What Is Panax Ginseng?

Panax ginseng is one of the several types of ginseng commonly used in herbal medicine. The ginseng plant grows in the mountains of East Asia, where its roots are harvested into the ginseng that is consumed—often in teas and supplements.

This article takes a closer look at Panax ginseng and its researched uses, potential side effects, and what to look for when buying supplements.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. 
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are 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 check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Ginsenosides
  • Alternate name(s): Panax ginseng, Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, red ginseng, white ginseng (not to be confused with Siberian ginseng, American ginseng, pseudoginseng, or black ginseng, which come from a different plant)
  • Suggested dose: No standard dose suggested
  • Safety considerations: Relatively safe when used short-term but not recommended in certain groups and interacts with several medications

Purported Uses of Panax Ginseng

Panax ginseng is often promoted as a general tonic to improve well-being or cholesterol health. It's also sometimes used for inflammatory conditions or to help lower blood sugar in those with diabetes.

Though touted to help with several health conditions, there is not enough high-quality research to provide clear recommendations on Panax ginseng's use.

Diabetes

Panax ginseng may have a glucose-lowering effect and has been studied as an add-on therapy in people with diabetes. Several meta-analyses and systematic reviews have evaluated studies conducted on the use of ginseng in diabetes.

One meta-analysis found that supplementing ginseng did not lower hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Ginseng did improve fasting glucose and postprandial insulin but not postprandial glucose and fasting insulin.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in PLoS One found that ginseng, compared with a placebo, significantly reduced fasting blood glucose.

However, the overall clinical effect was modest. Blood glucose levels dropped by about 5 milligrams/decilitre and most of the individuals already had well-controlled glucose levels. This is important because a modest change may result in statistical significance, but the actual clinical significance is questionable.

In this same review, ginseng did not affect fasting plasma insulin, insulin resistance scores, or HbA1C levels.

An earlier systematic review concluded that, based on the available research, the effect of Panax Ginseng on blood sugar management for people with diabetes is not convincing.

Getting convincing evidence from a meta-analysis is challenging because study designs vary widely, including different types or forms of ginseng, doses, and study lengths.

More well-designed studies are needed before recommending ginseng for blood sugar management.

What Is Hemoglobin A1C?

Hemoglobin A1C is a blood test for people with diabetes that tells healthcare providers how well their glucose levels were managed over the previous three months.

Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. Some studies have shown that Panax ginseng may have a cholesterol-lowering effect.

One meta-analysis of the effects of ginseng on lipid profiles found that overall there was no significant improvement in cholesterol, triglyceride, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. But a small subgroup had some significant changes when ginseng was taken at higher doses or for longer periods.

A separate meta-analysis found that Panax ginseng reduced total and LDL-cholesterol levels but did not improve HDL-cholesterol.

A systematic review of research in people with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes showed that Panax ginseng lowered total and LDL-cholesterol when the dose was at least 2 grams daily.

In another meta-analysis done in Korea, Panax ginseng reduced blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels when compared with a placebo.

Again, further high-quality research is needed to determine what dosage is needed to achieve the desired effect on cholesterol levels.

Dietary supplements should only be used in addition to, not instead of, medical standard care. If you have high cholesterol, talk to your healthcare provider about an appropriate plan that includes diet modification, physical activity, and medications.

Ginseng capsules, tincture, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Inflammation

Low-grade inflammation is thought to lead to several diseases and conditions. As a result, there is a large focus on products that have anti-inflammatory effects, ginseng possibly being one of them.

A systematic review of the effects of ginseng on inflammatory markers found that ginseng may lower interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor (alpha TNF-a) but not C-reactive protein (CRP).

The researchers also mentioned some of the studies were biased. Further research is needed to determine the dosage needed to see significant reductions in these markers.

A separate meta-analysis found that ginseng did significantly reduce CRP levels but only in individuals who had an elevated CRP, to begin with.

More clinical studies are needed to determine if ginseng would be an appropriate add-on therapy to address inflammation.

Other Conditions

Although supplements may be helpful, they are never a "cure-all" option. It is important to be wary of any supplement that claims to treat or cure a medical condition. In some cases, supplements may be touted for a health condition for which they have no benefit.

For instance, studies have found that Panax ginseng is:

  • Not effective for relieving hot flashes
  • Doesn't boost athletic endurance
  • Has not been proven to have anticancer activity
  • Does not appear to prevent or treat upper respiratory infections

What Are the Side Effects of Panax Ginseng?

Ginseng is commonly used and is even found in beverages, which may lead you to believe it's completely safe. But like any herbal supplement or medication, it can have unwanted effects.

The most common side effect of ginseng is insomnia. Additional reported side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Mastalgia (breast pain)
  • Vaginal bleeding

Allergic reactions, severe rash, and liver damage are less common side effects but can be serious.

Precautions

Children and pregnant or nursing people should avoid taking Panax ginseng.

If you are considering taking Panax ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider if you have:

  • High blood pressure: Panax ginseng may affect blood pressure.
  • Diabetes: Panax ginseng may lower blood sugar levels and interact with diabetes medications.
  • Blood clotting disorders: Panax ginseng can interfere with blood clotting and interact with some anticoagulant drugs.

