What Is American Ginseng?

Does it fight fatigue and prevent colds?

Ginseng root, capsules, tea, and extract

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a plant native to North America that's used in herbal medicine. A member of the ivy family, American ginseng roots are available whole and in supplement and tea forms.

American ginseng is classified as an adaptogen. While adaptogens are considered to help the body overcome physical or emotional stress, research is still pending on whether this is true. American ginseng also has strong antioxidant properties, which may protect against cell damage. Proponents claim the supplement may boost energy, stimulate the immune system, and lower blood sugar. It's also been studied in other conditions, from Alzheimer's disease to cancer.

This article discusses the potential uses and benefits of American ginseng. It also covers side effects, interactions, and appropriate dosages to remember.

Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. Choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International, whenever possible.

Keep in mind, though, that even if supplements are third-party tested, they are not necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Ginsenosides, polysaccharides, terpenes, phenolic compounds, amino acids, flavonoids, volatile oils, vitamins, and minerals
  • Alternate name(s): Baie Rouge, Canadian ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, red berry
  • Legal status: Sold over the counter (OTC) in the United States
  • Suggested dose: 200 to 400 milligrams twice a day for up to six months
  • Safety considerations: Not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding or for people with hormone-sensitive cancers; may affect blood sugar, cause insomnia

Uses of American Ginseng

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

The overall evidence for American ginseng's potential health benefits is limited. So far, much of the data comes from lab and animal studies. Human trials are in the early stages and typically reveal more about American ginseng's safety and effectiveness.

Research is most robust for the following conditions:


A review of four studies suggests American ginseng may benefit adults with fatigue due to chronic illness. The most significant benefit was seen in participants who took 2,000 milligrams (mg) of American ginseng daily for eight weeks. Researchers added that there's a "critical need" for more and more robust trials.

A systematic review (a thorough analysis of evidence based on a single topic) on cancer-related fatigue rated American ginseng as likely effective for adult cancer patients. The benefit was greatest in people undergoing active treatment, like chemotherapy or radiation. And American ginseng did not interact with common chemotherapy medications such as tamoxifen, doxorubicin, methotrexate, or fluorouracil.

Remember that there are currently not enough high-quality clinical trials to recommend American ginseng for chronic fatigue routinely.

Mental Function

Limited evidence suggests that American ginseng may improve cognitive function; however, more robust trials are needed.

A 2015 study showed increased working memory in healthy middle-aged adults who received a single 200 mg dose of a standardized American ginseng extract called Cereboost. The biggest improvement in cognitive function was seen three hours after Cereboost was taken. The sample size was small, however, with only 52 people.

A study of 61 healthy younger adults showed improved working memory and attention after taking 200 mg of Cereboost. These effects were enhanced when Cereboost was taken daily for two weeks. Scientists believe American ginseng may improve mood and cognitive function by altering the gut microbiome.

And a study of 64 people with schizophrenia showed that taking 100 mg of a standardized extract called HT1001 twice a day for four weeks improved working memory compared to a placebo (a dummy pill with no therapeutic value).


A review of 16 ginseng trials (three of which studied American ginseng) concluded that fasting blood sugar was modestly lowered by taking ginseng.

And a small study of 24 people with type 2 diabetes showed that taking 3,000 mg of American ginseng daily could help with blood sugar control. At the end of eight weeks, the people who used American ginseng had decreased hemoglobin A1C levels, fasting blood sugar, and systolic blood pressure compared to those who took a placebo. A small trial size limited the study, and the participants' blood sugar was already controlled by medication.

Until the benefits of American ginseng are verified, continue with lifestyle modifications and FDA-approved diabetes medications to manage your blood sugar.

Cold and Flu

According to a 2017 review, American ginseng offered protection against viral respiratory tract infections, including influenza and the common cold. This was based on a study that showed a decreased risk and duration of cold and flu symptoms in older adults with weakened immune systems who took an American ginseng extract called COLD-fX.

There's not enough data to know if American ginseng would have the same effect in different age groups or in people with healthy immune systems.

An analysis of research concluded that American ginseng might help prevent and treat seasonal respiratory infections. However, researchers noted that the evidence wasn't strong enough for firm conclusions.

There's insufficient data to recommend American ginseng for cold or flu prevention.

Additional Uses

In addition to the studied conditions above, preliminary studies have investigated American ginseng for the following conditions:

These studies were done in test tubes or using animal models and may not translate into benefits for humans. Well-designed clinical trials in humans are needed to determine what effects, if any, American ginseng has on these conditions.

What Are the Side Effects of American Ginseng?

