The Health Benefits of American Ginseng

Fresh ginseng root

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American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and by Native American healers. A member of the ivy family, the root of the ginseng plant is said to boost energy, prevent infections, and even treat diabetes and cancer.

The root of the American ginseng plant looks similar to a forked parsnip. It grows wild in Eastern and Central parts of the United States, particularly in the Appalachian and Ozark mountains.

Research suggests that compounds found in American ginseng called ginsenosides may stimulate the immune system, inhibit the growth of cancer cells, lower blood sugar, and may even treat dementia. These studies, however, have been performed on animals and cell cultures and trials in humans are needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Health Benefits

Like other forms of ginseng (such as Korean ginseng, or Panax ginseng), American ginseng has also been found to fight fatigue in preliminary research. However, the overall evidence for American ginseng's health benefits is limited. Here's a look at some key findings on American ginseng's health benefits.


American ginseng may help regulate blood sugar, according to a 2018 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition. The study of 39 people with diabetes found American ginseng plus fiber helped to lower blood sugar over the 12-week trial. Though promising, more research is needed.

Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is important for both diabetes prevention and diabetes management. However, it should be noted that there is a lack of larger studies testing American ginseng's effects on blood sugar.

Common Cold

American ginseng may offer cold-fighting benefits, a 2005 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests. For the study, researchers told 323 adults to take two capsules of either American ginseng or a placebo every day for four months.

Study results showed that members of the American ginseng group had fewer colds over the course of the cold season. When they did come down with colds, those given American ginseng had less severe symptoms and a shorter duration of sickness (compared to those assigned to the placebo).

A 2011 literature review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine came to a similar conclusion. The review included five trials of a total of 747 subjects and found taking American ginseng reduced the incidence of colds by 25% compared to placebo.

Cancer Fatigue

In a 2010 study published in Supportive Care in Cancer, cancer patients who took American ginseng supplements daily for eight weeks showed greater improvements in vitality (compared to those assigned to a placebo). Other research suggests that American ginseng may fight mental fatigue during prolonged mental activity (such as taking a test).

Possible Side Effects

Use of American ginseng is likely safe, but it may lead to a number of side effects, including insomnia, nervousness, rapid heart rate, headache, low blood sugar, and gastrointestinal upset. The long-term side effects of ginseng use aren't known.

American ginseng should not be taken with Coumadin (warfarin) as it may reduce the efficacy of the drug and lead to blood clotting. It should also not be taken with a class of depression medications known as MAOIs, as it may cause anxiousness, headache, restlessness, and insomnia. People who are taking blood sugar-lowering drugs should take caution using American ginseng as it may cause low blood sugar.

Pregnant women should not take American ginseng. A compound found in Panax ginseng, which is closely related to American ginseng, has been linked to possible birth defects.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

American ginseng is sold as a supplement, tea, or whole root. There is no standardized dosing. Follow the recommendations on the package. Store supplements, tea, and root in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

American ginseng is sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, herbal medicine shops, and stores specializing in dietary supplements, as well as online.

Dietary supplements are largely unregulated. To ensure the safety and quality of any supplement, look for an independent third-party seal on the label, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. The label should not make any health promises that it can treat or cure a disease, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

Common Questions

Is American ginseng the same as Panax ginseng?

No. Panax ginseng is also called Asian ginseng. American ginseng is from the plant Panax quinquefolius. The two plants are related and both contain compounds known as ginsenosides, which is responsible for their purported health benefits American ginseng is grown in the United States and exported to China and other Asian countries.

A Word From Verywell

Due to the lack of scientific support for its health benefits, American ginseng cannot currently be recommended for any health condition. If you're looking to treat or prevent a specific health problem with American ginseng, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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Article Sources

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