What Is Panax Ginseng?

Panax Ginseng May Help With Diabetes, Cognition, and More

Ginseng capsules, tincture, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, each type of ginseng is thought to have unique healing properties. For example, some types of Panax ginseng are said to have "warming" properties thought to aid blood flow.

This article takes a closer look at what Panax ginseng is and the health benefits it may offer. It also discusses how you can take Panax ginseng, possible side effects, and what to look for when buying it.

What Is Ginseng?

Ginseng is a root commonly used as a supplement in herbal medicine. It is thought to increase energy, boost the immune system, and help manage certain health conditions.

What Is Panax Ginseng Used For?

The active compounds in Panax ginseng, known as ginsenosides, are thought to have a steroid-like effect that reduces inflammation in the body.

Going back to ancient times, Panax ginseng was used to increase energy and stamina and to give the immune system a boost.

Today, although research on Panax ginseng is fairly limited, there's some evidence that the herb may offer certain health benefits.

Here's a look at several key research findings:

Diabetes

Panax ginseng may aid in diabetes management. For a 2014 research review, scientists analyzed 16 studies that focused on how ginseng effects blood glucose levels in people with and without diabetes.

Most of the studies took place for less than 12 weeks and included people with relatively good control over their blood sugar. The authors concluded that even though ginseng significantly improved fasting blood sugar levels for those with and without diabetes, more research is needed.

Cognition

Panax ginseng has been shown to improve cognitive performance, mainly short-term memory, according to a 2015 research review of the health benefits of ginseng.

In addition, a 2018 study found that taking ginseng supplements for five or more years had a beneficial impact on cognition for older adults.

These cognitive benefits and many other ginseng health benefits are thought to be due to the root's antioxidant properties.

Erectile Dysfunction

According to a review of six research trials that took place over 15 years, Panax ginseng may be an effective and safe treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Another review of alternative medicines for sexual function also found that Panax ginseng was the only dietary supplement to improve erectile function without posing safety issues.

Unlike prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction, which are usually taken when needed, ginseng only appears to be useful for erectile dysfunction if taken on a continuous basis.

Other Conditions

Although it's sometimes touted as a "cure-all," Panax ginseng may not be helpful for certain conditions. For instance, studies have found that Panax ginseng is not effective for relieving hot flashes or boosting athletic endurance.

In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that although there have been numerous studies on the benefits of ginseng, more research is needed to prove that ginseng is helpful for many other conditions, including:

Recap

Studies show ginseng may improve cognition, help people with diabetes gain control over their blood sugar, and be a safe treatment for erectile function. That said, more studies are needed to prove ginseng is useful for these conditions and many others.

Possible Side Effects

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

Some of the more commonly reported side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Insomnia

Panax ginseng may affect blood pressure, so if you have high blood pressure (hypertension), you may want to avoid ginseng unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Panax ginseng may lower blood sugar levels and it may interact with diabetes medication. So if you have diabetes and are considering using it, be sure to speak with your doctor.

Children and pregnant or nursing women should avoid Panax ginseng. 

Drug and Supplement Interactions

Panax ginseng can make the effects of blood-thinning medications stronger and increase the risk of bleeding. If you are taking an anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication like warfarin, clopidogrel, ticlopidine, heparin, and aspirin, be sure to talk with your doctor before trying ginseng. 

Some herbal supplements have been known to cause bleeding and can, therefore, increase the risk of bleeding if combined with ginseng.

Panax ginseng may affect levels of chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells and may interact with antipsychotic drugs such as chlorpromazine.

Panax ginseng has been found to interfere with drugs processed by an enzyme called CYP3A4. Ask your doctor to check if you are taking medications of this type.

Recap

Ginseng may cause headaches, digestive problems, and insomnia in some people. If you are taking other herbal supplements or medications, such as blood-thinners or antipsychotic medications, be sure to ask your doctor if ginseng is safe for you.

Panax Ginseng capsules
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage and Duration

There is no single recommended dose of Panax ginseng. Various doses have been studied in research.

For example, a 2018 review of 91 clinical trials on the effects of Panax ginseng found that suitable ginseng dosages varied widely due to the diversity of the trials. For these clinical trials, dosages ranged from 0.2 grams to 9 grams of Panax ginseng daily for four to 24 weeks.

While Panax ginseng may boost your energy and help you manage certain health conditions, if you're considering taking it, it's important to consult with your doctor first.

What to Look For

In traditional Chinese medicine, the way that ginseng has been prepared is thought to influence its effects.

Red ginseng, for instance, is unpeeled ginseng that is steamed before drying. White ginseng, on the other hand, is unpeeled Panax ginseng that is dried and peeled (but not steam-treated). A newer type, black ginseng, is made from a repeated steaming/drying process. 

Red ginseng is thought to promote "yang" energy, said to be stimulating and heating, to a greater degree than white ginseng. As a result, red ginseng may be too overstimulating for people who tend to feel hot or who have conditions such as tumors, kidney stones, gallstones, inflammatory conditions, or certain psychological conditions.

White and red ginseng are available in tinctures, liquid extracts, powders, and capsules.

Panax Ginseng vs. Other Types

In traditional Chinese medicine, American ginseng is said to have "cooling" properties. This type of ginseng is often touted as a natural remedy for diabetes. American ginseng is also said to stimulate the immune system, as well as improve strength, stamina, and general well-being.

Siberian ginseng is also used to boost strength, stamina, and immunity. It is sometimes taken to ease the side effects of chemotherapy. In addition, Siberian ginseng is thought to protect against atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Summary

The ginseng root is commonly used in traditional medicine and is often found in herbal supplements and drinks. Its antioxidant and steroid-like properties are thought to benefit conditions like diabetes and erectile dysfunction, and it may boost cognitive function too.

More research is needed to determine just how much ginseng can benefit people with these conditions and many others. It's also unclear what dosage of ginseng is generally best.

Ginseng does come with a risk of side effects, and it may interfere with certain medications, so it's important to ask your doctor if it's right for you.

A Word From Verywell

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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements as though they are food items, which means they aren't regulated as strictly as drugs.

Look for supplements certified for quality by an independent third party, like NSF, or ask your healthcare provider for a reputable brand recommendation.

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