Dosage: How Much Panax 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.

The dosage of Panax ginseng depends on the type of ginseng, the reason for using it, and the amount of ginsenosides in the supplement.

There is no standard dose of Panax ginseng recommended. It has often been used in doses of 200 milligrams per day in studies. Some have recommended 500 milligrams to 2,000 milligrams per day if taken from the dry root. When used in capsules, dosages can range from 100 to 600 milligrams per day in divided doses.

Since dosages can vary, make sure to read the product label for instructions on how to take that supplement. Before starting Panax ginseng, talk to a healthcare provider to determine a safe and appropriate dosage for you.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Panax Ginseng?

There is not a lot of data on the toxicity of Panax ginseng. Toxicity isn't likely to occur when taken in the appropriate amounts for a short time. Side effects are more likely if you are taking too much ginseng.

Interactions

Panax ginseng interacts with several types of medications. It is important to tell your healthcare provider all the prescription and OTC medication, herbal remedies, and supplements you take. They can help determine if it is safe to take Panax ginseng.

Potential interactions include:

  • Caffeine or stimulant drugs: The combination with ginseng may increase heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Blood thinners such as Jantoven (warfarin): Ginseng may slow blood clotting and decrease the effectiveness of certain blood thinners. If you take blood thinners, discuss Panax ginseng with your healthcare provider before starting it. They may be able to check your blood levels and adjust dosing accordingly.
  • Insulin or oral diabetes medications: Using these with ginseng may result in hypoglycemia as they help lower blood sugar levels.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) Nardil (phenelzine): Ginseng may increase the risk of side effects associated with MAOIs, including manic-like symptoms.
  • Diuretic Lasix (furosemide): Ginseng may reduce the effectiveness of furosemide.
  • QT interval prolonging medications: Ginseng may increase the risk of irregular heart rhythm.
  • Ginseng can increase the risk of liver toxicity if taken with certain medications, including Gleevec (imatinib) and Isentress (raltegravir).
  • Zelapar (selegiline): Panax ginseng may affect the levels of selegiline.
  • Panax ginseng has been found to interfere with drugs processed by an enzyme called cytochrome P45 3A4 (CYP3A4). Ask your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications of this kind.

More interactions may occur with other drugs or supplements. Before taking Panax ginseng, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information on potential interactions.

Recap

Ginseng has the potential to interact with several different types of medications. Before taking herbal supplements, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if ginseng is safe for you based on your current health status and medications.

Panax Ginseng capsules
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

How to Store Panax Ginseng

Follow manufacturer directions for the best way to store Panax ginseng. Always keep out of reach of children and pets.

Similar Supplements

There are several different types of ginseng. Some are derived from different plants and may not have the same effect as Panax ginseng. Supplements can also be made from root extract or root powder.

Additionally, ginseng may be classified by the following:

  • Fresh (less than 4 years old)
  • White (4 to 6 years old, peeled and then dried)
  • Red (more than 6 years old, steamed, and then dried)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does Panax Ginseng help with erectile dysfunction (ED)?

    There is evidence to suggest that Panax Ginseng may improve erectile dysfunction (ED) symptoms. However, authors of recent systematic reviews also stated that the quality of the studies didn't allow them to make definitive conclusions.

    Another review found that ginseng may have a trivial effect on ED. The authors also noted that no study has compared ginseng to common medications used for ED. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about treatment options for ED.

  • Can Panax ginseng enhance cognitive function or help older adults with dementia?

    A review in the Cochrane Database concluded that there is not enough evidence to say that Panax ginseng enhances cognition in healthy people. Nor is there high-quality research to support its use for people with dementia.

Sources of Panax Ginseng & What to Look For

Panax ginseng comes from the root of the plant in the genus Panax. It is an herbal remedy made from the plant's root and isn't something you typically get in your diet.

When looking for a ginseng supplement, consider the following:

  • The type of ginseng used
  • Which part of the plant was used to make ginseng (e.g., root)
  • Which form of ginseng is included (e.g., powder or extract)
  • The amount of ginsenosides in the supplement. The standard amount of ginsenoside content in supplements is recommended to be 1.5% to 7%

For any supplement or herbal product, look for one that has been third-party tested. This provides some quality assurance in that the supplement contains what is stated on the label and is free of harmful contaminants. Look for labels from USP, NSF, or ConsumerLabs.

Summary

Herbal remedies and alternative medicines are popular but don't forget that just because something is labeled "natural" doesn't mean it's safe. The FDA regulates dietary supplements as food items, which means they aren't regulated as strictly as drugs.

Ginseng is often found in herbal supplements and drinks. It is touted to help manage a lot of various health conditions, but there is not enough research to prove the efficacy of its use. When searching for products, look for supplements certified for quality by an independent third party, like NSF, or ask your healthcare provider for a reputable brand recommendation.

Ginseng supplementation may result in some mild effects. It also interacts with several different medications. It is important to discuss herbal remedies with your healthcare provider to understand the risks versus benefits.

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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 Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N, CNSC, FAND
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N-AP, CNSC, FAND is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and writer with over 20 years of experience in clinical nutrition. Her experience ranges from counseling cardiac rehabilitation clients to managing the nutrition needs of complex surgical patients.

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.

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