The Health Benefits of American Ginseng

This medicinal root may fight fatigue and prevent colds

Ginseng root, capsules, tea, and extract

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a root used in herbal medicine. Both Native American healers and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have utilized it.

Research suggests it may boost energy, stimulate the immune system, and lower blood sugars.

This article will look at the evidence for possible health benefits, side effects, and how to buy, prepare, and store American ginseng.

A member of the ivy family, American ginseng roots are available whole as well as in supplement and tea forms. The plant is native to North America.

Health Benefits

The overall evidence for American ginseng's health benefits is limited. However, the available pool of research is growing. Some research suggests this root could help treat:

So far, much of the evidence is from lab and animal studies. Human trials are in the earliest stages. They'll reveal more about American ginseng's safety and effectiveness.

Fatigue

Preliminary research suggests American ginseng may fight fatigue. It has this in common with the more common Panax ginseng, a.k.a. Asian or Korean ginseng.

A 2018 review of studies said American and Asian ginseng may be viable for treating fatigue from chronic illness. Researchers added that there's a "critical need" for more and stronger trials.

An older study said it appeared to improve cancer-related fatigue—and without side effects. The researchers called for more research into this treatment.

Mental Function

Evidence is growing that American ginseng can improve mental function.

  • A 2020 study demonstrated more activity in some brain regions during processes using working (short-term) memory.
  • A 2019 review of research said it appears to enhance cognitive function and alertness.
  • A 2019 study said American ginseng plus whole coffee fruit extract and Bacopa monniera appeared to increase working memory.
  • A 2015 study showed an increase in working memory in middle-aged people.

Some studies noted improved mental function after just a single dose of American ginseng.

Diabetes

Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is important for managing and preventing diabetes.

A 2018 study found adding American ginseng to diabetes treatments helped keep blood sugars in line.

Randomized, controlled trials done in 2019 and 2020—studies where participants were assigned to either a real or fake treatment group by chance—said American ginseng improved:

Ongoing research is looking at American ginseng use in treating pre-diabetes as well.

Cold and Flu

American ginseng may offer protection against viral respiratory tract infections, including influenza, flu-like illnesses, and the common cold, according to a 2017 review.

A 2020 analysis of research said American ginseng might be helpful in preventing and treating seasonal respiratory infections. However, researchers said the evidence wasn't strong enough for firm conclusions.

Recap

Research is promising for American ginseng as a treatment for:

  • Fatigue
  • Mental function
  • Diabetes
  • Cold, flu, and other respiratory infections

However, it's in the early stages and more work is needed.

Possible Side Effects

American ginseng is believed to be generally safe. Still, it may lead to side effects including:

The long-term side effects of ginseng use aren't known.

Drug interactions are possible. Unless your doctor has advised it, don't take American ginseng with:

  • Coumadin (warfarin): It may reduce the drug's effectiveness.
  • Depression medications called MAOIs: The combination may cause anxiety, headache, restlessness, and insomnia.
  • Blood sugar-lowering drugs: It may low blood sugar too much.
  • Antipsychotic medications: It may increase effects and side effects.
  • Stimulants: It may increase the effects and side effects.

Pregnant women should not take American ginseng. It's closely related to Panax ginseng, which is linked to possible birth defects.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

American ginseng is sold online and in many stores that sell natural foods, herbal medicine, and supplements.

Dietary supplements aren't well regulated in the United States. To ensure quality, look for seals on the label from:

  • U.S. Pharmacopeia
  • NSF International
  • ConsumerLab

Standardized dosing for American ginseng isn't established. Follow the recommendations on the label or your doctor's advice.

Store supplements, tea, and the root in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does American ginseng look like?

The root of the American ginseng plant looks like a forked parsnip. It grows wild in Eastern and Central U.S., especially the Appalachian and Ozark mountains.

Ginseng root

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Do American ginseng and Panax ginseng have the same effects?

American and Asian ginseng both contain compounds called ginsenosides, so their effects may be similar. However, every herb variety is unique. Information about one doesn't necessarily apply to another.

Summary

Evidence is growing that American ginseng may help improve fatigue, mental function, diabetes, and respiratory infections like the cold and flu. Side effects and drug interactions are possible.

This herbal treatment is widely available in multiple forms. Follow dosage recommendations on the label.

A Word From Verywell

Alternative medicine shouldn't be a substitute for standard care. Use proven first-line treatments, then talk to your doctor about adding alternatives like American ginseng and other herbal remedies.

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