Ginseng is an eastern medicine herb that helps improve mood, energy, immunity and even helps to prevent cancer. It has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese medicinal practices.
There are many types of this herb, but the most popular are American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng).
American and Asian ginseng vary in their concentration of active compounds and effects on the body. It is believed that American ginseng works as a calming agent, whereas the Asian variety has a stimulating effect (1, 2).
The compounds in ginseng that provide most of the health benefits are called ginsenosides and gintonin (3).
1Ginseng can help treat erectile dysfunction. A 2014 study published in Urologia Internationalis found that the ginseng compound ginsenosides and gintonin may protect against oxidative stress within the tissues in the penis and help restore normal functioning (4).
Another 2007 study examined the treatment efficacy of Korean red ginseng in impotent men with erectile dysfunction.
60 patients with varying levels of erectile dysfunction were enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which the efficacies of a placebo and Korean red ginseng were compared.
Those who supplemented with 100omg, 3 times per day, of Korean red ginseng experienced improved symptoms in terms of erection hardness and lasting. The placebo group patients saw no improvements (5).
Another 2008 systematic review of 28 different studies showed evidence for the use of red ginseng in treating erectile dysfunction in a variety of subjects and circumstances (6).
Lastly, a 2009 study published in Asian Journal of Andrology demonstrated that 86 men with erectile dysfunction had significant improvements in erectile function and overall satisfaction after taking 1,000 mg of aged ginseng extract for 8 weeks (7).
2Ginseng can reduce the risk of cancer. A 2016 study showed that ginseng might be able to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers including mouth, lung, stomach, and colon cancer (8).
Another 2016 meta-review published in Journal of Ginseng Research showed that ginseng supplementation resulted in a 16% less prevalence of cancer (9).
Ginseng has also been shown to help those who are getting treated with for cancer with chemotherapy. A 2015 study showed that ginseng might help reduce the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs and bolster the drugs cancer-fighting properties (10).
3Ginseng can increase your energy levels and lower fatigue. A 2013 study showed that patients given 1-2 grams of Panax ginseng experienced less physical and mental fatigue, as well as reductions in oxidative stress (11).
Another 2013 study published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that patients given 2g per week of ginseng had lower levels of fatigue than those given a placebo (12).
Lastly, a 2016 meta-analysis of more than 155 studies concluded that ginseng supplements could enhance physical activity (13).
4Ginseng can lower blood sugar and help with diabetes. A 2008 study showed that ginseng given to diabetic patients over 12 weeks resulted in an 11% decrease in blood sugar levels, a 38% decrease in fasting insulin and a 33% increase in insulin sensitivity (14)
Another 2009 study showed that ginseng extracts help reduce free radicals in the cells of those with diabetes via its sky-high antioxidant score (15).
Lastly, a 2014 study done with fermented red ginseng showed that 2.7g daily was effective at lowering blood sugar levels post after a meal (16).
5Ginseng helps fight off the common cold. A 1996 study showed that ginseng extract could enhance the effect of vaccinations against diseases like influenza (17).
Another 1998 study showed that patients given 5400 mg/day of ginseng saw improvements in immune functions (18).
6Ginseng can improve mood. A 2002 study showed that Panax ginseng administered at a dose of 200mg per day for four weeks improved social functioning and mood in healthy individuals (19).
7Ginseng can improve mental performance. A 2005 study showed that 200mg daily of ginseng improves mental performance, memory, and cognitive functioning (20).
Another 2010 study showed that 400mg a day of ginseng supplementation improved math skills (21).
8Ginseng helps fight off inflammation and inflammatory-related diseases. A 2013 study showed that ginseng has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (22).
Another 2014 study showed that red ginseng supplementation increased antioxidant enzyme activity to help fight inflammatory and oxidative stress (23).
9Ginseng can help treat patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
A 2002 study showed that ginseng supplementation was effective at improving COPD patients ability to breathe and exercise. The placebo group so no benefit (24).
Another 2011 study published in Respiratory Medicine examined all existing evidence regarding ginseng for COPD. They concluded that compared to no treatment, or treatment with standard medications alone, ginseng offered some additional improvement in the quality of life and lung function among patients with stable COPD (25).
10Ginseng can help with weight loss. Ginseng has been shown to work as a natural appetite suppressant and boost your metabolism. A 2002 study conducted at the Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research in Chicago measured the anti-diabetic and anti-obesity effects of Panax ginseng berry in adult mice (26).
The mice were injected with 150 milligrams of ginseng berry extract per kilogram of body weight for 12 days. After day 12, the glucose tolerance in the mice increased, and overall blood glucose levels decreased by 53 percent. The treated mice also showed weight loss, too, starting at 51 grams and ending the treatment at 45 grams.
Another 2009 study found that Asian ginseng plays a pivotal role in the anti-obesity effect in mice (27).
This shows the potential ginseng could have to help with obesity.
11Ginseng improves lung functioning and respiratory illnesses. Ginseng treatment has significantly decreased lung bacteria, and studies involving rats have shown that ginseng can stop the growth of cystic fibrosis, a common lung infection. In one 1997 study, rats were given ginseng injections, and after two weeks, the treated group showed a significantly improved bacterial clearance from the lungs. (28)
Ginseng reduces stress. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences showed that 100mg of Panax ginseng reduced plasma glucose levels, the ulcer index, and adrenal gland weight (29).
