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.

This article takes a closer look at what Panax ginseng is and the research that has been done. It also discusses how you can safely take Panax ginseng, the possible side effects, and what to look for when buying it.

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 that has been 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 of 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
  • Alternate name(s): ginseng, asian ginseng, panax
  • Suggested dose: no standard dose suggested
  • Safety considerations: relatively safe but not recommended in certain groups and interacts with several medications

There are several different types of ginseng supplements. Panax ginseng is also known as panax, ginseng, asian ginseng, or wild ginseng. These should not be confused with Siberian ginseng, American ginseng, pseudoginseng, and black ginseng, which come from a different plant.

Panax Ginseng Benefits

Panax Ginseng is touted to help with several chronic diseases and conditions. However, there is not enough high quality research to provide clear recommendations on its use.

It's often promoted as a general tonic to improve well-being or to improve physical stamina, concentration, and memory. It's also sometimes used for inflammatory conditions or to try to help lower blood sugar in those with diabetes.

Uses of Panax Ginseng

Available research is summarized below but since the data show mixed results, there really aren't any specific uses for it.

Diabetes

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

One meta-analysis found that supplementing ginseng did not lower hemoglobin A1C levels. 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 to placebo, significantly reduced fasting blood glucose. The effect was modest in that it dropped blood glucose about 5 mg/dl and most subjects 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 had no effect on fasting plasma insulin, insulin resistance scores, and Hemoglobin A1C levels.

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

Obtaining convincing evidence from a meta-analysis is challenging because study design varies widely. Studies may use a different type or form of ginseng, doses also varied as did study duration. Studies also looked at different outcomes. Further well designed studies are needed before recommending ginseng for blood sugar management.

Hemoglobin A1C is a blood test for people with diabetes that tells healthcare providers how well their glucose levels were managed over the previous 3 months.

Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. Some studies have showed 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 HDL and 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, similarly found that Panax Ginseng lowered total and LDL-cholesterol when the dose was at least 2 grams daily.

A meta-analysis done in Korea found that Panax Ginseng compared to placebo resulted in significant reductions to blood pressure, total and LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Again, further high quality research is needed to determine what is an appropriate dose to see the desired effect on cholesterol levels. If you have high cholesterol, talk to your healthcare provider about an appropriate plan that includes diet modification, physical activity, medications and/or supplements.

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 effect, 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). They also mentioned some of the studies had bias and that further research is needed to determine what dose of ginseng would be needed to see significant reductions in these markers.

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

Further research is needed to determine if ginseng would be an appropriate adjunctive therapy to addressing inflammation.

Uses of Panax Ginseng are difficult to determine based on the available published data. There is some promising early research that ginseng may help manage glucose levels in people with diabetes, reduce high cholesterol levels, and reduce inflammatory markers but further research is needed.

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
  • Doesn't boost athletic endurance.
  • Has not been proven to have anticancer activity
  • Does not appear to prevent or treat upper respiratory infections

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:

What Are the Side Effects of Panax Ginseng?

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.

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

  • Headaches
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • blood pressure changes
  • mastalgia
  • vaginal bleeding

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

Precautions

Children and pregnant or nursing women should avoid Panax ginseng.

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.

Panax ginseng may cause the immune system to be more active so it is not recommended for people with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Also, it may make immune suppressing medications less effective so it is not recommended if you have undergone an organ transplant.

People with blood clotting disorders should avoid taking Panax ginseng without discussing with their healthcare provider first. It may interfere with blood clotting.

Dosage: How Much Panax Ginseng Should I Take?

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

There is no standard dose of Panax Ginseng recommended. Dosing ranges from 200 mg - 3,000 mg (3 g) orally for up to 12 weeks. Some have recommended 100 mg twice daily if the supplement is made from root extract and 1,000-2,000 mg daily if the supplement is made from root powder.

Another suggestion is for the dose to provide at least 6 mg gensinosides.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Panax Ginseng?

There is not a lot of data on toxicity of Panax ginseng. When taken in the appropriate amounts, toxicity typically isn't of concern. Side effects are more likely, if taking too much ginseng.

Interactions

Panax ginseng interacts with several types of medications. It is important to discuss any herbal remedies or supplements with your healthcare provider. Potential interactions include:

  • taking ginseng with caffeine or any stimulant drug may increase heart rate or blood pressure.
  • ginseng may slow blood clotting so people that are taking blood thinners may have an increased risk of bleeding. Discuss with your healthcare provider about the safety of ginseng for you - they may be able to check your blood levels and adjust dosing accordingly.
  • combining ginseng with insulin or anti diabetes medications may result in hypoglycemia as they all may help to lower blood sugar levels.
  • ginseng may increase the risk of side effects associated with MAOIs.
  • ginseng may reduce the effectiveness of the diuretic, furosemide.
  • it may increase the risk of irregular heart beats in people that are prescribed QT interval prolonging medications.
  • Ginseng can interfere with several other medications, including: nifedipine, Imatinib, Midazolam, Selegilline. Taking ginseng with Raltegravir may increase the risk of liver toxicity.
  • 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 has the potential to interact with several different types of medications. Before you start taking herbal supplements be sure to ask your doctor or healthcare provider if ginseng is safe for you.

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.

Similar Supplements

There are several different types of ginseng as discussed earlier. 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 as fresh (less than 4 years old), white (4-6 years old, peeled and then dried), and 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 have an effect on erectile dysfunction but authors of recent systematic reviews also stated that the quality of the studies didn't allow to them to make definitive conclusions. A review in the Cochrane Database found that ginseng may have a trivial effect on erectile function. 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?

    There is not enough high quality research to say that Panax Ginseng improves cognitive function. 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 root of the plant and isn't something you would typically get in various foods in your diet.

If looking for a ginseng supplement, be sure to look for :

  • the type of ginseng used
  • which part of the plant was used to make ginseng (eg - root)
  • which form of ginseng is included (powder or extract)
  • the amount of ginsenosides in the supplement. For Panax ginseng look for one that is at least 1.5% ginsenosides if root powder and 3% ginsenosides if root extract.

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

Summary

Ginseng is often found in herbal supplements and drinks. It is touted to help manage a lot of various chronic diseases and conditions but there is not enough research to prove the efficacy of its use.

It's also unclear what dosage of ginseng is generally best.

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 best understand the risks versus benefit.

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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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 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.