A ginseng monograph for the home

asian ginseng
Ginseng root

Latin Name: Panax ginseng

Common Name: ginseng, Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, Asiatic ginseng, Oriental ginseng

Family name: Araliaceae

Part(s) of the plant used: root

Native region and environment: American ginseng is native to deciduous forests (forests that lose their leaves every year) of the United States from the Midwest to Maine, primarily in the Appalachian and Ozark regions, and also in eastern Canada[1]. Ginseng requires a minimum of 5 years of growth to reach harvest size, which makes sustainability difficult. Today there are cultivated, wild-simulated, farms which grow ginseng in forested areas without fungicides.

This ginseng monograph provides basic information about ginseng —common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information. Browse more herbal monographs.

History of ginseng use

Asian ginseng is native to the far east, including China and Korea, and has been used for health-related purposes for at least 2,000 years. Asian ginseng is one of several types of ginseng (another is American ginseng). The terms red ginseng and white ginseng refer to Asian ginseng roots prepared in two different ways. In TCM, Asian ginseng was used as a tonic that was believed to replenish energy.

Asian ginseng is native to the Far East, including China and Korea, and has been used for health-related purposes for at least 2,000 years. Asian ginseng is one of several types of ginseng (another is American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius). The terms red ginseng and white ginseng refer to Asian ginseng roots prepared in two different ways. The herb called Siberian ginseng or eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is not related to true ginseng.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Asian ginseng was used as a tonic that was believed to replenish energy. Today, Asian ginseng is used as a dietary supplement to improve general well-being, physical stamina, and concentration; stimulate immune function; slow the aging process; and relieve various health problems such as respiratory disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and menopausal hot flashes.

The root of Asian ginseng contains chemical components called ginsenosides (or panaxosides) that are thought to contribute to the herb’s claimed health-related properties.

 

Ginseng constituents & diabetes

Ginseng is a powerhouse diabetes herb, not surprising given its genus name (Panax) comes from the Greek panakeia (“panacea” or “cure-all”). Ginseng is an adaptogen that reduces oxidative stress and contains saponin ginsenosides which have antidiabetic and antiglycemic properties. It has been shown to improve the secretion of insulin by the liver and improve insulin sensitivity of cells. The root of the ginseng plant contains up to a quarter of these ginsenosides (phytochemicals Rg1, Rc, Rd, Rb1, Rb2, Re1, and Rb0).[2] Field cultivated ginseng has been tested and shown to contain higher Rd and Re1 components, while wild harvested ginseng is higher in Rg1. As Re1 ginsenoside has been shown to successfully manage blood sugar level in T2DM, it may be better to take formulations made from ginseng that is field harvested. This has the added benefit of being much cheaper and more sustainable than the wild harvested varieties.

Ginseng is also reported to possess hormone-like and cholesterol-lowering effects, promote vasodilatation, and act as an anxiolytic and antidepressant[3]. Many studies on animals have found ginseng extracts and ginsenosides to be effective in stimulating learning, memory, and physical capabilities[4], providing resistance to infection[5], demonstrating antioxidant and antifatigue effects[6], enhancing energy metabolism, and reducing plasma total cholesterol and triglycerides while elevating HDL levels.[7]

 

Ginseng safety and contraindications

With a safety rating of 1 and interaction class B, ginseng is generally a safe herb to take. Short-term use of ginseng in recommended amounts appears to be safe for most people. However, questions have been raised about its long-term safety and some experts recommend against its use by infants, children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The most common side effects of ginseng are headaches, sleep problems, and digestive problems. Some evidence suggests that ginseng might affect blood sugar and blood pressure. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, consult your health care provider before using ginseng.

Potential Drug Interactions

The risk of interactions between ginseng and medications is believed to be low, but there are uncertainties about whether ginseng might interact with certain medications, such as the anticoagulant (blood thinner) Warfarin (also known as coumadin). If you’re taking medication, consult your health care provider before using ginseng.

 

Ginseng preparation & dosing

Dried ginseng root and tinctures are readily available from environmentally responsible sources. If you are interested in working with ginseng root directly, I would recommend you buy this product from a trusted supplier like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Daily Dosage Table: Ginseng[8]
Format Dosage Preparation
Decoction 3-6grams (0.5-1.5 teaspoons) Steep dried root in 8oz boiling water for 30 mins
Tincture 2-4mL (40-80 drops) 1:5 (ginseng : alcohol) 50% proof
Capsules 1000mg Swallow with water

 

Ginseng References

[1] https://www.fws.gov/international/plants/american-ginseng.html

[2] ABC, Ginseng root: Expanded Commission E Monograph

[3] Choi, K. (2008) Botanical characteristics, pharmacological effects and medicinal components of Korean Panax ginseng C A Meyer. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2008 Sep; 29 (9): 1109–1118

[4] Petkov, V. D., & Mosharrof, A. H. (1987). Effects of standardized Ginseng extract on learning, memory and physical capabilities. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 15(1-2), 19–29. https://doi.org/10.1142/S0192415X87000047

[5] Singh, V.K. et al. (1984). Immunomodulatory activity of Panax ginseng extract. Planta Med., 50, 462–465.

[6] Wee JJ, Mee Park K, Chung AS. Biological Activities of Ginseng and Its Application to Human Health. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 8.

[7] Yamamoto M, Kumagai A, Yamamura Y. Plasma lipid-lowering action of ginseng saponins and mechanism of the action. Am J Chin Med. 1983;11(1-4):84-7. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X83000148. PMID: 6660219.

[8]Braun & Cohen (2015) Herbs & Natural Supplements Vol 2. , Elsevier, Sydney Australia