Asian ginseng: benefits for health, side effects and cautions
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What it is used for
- Improving the health of people recovering from illness.
- Increasing a sense of well-being and stamina, and improving both mental and physical performance.
- Treating erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, and symptoms related to menopause.
- Lowering blood glucose and controlling blood pressure.
How it is used
What the science says
- Some studies have shown that Asian ginseng may lower blood glucose. Other studies indicate possible beneficial effects on immune function.
- To date, research results on Asian ginseng are not conclusive enough to prove health claims associated with the herb. Only a handful of large clinical trials on Asian ginseng have been conducted. Most studies have been small or have had flaws in design and reporting. Some claims for health benefits have been based only on studies conducted in animals.
- The National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is supporting research studies to better understand the use of Asian ginseng. NCCAM is studying how Asian ginseng interacts with other herbs and drugs and is exploring its potential to treat chronic lung infection, impaired glucose tolerance, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Side effects and cautions
- When taken by mouth, ginseng is usually well tolerated. Some sources suggest that its use be limited to three months because of concerns about the development of side effects.
- The most common side effects are headaches and sleep and gastrointestinal problems.
- Ginseng can cause allergic reactions.
- There have been reports of breast tenderness, menstrual irregularities, and high blood pressure associated with ginseng products, but these products’ components were not analyzed, so effects may have been due to another herb or drug in the product.
- Ginseng may lower levels of blood sugar; this effect may be seen more in people with diabetes. Therefore, people with diabetes should use extra caution with Asian ginseng, especially if they are using medicines to lower blood sugar or taking other herbs, such as bitter melon and fenugreek, that are also thought to lower blood sugar.
- It is important to inform your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including Asian ginseng. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.