What You Should Know About Using American Ginseng for Diabetes Care

Woman drinking ginseng tea.
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As the diabetes epidemic continues to grow, herbs such as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are being studied for their potential effects on the disease (now the seventh leading cause of death in the United States). Also used for such health purposes as fending off colds and fighting fatigue, American ginseng appears to aid in diabetes management in part by improving blood sugar control.

American ginseng contains a class of compounds called ginsenosides. Known to possess antioxidant properties, ginsenosides have been found to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation (two factors that may play a key role in the development and progression of diabetes).

Research Related to Blood Sugar Control

For people with diabetes, maintaining control over blood sugar levels is essential for health. Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to a host of serious complications, including atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues.

In preliminary research on animals, scientists have found that compounds extracted from the root of the American ginseng plant may help improve blood sugar control. This research includes a mouse-based study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2013, which also found that American ginseng may help promote the secretion of insulin (a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels by allowing your cells to take in blood sugar to use as energy).

To date, only a few small studies have tested American ginseng's effects on blood sugar control in humans. In one study involving nine people with diabetes and 10 diabetes-free participants, for instance, researchers observed that treatment with American ginseng helped prevent post-meal spikes in blood sugar levels. This study was published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2000.

Research Related to Diabetes-Related Complications

American ginseng may help protect against certain diabetes-related complications, according to emerging research. For example, a small study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2013 determined that adding American ginseng to conventional therapy in the treatment of diabetes may help fight diabetes-related hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure).

For the study, 64 people with well-controlled hypertension and diabetes were given either American ginseng or a placebo along with their usual treatment every day for 12 weeks. Compared to members of the placebo group, those treated with American ginseng ended up experiencing significantly greater improvements in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and in the stiffness of their arteries.

In addition, a mouse-based study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2013 suggests that American ginseng may help prevent diabetes-induced damage to the retina and heart.

Safety and Side Effects

American ginseng may be safe for long-term use among diabetes patients, according to a report published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2014. In a study involving 74 people with well-controlled diabetes, the report's authors found that those treated with American ginseng extract every day for 12 weeks did not experience any adverse effects on kidney function, liver function, or other measures of health.

It should be noted, however, that American ginseng may trigger a range of side effects. These side effects include insomnia, anxiety, diarrhea, and headache.

Considerations for Use

In order for diabetes patients to achieve optimal control over their condition, it's crucial to follow such lifestyle practices as sticking to a balanced diet, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and avoiding smoking.

To carefully manage your condition and lower your risk of diabetes-related complications, make sure to talk to your doctor for guidance in incorporating natural remedies like American ginseng into your treatment plan.

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Article Sources

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