The researchers concluded that ginseng “has significant anti-stress properties and can be used for the treatment of stress-induced disorders.”
1Ginseng can cause and aggravate insomnia. High doses of Asian ginseng have been linked with insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, use Asian ginseng with caution.
2Ginseng’s effect weakens over time. As such it’s important to cycle your dosing. 3-4 weeks is the maximum recommended time to use the supplement daily before needing a break.
3People with diabetes need to be careful with ginseng. Ginseng may affect blood sugar levels, so people taking drugs for diabetes shouldn’t use ginseng without talking to their healthcare providers first.
4Ginseng can cause allergic reactions. Panax ginseng seems to increase the activity of the immune system. It might make auto-immune diseases worse. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you have any auto-immune condition.
5Women who use ginseng regularly may experience menstrual changes (30).
6Ginseng can aggravate autoimmune disorders. Panax ginseng seems to increase the activity of the immune system. It might make auto-immune diseases worse. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you have any auto-immune condition.
7Ginseng can affect blood clotting. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you have a bleeding condition.
8Ginseng affects alcohol metabolism. While the body breaks down alcohol to get rid of it, Panax ginseng increases how fast the body performs the process.
9Caffeine and ginseng don’t enhance each other. Caffeine and Asian ginseng both speed up the nervous system. This may lead to mild compounding side effects like jitteriness or more severe side effects like high blood pressure. For this reason, avoid taking caffeine with Panax ginseng.
10Ginseng can increase estrogen. Panax ginseng contains chemicals (ginsenosides) that can act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use Panax ginseng.
11Ginseng can interact negatively with donated organs. Panax ginseng might make the immune system more active. This could interfere with the effectiveness of medications that are given after an organ transplant to reduce the chance that the organ will be rejected. If you have received an organ transplant, don’t use Panax ginseng.
12Ginseng can affect blood pressure and the heart. Panax ginseng can affect heart rhythm and blood pressure slightly on the first day it is used. However, there are usually no changes with continued use. Nevertheless, Panax ginseng has not been studied in people with cardiovascular disease. Use Panax ginseng with caution if you have heart disease.
13Ginseng can have various drug interactions. Panax ginseng may decrease how quickly some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. When taken simultaneously, Panax ginseng can increase the side effects of these medications.
Talk to your healthcare provider first if you are on the following medications as they interact with ginseng:
amitriptyline (Elavil), clozapine (Clozaril), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), donepezil (Aricept), fentanyl (Duragesic), flecainide (Tambocor), fluoxetine (Prozac), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ondansetron (Zofran), tramadol (Ultram), trazodone (Desyrel), phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol) and tolbutamide (Orinase).
How much you should take depends on the condition you want to improve. Overall, daily doses of 1–2 grams of raw ginseng root or 200–400 mg of the extract is suggested. It’s best to start with lower doses and increase over time.
Look for a standard ginseng extract that contains 2–3% total ginsenosides, and consume it before meals to increase absorption and get the full benefits.
There is evidence suggesting that the extended use of ginseng could decrease its effectiveness in the body.
To maximize its benefits, you should take ginseng in 2–3-week cycles with a one or two week break in between (31).
Ginseng is not recommended for infants, children, pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding.
Why is Ginseng illegal to grow? According to Amercian laws, American ginseng can be harvested in just 19 States. Regulations for places outside the US may differ. Always check with your lawyer before deciding to grow ginseng.
Is ginseng safe for you? Taken in the prescribed dosage range, for no longer than 4 weeks at time, ginseng is a healthy and safe alternative medicine for the average person.
How long does it take to feel the effects of ginseng? It should not take more than about 24 hours to start “working.” However, you may not feel the effects for 12-48 hours. It really depends on your condition and the dosage.
Is it safe to take ginseng with high blood pressure? Do not take ginseng without first talking to your doctor if you have a bleeding or blood clotting disorder, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you are taking any medicines to prevent or treat these conditions.
Which ginseng is the best for treating erectile dysfunction? Red ginseng has long been used to treat impotence and is the best option.
What does ginseng do for your hair? Ginseng may reduce hair loss. Ginseng may also stimulate the scalp, encouraging hair growth
How much ginseng can you take in a day? 1 to 2 grams of the raw herb is recommended each day, according to the New York University Langone Medical Center. If you’re taking an extract form of the herb, you should take 200 milligrams a day of Korean ginseng that has 4 percent to 7 percent ginsenosides.
Which type of ginseng is best for energy? Chinese Red Panax Ginseng provides long-term stamina benefits, is rich in amino acids, B-vitamins (particularly B5), and enzymes, and is known for its ability to provide quick energy
What does ginseng taste like? Ginseng roots are bitter-spicy with earthy undertones. Although the flavor is not overwhelming, chewing on a piece of raw root might need some getting used to. The berries don’t have much of a taste as one might expect.
Ginseng is an all natural herbal supplement that has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese medicine. It has been shown to bolster the immune system, suppress cancer and helps improve mood, cognition and overall brain function.
It can be consumed in root or powder form. It is commonly sold in North America as an extract in capsule form.
Whether you want to improve your overall health or help treat specific conditions, ginseng (and its extracts) are powerful, all natural herbs, that are undoubtedly worth every penny.