.
The primary active parts of ginseng are ginsenosides. When purchasing ginseng products, experts suggest products labeled as Panax ginseng and standardized to 4-7% ginsenosides.
2-Furanmethanol, 20-(R)-R, (20S)-protopanaxadiol-3-O-(6-O-malonyl-beta-D-glucopyranosyl(1-->2)-beta-D-glucopyranoside-20-O-beta-D-xylopyranosyl(1-->3)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl(1-->6)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, 20-(S)-Re, 28-glu-oleanolic acid ester, acetylenic alcohol, acidic polysaccharides, adenosine, aglycones, Allheilkraut (German), alpha-maltosyl-beta-D-fructofuranoside, aluminum, American ginseng (AG), American wild ginseng, antioxidants, Araliaceae (family), Asian ginseng, Asian red ginseng, Asiatic ginseng, calcium, capsaicin 4-O-(6-O-beta-D-xylopyranosyl)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, capsaicin 4-O-beta-D-glucoside, ceramide, chikusetsu ginseng, chikusetsusaponin IV, chikusetsusaponin IVa, chikusetsusaponin-L8, chitinolytic enzymes, chosen ninjin, citral, class I chitinase, cobalt, copper, CPPQ (coarse polysaccharide from Panax quinquefolius), CVT-E002, dae-jo-hwan (DJW), dammarane-type glycosides, dammarane-type triterpene ketone (panaxadione), dammarane-type tetracyclic triterpenoid saponins, dwarf ginseng, fatty acids, five-fingers, five-leaf ginseng, G115®, ginsan, ginsenan PA (phagocytosis-activating polysaccharide), ginseng acidic polysaccharide, ginseng radix, ginseng saponins, ginseng tetrapeptide, Ginsengwurzel (German), ginsenoside, ginsenoside F1, ginsenoside F2, ginsenoside F3, ginsenoside F4, ginsenoside Ia, ginsenoside R0, ginsenoside Ra1, ginsenoside Ra2, ginsenoside Rb1, ginsenoside Rb2, ginsenoside Rb3, ginsenoside Rc, ginsenoside Rd, ginsenoside Rd2, ginsenoside Re, ginsenoside Rf, ginsenoside Rg1, ginsenoside Rg2, ginsenoside Rg3, ginsenoside Rg5, ginsenoside Rg6, ginsenoside Rh1, ginsenoside Rh2, ginsenoside Rh3, ginsenoside Rh4, ginsenoside Rk1, ginsenoside Rk3, ginsenoside Ro, ginsenoside Rs3, ginsenoside Rs4, ginsenoside Rs5, ginsenosides compound (shen-fu), GTTC (ginseng and tang-kuei ten combination), hakusan (Japanese), hakushan, higeninjin, hong shen (Chinese), hua qi shen (Chinese), hungseng, hungsheng, hunseng, insam (Korean), iron, Japanese rhizome, jenseng, jen-shen, jinpi, kao-li-seng, king herb, Korean ginseng, Korean red ginseng (KRG), Kraftwurzel (German), limonene, magnesium, malonylginsenoside Ra3, maltol, manganese, man root, memory enhancer, minjin, molybdenum, mountain ginseng, mountain ginseng pharmacopuncture, nhan sam (Vietnamese), ninjin (Japanese), ninzin, niuhan, North American ginseng, notoginseng, notoginsenoside, notoginsenoside-Fe, notoginsenoside R1, notoginsenoside R2, notoginsenoside R4, oleanolic acid, ophioponins, Oriental ginseng, otane ninjin (Japanese), panajaponin, panax de Chine (French), Panax ginseng, Panax ginseng C.A.Mey., Panax notoginseng, Panaxpsuedoginseng, Panax quinquefolium (common misspelling), Panax spp., Panax trifolius L., Panax vietamensis (Vietnamese ginseng), panaxadial, panaxans, panaxatriol, panaxosides, panaxydol, panaxynol, panaxytriol, pannag (Hebrew), peptidoglycans, phenolic compounds, phosphorus, polyacetylenes, polyacetylenic compounds, poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides, poly-hydroxyl octadecenoic acid, potassium, protopanaxadiol ginsenosides, protopanaxatriol, protopanaxatriol saponins, protopanaxatriol (PPT)-type ginsenosides, quinqueginsin, racine de ginseng (French), Re, red ginseng, renshen, ribonucleases, rozu (Japanese), Romanian ginseng, Rumanian ginseng, sang, sanchi ginseng, san-pi, sanqi, saponins, schinsent, sei yang sam, seng, sesquiterpenoids, shanshen, shen-fu (Chinese), shenghaishen, shenlu, shen-sai-seng, shenshaishanshen, siyojin, sodium, sterol glucosides, stress-buster, sun ginseng, superoxide dismutase, t'ang-sne, tartar root, terpineol, tienchi ginseng, to-kai-san, trilinolein, triperpenoid saponins, triterpenoids, true ginseng, tyosenninzin, vanadium, vanillic acid, Vietnamese ginseng, vitamins, volatile oil, Western ginseng, Western sea ginseng, white ginseng, wild ginseng, woodsgrown (wild-stimulated) ginseng root, xi shen, xi yang shen, yakuyo ninjin, yakuyo ninzin, yang shen, yeh-shan-seng, yuan-seng, yuansheng, zhuzishen, zinc.
