Effects of Ginseng on Blood Sugar

ginseng root on plate
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Ginseng, and specifically American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is one of the most well-known and widely used herbal medicines in the world. The root of the ginseng plant has been used for thousands of years in traditional Eastern medicine to boost energy, relieve stress, and bring about total body balance. More recently, ginseng has been studied as a therapy to help control blood sugar, improve circulation, bolster immunity, improve stamina and increase resistance to stress.

How It Works

Ginseng is host to several antioxidant compounds called ginsenosides, which have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, two major factors that contribute to the progression of diabetes.

Studies on the Link Between Ginseng and Blood Sugar

A 2014 review and meta-analysis of 16 research studies looked at those that used randomized, controlled groups for 30 days or more and people who had diabetes and those who didn't. They found that ginseng significantly improved fasting blood glucose compared to the control group. Ginseng didn't have a significant effect on A1c, fasting insulin, or insulin resistance. They concluded that ginseng "modestly yet significantly improved fasting blood glucose in people with and without diabetes."

In contrast, a 2016 meta-analysis of eight studies found that the benefits of using ginseng as part of a treatment program for type 2 diabetes included improved fasting glucose levels, postprandial insulin, and insulin resistance, with no significant effects on A1c. The study also found improved triglycerides, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) as a result of using ginseng.

A 2019 study found that the glycemic benefits of using ginseng alongside oral medications for type 2 diabetes (such as metformin) resulted in reduced systolic blood pressure, blood lipid markers, and increased nitric oxide generation, suggesting that ginseng improves endothelial function and protects against cardiovascular disease in those patients.

Contraindications

Ginseng has multiple effects throughout the body and it should only be used with caution and after consulting with your doctor about possible interactions with your medications. The safety of ginseng use during pregnancy has not been determined, and therefore it should be avoided. It is regarded as unsafe for use by infants and children.

Ginseng also should not be taken by people who have hormone-sensitive tumors (breast cancer, for example) or hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis.

Side Effects

A 2014 report published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that among 74 people with well-managed diabetes, those treated with American ginseng extract daily for 12 weeks did not see any adverse outcomes on kidney function, liver function, or other health markers.

However, ginseng may result in several side effects, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

Drug Interactions

Ginseng interferes with the blood-thinning drug warfarin (Coumadin), reducing its effectiveness in preventing blood clots.

Ginseng may alter the effectiveness of diabetes medications, making it critically important for a person with diabetes to discuss it with their doctor and pharmacist before taking ginseng supplements.

Ginseng is reported to have moderate interactions with insulin, glimepiride, glyburide, glipizide, and others, which could result in low blood sugar. You may need to have other medication dosages altered for safety if you take ginseng at the same time.

Dosage

Ginseng may be taken in capsule form or extract form. In traditional Chinese medicine, 3 grams per day of ginseng is typically used as a safe and effective dose, although you may need less if using a capsule with standardized extracts of ginsenosides (meaning the active ingredients are highly concentrated). In the review studies, researchers noted a wide range of dosing, from 1 gram per day to up to 13.5 grams per day. Work with your doctor or a certified herbalist to determine your correct dosage.

A Word From Verywell

To best achieve optimal blood sugar control, it's important that you follow healthy lifestyle behaviors such as a balanced diet rich in fiber and veggies, regular exercise, and stress reduction techniques.

Current research has found ginseng to be most effective when used in conjunction with other diabetes treatments including oral medication and lifestyle changes. While potent, ginseng should not be used in place of professional medical care and should only be taken under the direction of your physician. Be sure to talk to your doctor for guidance before incorporating ginseng or any other natural remedy into your diabetes treatment plan.

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