What is Ginseng for?
Ginseng is an herb. The root is used to make medicine.
Ginseng is used for stress, to boost the immune system, and as a general tonic and stimulant.
Ginseng is often used to fight infections such as colds and flu. There is some evidence that it might help prevent colds and flu and make symptoms milder when infections do occur.
Ginseng is used for other infections including HIV/AIDS, infections of the intestine (dysentery), and particular infections (Pseudomonas infections) that are common in people with cystic fibrosis.
Some people use ginseng to improve digestion and for loss of appetite, as well as for vomiting, inflammation of the colon (colitis), and inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis).
Ginseng is also used for low iron in the blood (anemia), diabetes, trouble sleeping (insomnia), nerve pain, erectile dysfunction (ED), fever, hangover symptoms, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), blood and bleeding disorders, cancer, painful joints, dizziness, headaches, convulsions, fibromyalgia, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), memory loss, and as an anti-aging aid.
You may also see Ginseng listed as an ingredient in some soft drinks. Oils and extracts made from Ginseng are used in soaps and cosmetics.
What is Ginseng Possibly Effective for?
• Lowering blood sugar after a meal in people with type 2 diabetes. Taking 3 grams of American ginseng by mouth, up to two hours before a meal, can significantly lower blood sugar after a meal in patients with type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, larger doses don’t seem to lower blood sugar more. Different American ginseng products may have different effects. Researchers think that is because they contain different amounts of the active chemicals called ginsenosides.
• Preventing respiratory tract infections such as the common cold or influenza in adults. Some evidence suggests that taking a specific American ginseng extract called CVT-E002 (Cold-FX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada), 200 mg twice daily over a 3-4 month period during influenza season, might help slightly to prevent cold or flu symptoms in adults between the ages of 18 and 65. People older than 65 seem to need a flu shot at month 2 along with this treatment in order to decrease their risk of getting the flu or colds. This extract also seems to help make symptoms milder and last a shorter length of time when infections do occur. Some evidence suggests that the extract might not reduce the chance of getting the first cold of a season, but it seems to reduce the risk of getting repeat colds in a season.
• Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is preliminary evidence that a specific combination product (AD-fX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada), containing American ginseng extract in combination with ginkgo leaf extract, might help improve ADHD symptoms such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness in children aged 3-17 years.
• Breast cancer. Some studies conducted in China suggest that breast cancer patients treated with any form of ginseng (American or Panax) do better and feel better. But this may not be a result of taking the ginseng, because the patients in the study were also more likely to be treated with the prescription cancer drug tamoxifen. It is difficult to know how much of the benefit to attribute to ginseng.
• Athletic performance. Taking 1600 mg of American ginseng by mouth for 4 weeks does not seem to improve athletic performance, even though lab tests confirm it may decrease muscle damage during exercise.