Siberian ginseng synonyms: Acanthopanax senticosus, ci wu jia, ciwujia, devil's bush, devil's shrub, eleuthera, eleuthero, eleuthero ginseng, eleutherococ, Eleutherococci radix, Eleutherococcus, phytoestrogen, shigoka, touch-me-not, ussuri, ussurian thorny pepperbush, wild pepper, wu-jia, wu-jia-pi.
American ginseng synonyms: Amerikan ginseng (Turkish), Amerikanischer Ginseng (German), amerikkalainen ginseng (Finnish), anchi ginseng, Aralia quinquefolia Decne. & Planch. (botanical synonym), Araliaceae (family), Canadian ginseng, CVT-E 002®, five fingers, five-leafed ginseng, garantoquen, ginseng, ginseng d'Amérique (French), ginsenosides poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides, man-root, man's health, North American ginseng, Occidental ginseng, Ontario ginseng, Panax quincefolius, Panaxquinquefolius, red berry, redberry, sang, shang (traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)), tartar root, western ginseng, wild American ginseng, Wisconsin ginseng, xi yang shen (TCM, Chinese).
synonyms: Aralia (botanical synonym), Aralia ginseng Mey., Araliaceae (family), Asian ginseng, Asiatic ginseng, Chinese ginseng, G115®, Gincosan, Ginsai®, ginseng asiatique (French), ginseng radix, ginseng root, ginsengjuuri (Finnish), guigai, Japanese ginseng, jintsam, Korean ginseng, Korean Panax ginseng, Korean red, Korean red ginseng, kuhuang shenmai injection (KHSM), ninjin (Japanese), Oriental ginseng, Panax, Panax ginseng C.A.Mey., Panax schinseng, Panax schinseng Nees, Panax spp., radix ginseng rubra, red ginseng, ren shen (TCM), renshen (TCM), renxian, sang, schinsent, seng, shen, shengmai, shengmai chenggu capsule, shengmai injection (SI), shengmai san (SMS), shengmai-san, shengmaisan, shengmaiyin, shenmai, shenmai huoxue decoction (SMHXD), shenmai injection (SMI), white ginseng.
Selected products: AD-fX®, ArginMax® (Panaxquinquefolius L., Panax ginseng, and other ingredients), Bu zhong yi qi wan (Panax ginseng root and other ingredients), CKBM (Panax ginseng, Schisandra chinensis, fructus Crataegi, Ziziphus jujube, and processed Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Cold-fX® (polyfuranosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides from the root of Panax quinquefolius), Gericomplex® (Panax ginseng and a vitamin/mineral complex), Gincosan® (standardized GK501® Ginkgo biloba and the standardized G115® ginseng extract), Ginsana® (standardized G115® ginseng extract), GURU™ energy drink (Ginkgo biloba, Echinacea, Panax ginseng, and guarana), Memory Enhancer® (Panax ginseng and other ingredients), Phyto-Female Complex (standardized extracts of black cohosh, dong quai, milk thistle, red clover, American ginseng, chaste tree berry), sheng mai san (radix ginseng and other ingredients), sheng mai yin (ginseng root, winter wheat (Ophiopogon japonicus) root tuber, Chinese magnoliarine (Schisandra chinensis) fruit), shengmai yin (Panax ginseng, Schizandra fruit, Ophiopogon), shi-quan-da-bu-tang (Rehmannia glutinosa, Paeonia lactiflora, Ligusticum wallichii, Angelica sinensis, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Poria cocos, Atractylodes macrocephala, Panax ginseng, Astragalus membranaceus, and Cinnamomum cassia), sho-saiko-to (Asian ginseng root extract, schisandra fruit extract, ginger root extract, and other ingredients).
Note: This review is focused on Panax ginseng species. Kaempferia parviflora is referred to as Thai ginseng and is in the ginger family. It is not related to Panax ginseng and is not included in this bottom line. In Russia, Siberian ginseng has been advertised as a cheaper type of ginseng with identical benefits. However, it lacks the the same effects as the Panax ginseng. Other species may be referred to as ginseng as well, but they are different. Examples include: Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), Pseudostellaria heterophylla (prince ginseng), Angelica sinensis (female ginseng, or dong quai), Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng or ashwagandha), Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng), Lepidium meyenii (Peruvian ginseng or maca), and Gynostemma pentaphyllum (southern ginseng or jiaogulan). These species are not covered in this bottom line.
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.
Limited research suggests that ginseng may stimulate the immune system. In several studies, Cold-fX® (American ginseng) lacked an effect on the frequency of colds, but decreased cold duration and improved cold symptoms. Additional research is needed in this area.