Your provider may recommend taking American ginseng for a cold or another reason. However, consuming an herb like American ginseng may have potential side effects. These side effects may be common or severe.

Common Side Effects

American ginseng is believed to be generally safe. In clinical trials studying its effect on fatigue, doses of 2,000 mg daily were associated with the same rate of side effects as a placebo. Still, it may lead to side effects, including:

Severe Side Effects

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


Some groups of people should take special precautions when using American ginseng and may need to avoid it altogether. The following conditions make taking American ginseng riskier:

  • Pregnancy: American ginseng is related to Panax ginseng, which is linked to possible birth defects.
  • Breastfeeding: There is insufficient data to determine if taking American ginseng while nursing is safe.
  • Estrogen-sensitive conditions: Conditions like breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids could be exacerbated (worsened) because ginsenosides in American ginseng may act like estrogen.
  • Insomnia: High doses of American ginseng may cause difficulty sleeping.
  • Schizophrenia: High doses of American ginseng can increase agitation in people with schizophrenia.
  • Autoimmune disorders: American ginseng may have effects on the immune system.
  • Surgery: American ginseng should be stopped two weeks before surgery due to its impact on blood sugar.

Dosage: How Much American Ginseng Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

Standardized dosing for American ginseng isn't established. Follow the suggestions on the label and your healthcare provider's advice.

American ginseng has been studied at the following dosages:

  • Adults: 200 to 400 mg by mouth twice daily for three to six months
  • Children age 3 to 12: 4.5 to 26 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg)by mouth daily for three days

What Happens If I Take Too Much American Ginseng?

At normal doses, American ginseng is unlikely to cause toxicity.

An overdose may cause insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbances, or depression symptoms. And high doses of ginseng, up to 15 grams (g) per day, may cause "ginseng abuse syndrome" characterized by diarrhea, skin rash, and nervous system effects.


American ginseng may interact with prescription and OTC medications and supplements. Unless your healthcare provider has advised it, don't take American ginseng with prescription medications such as:

  • Jantoven (warfarin): American ginseng may reduce the drug's effectiveness and increase blood clotting.
  • Antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as Zelapar (selegiline)and Parnate (tranylcypromine): The combination may cause anxiety, restlessness, manic episodes, or trouble sleeping.
  • Diabetes medications: Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may occur.
  • Progestins (hormones commonly found in birth control pills): Side effects could be increased since American ginseng has estrogen-like effects.

Other herbal supplements that lower blood sugar may also interact with American ginseng, potentially causing hypoglycemia. Some examples include:

It is essential to carefully read a supplement's ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to learn which ingredients are in the product and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store American Ginseng

Store supplements, tea, and the root in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. Keep away from children and pets. Discard after one year or according to manufacturer's directions.

Similar Supplements

Some other supplements that may improve cognitive function and decrease stress are:

Supplements that have been studied for the treatment or prevention of respiratory viruses like the cold or flu include:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there other types of ginseng?

    "Ginseng" is the generic name for plants from the genus Panax (meaning "cure of all diseases"). Thirteen Panax species have been identified, the most common being Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng) and Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng).

  • When is the best time of year to take American ginseng?

    Some sources suggest taking American ginseng in the summer because it's thought to cool the body. However, little scientific evidence supports this.

  • What are some other options for cancer-related fatigue?

    During active treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT, a form of talk therapy) and hypnosis may be helpful. After treatment, some options that may reduce fatigue include acupressure, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and qigong.

Sources of American Ginseng & What to Look For

American ginseng is an ingredient in some commercial food products in the United States and is found in supplement form.

Food Sources of American Ginseng

American ginseng is used as an additive in some energy drinks and candies in the United States.

American Ginseng Supplements

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

It's available in many dosage forms, including:

  • Powders
  • Capsules
  • Teas
  • Extracts

Dietary supplements are not government regulated in the United States. To ensure quality, look for seals on the label from a third-party such as:

  • USP
  • NSF International
  • ConsumerLab

These organizations test whether products contain the listed ingredients and are free of harmful contaminants.

Ginseng root
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak


Limited evidence suggests 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, and American ginseng can be dangerous if taken during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or in people with schizophrenia or certain cancers.

In some cases, integrative medicine shouldn't be a substitute for standard medical care. Use first-line treatments, and discuss with your healthcare provider about adding alternatives like American ginseng and other herbal remedies.

17 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Megan Nunn, PharmD
Megan Nunn, PharmD, is a community pharmacist in Tennessee with over twelve years of experience in medication counseling and immunization.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process