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Ginseng – (Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius)


Ginseng is a slow-growing woodland plant that has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. There are two main varieties that are cultivated: Panax g. C.A. Meyer (Asian variety) and Panax quinquefolius (American variety). The Siberian variety is not really related at all.


Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – There are several studies that prove ginseng improves mental ability a modest amount in both young and old. There have also been studies on the herb's effect on Type 2 diabetes. Short term, at least, it lowers blood sugars, both after eating and in fasting states. Studies suggest that hypoglycemia is not an issue. There are also a few studies that suggest that taking it may help prevent some types of cancer.

The studies in question, while interesting, have several components that make them slightly questionable until the results are backed up by independent studies. Some documentation exists that suggest ginseng may be helpful for congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, fatigue, anal fistula, athletic performance, high blood pressure, immune system improvement, intracranial pressure, low white blood cell counts, menopausal symptoms, dementia and myocarditis. More studies need to be done to determine how effective it is as a herbal remedy for these complaints.

Externally – Not used externally.

Herbs to Combine/Supplement

Ginseng may be combined with ginkgo biloba to improve mental abilities.

Parts Used

Roots – The root is the plant portion used medicinally. It can be found powdered in capsules, as tea or combined in formulas.


Children under 18 should not take this herb. Ginseng is tolerated well by most people with few side effects. If you are allergic to plants in the Araliaceae family, do not take. Long term usage may result in rash, itching, diarrhea, loss of appetite, sore throat, anxiety, excitability, depression and insomnia. Lesser known side effects include fever, headache, dizziness, blood pressure abnormalities, chest pain, menstrual difficulties, tachycardia, heart palpitations, swelling of the legs, nausea/vomiting, or manic episodes if a person is bipolar.

If you are diabetic or suffer from hypoglycemia and take medications to regulate blood sugar, the herb may cause your blood sugar to plummet. Some people have reported nosebleeds or vaginal bleeding.

Ginseng is traditionally used during pregnancy and breastfeeding in Chinese medicine, but studies have not been done to prove its safety.

Preparation and Dosage

For mental improvement, daily doses of 200 to 400 mg taken for 12 weeks seem to be effective. For other reasons, 100 to 200 mg taken daily is commonly prescribed. Alternatively, a tincture can be taken in a dosage of 1 to 2 ml per day.

Ginseng Herbal Remedies Top