Several studies suggest that
Adaptogen (ability to adapt to the environment)
Some studies have explored the effect of ginseng on promoting sleep and coping with stress. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Available evidence suggests that ginseng may have some beneficial effects for Alzheimer's disease. More well-designed trials are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Early research suggests that shenmai (
Early research examined the effects of an herbal mixture containing American ginseng and
The effect of ginseng in people with bad breath caused by the bacterium
Birth outcomes (brain damage due to lack of oxygen)
Early research has been conducted on shenmai (
Blood clotting disorders
Early evidence showed that a Chinese medical preparation consisting mainly of ginseng saponins is safe and effective for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a disease in which the immune system destroys platelets. Further clinical trials are required before conclusions can be made.
Cancer (used with chemotherapy)
Limited research suggests that injections of shenmai (
Early studies suggest that
Based on limited research, shenmai injection (
Chronic hepatitis B
Early evidence suggests that shenmai injection (Panax ginseng, Schisandra fruit, and Ophiopogon japonicus) may improve liver function, although it lacked an effect on widespread liver scar tissue in people with chronic hepatitis B. More research is needed on ginseng alone.
Coronary artery (heart) disease
Early studies suggest that
Early studies have found positive effects of
Early evidence suggests a beneficial effect of
Several studies evaluating exercise performance, cognitive performance, or mental performance have found that
Early evidence in infants with a collection of pus near the anus or an abnormal anal opening (fistula) suggests that treatment with a ginseng and tang-kuei ten combination (GTTC) may speed recovery. Further research is needed on ginseng alone.
Ginseng, in combination with other herbs, has been examined in people who have suffered a heart attack, with some evidence of benefit. Additional studies of ginseng alone are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Heart disease (general)
Ginseng preparations have been used to treat complications of cardiac bypass surgery. There is evidence that ginseng, in combination with other treatments, may benefit people with heart valve disease, chest pain, and other heart disorders. Additional research is needed in this area.
Heart disease (present at birth)
Based on early research, an injection of
has been used with digoxin to treat congestive heart failure, with a lack of clear benefit. Shenmai injection (
High blood pressure
Early evidence shows that ginseng may lower blood pressure. Additional studies are needed in this area.
Early studies have investigated the effect of
Early research has examined the effects of ginseng in combination with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in people with HIV. Although there appears to be some benefit in adding ginseng to HAART, additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels; healthy people)
Several studies report that American ginseng lowers both fasting blood sugar and blood sugar after meals. Other research showed that blood sugar levels were raised after using Asian ginseng. Further research is needed in this area.
Early research on xuesaitong injection, a preparation of
Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome is an immune response to hantavirus infection. Combination products containing ginseng have been suggested to improve quality of life in people with this disorder or in those with chronic kidney failure. More research is needed in this area.
Evidence to support the use a compound of American (
Early research has examined the effect of combination products containing ginseng on lung function in burn victims and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a type of lung disease. Further research on the effect of ginseng alone is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Evidence suggests that
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Hochu-ekki-to, which contains ginseng and several other herbs, has been used to treat MRSA, a type of bacterial infection. Further research on ginseng alone is necessary to make a firm conclusion.
Nervous system disorders
Evidence suggests that people with nervous system disorders may experience improved cognitive function when taking
Early research suggests that the combination of
Pregnancy (slowed growth in womb)
Early research suggests that
Quality of life
There is some evidence that Asian or American ginseng taken long-term improves quality of life. Further research is required.
Radiation therapy side effects
Evidence regarding the use of
Recovery from surgery (breast cancer)
Limited research has been carried out on the effect of ginseng on recovery after surgery for breast cancer. Some data suggest a faster recovery. Further research is required before conclusions can be made.
Recovery from surgery (liver cancer)
Early research has examined the effects of ginseng on adverse effects following transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE), an invasive chemotherapy treatment for advanced liver cancer. Additional studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Sexual arousal (in women)
Limited research has shown that ArginMax® (a combination of
Sexual function / libido / erectile dysfunction
Early evidence suggests that ginseng, including red ginseng, may be effective in treating erectile dysfunction and early ejaculation. Ginseng may also improve the number and movement of sperm. Additional research is needed in this area.
Research suggests that ginseng may improve sleep in healthy individuals. Additional studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Limited research suggests that ginseng, in combination with other agents, may aid in easing stress. Well-designed studies of the effect of ginseng alone are needed before a conclusion can be made.
A combination of
Sho-saiko-to-ka-kikyo-sekko, a treatment consisting of ginseng and eight other herbs, may reduce the incidence of acute tonsillitis (swelling of the tonsils). More well-designed trials are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Type 2 diabetes
Several studies report that American ginseng may reduce blood lipids, fasting blood sugar, and post-meal blood sugar levels following meals in people with type 2 diabetes. Limited research has shown that ginseng lacks an effect on the factors that cause diabetes. Additional research is needed in this area.
Limited research suggests that shenmai or shengmai injection (
Several studies showed that
Limited research has been conducted on the use of ginseng for treatment of obesity and weight loss. Additional studies are needed in this area.
In early research, a red ginseng extract containing a mixture of
Overall, evidence for ginseng in improving exercise performance is lacking. However, ginseng is still commonly used by athletes in China. Additional research is needed in this area.