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American Ginseng

What is it?

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is an herb that grows mainly in North America. Wild American ginseng is in such high demand that it has been declared a threatened or endangered species in some states in the United States.

People take American ginseng by mouth for stress, to boost the immune system, and as a stimulant. American ginseng is also used for upper airway infection, for diabetes, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

You may also see American ginseng listed as an ingredient in some soft drinks. Oils and extracts made from American ginseng are used in soaps and cosmetics.

Don't confuse American ginseng with Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) or Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus). These are different plants with different effects.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for AMERICAN GINSENG are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • Upper airway infection. Some research suggests that taking a specific American ginseng extract called CVT-E002 (Cold-FX, Afexa Life Sciences) 200-400 mg twice daily for 3-6 months during flu season might prevent cold or flu symptoms in adults. In adults older than 65, a flu shot at month 2 along with this treatment is needed to decrease the risk of getting the flu or a cold. In people who do get the flu, taking this extract seems to help make symptoms milder and last for less time. But it does not seem to help prevent cold or flu-like symptoms in patients with weakened immune systems.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Insulin resistance caused by drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS (antiretroviral-induced insulin resistance). Early research shows that taking American ginseng root for 14 days while receiving the HIV drug indinavir does not reduce insulin resistance caused by indinavir.
  • Athletic performance. Taking American ginseng by mouth does not seem to improve athletic performance.
  • 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. However, 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.
  • Tiredness in people with cancer. Some research shows that taking American ginseng daily for 8 weeks improves tiredness in people with cancer. But not all research agrees.
  • Memory and thinking skills (cognitive function). Early research shows that taking American ginseng 0.75-6 hours before a mental test improves short-term memory and reaction time in healthy people.
  • Diabetes. Some research shows that taking American ginseng by mouth, up to two hours before a meal, can lower blood sugar after a meal in patients with type 2 diabetes.
  • High blood pressure. Some research shows that taking American ginseng might reduce blood pressure by a small amount in people with diabetes and blood pressure. But not all research agrees.
  • Schizophrenia. Early research shows that American ginseng might improve some, but not all, mental symptoms from schizophrenia. This treatment might also reduce some physical side effects of antipsychotic drugs.
  • Low levels of red blood cells in people with a long-term illness (anemia of chronic disease).
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis).
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Bleeding disorders.
  • Digestive disorders.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Fever.
  • Heart disease.
  • Headache.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth complications.
  • Stress.
  • Symptoms of menopause.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate American ginseng for these uses.

How does it work?

American ginseng contains chemicals called ginsenosides that seem to affect insulin levels in the body and lower blood sugar. Other chemicals, called polysaccharides, might affect the immune system.

Are there safety concerns?

When taken by mouth: American ginseng is LIKELY SAFE when taken appropriately, short-term. Doses of 100-3000 mg daily have been used safely for up to 12 weeks. Single doses of up to 10 grams have also been safely used. Side effects may include headache.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: American ginseng is POSSIBLY UNSAFE in pregnancy. One of the chemicals in Panax ginseng, a plant related to American ginseng, has been linked to possible birth defects. Do not take American ginseng if you are pregnant. There isn't enough reliable information to know if American ginseng is safe to use when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: American ginseng is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when taken by mouth for up to 3 days. A specific American ginseng extract called CVT-E002 (Cold-FX, Afexa Life Sciences) has been used in doses of 4.5-26 mg/kg daily for 3 days in children 3-12 years of age.

Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: American ginseng preparations that contain chemicals called ginsenosides might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don't use American ginseng that contains ginsenosides. However, some American ginseng extracts have had the ginsenosides removed (Cold-FX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada). American ginseng extracts such as these that contain no ginsenosides or contain only a low concentration of ginsenosides do not appear to act like estrogen.

Trouble sleeping (insomnia): High doses of American ginseng have been linked with insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, use American ginseng with caution.

Schizophrenia (a mental disorder): High doses of American ginseng have been linked with sleep problems and agitation in people with schizophrenia. Be careful when using American ginseng if you have schizophrenia.

Surgery: American ginseng might affect blood sugar levels and might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking American ginseng at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Major
Do not take this combination.
Warfarin (Coumadin)
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. American ginseng has been reported to decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin). Decreasing the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) might increase the risk of clotting. It is unclear why this interaction might occur. To avoid this interaction, do not take American ginseng if you take warfarin (Coumadin).
Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications for depression (MAOIs)
American ginseng might stimulate the body. Some medications used for depression can also stimulate the body. Taking American ginseng along with these medications used for depression might cause side effects such as anxiousness, headache, restlessness, and insomnia.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
American ginseng might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking American ginseng along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
American ginseng can increase the immune system. Taking American ginseng along with some medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of these medications.

Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), and other corticosteroids (glucocorticoids).

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
American ginseng might lower blood sugar. If it is taken along with other herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar, blood sugar might get too low in some people. Some herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar include devil's claw, fenugreek, ginger, guar gum, Panax ginseng, and eleuthero.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For upper airway infection: A specific American ginseng extract called CVT-E002 (Cold-FX, Afexa Life Sciences) 200-400 mg twice daily for 3-6 months has been used.

Other names

Anchi Ginseng, Baie Rouge, Canadian Ginseng, Ginseng, Ginseng à Cinq Folioles, Ginseng Américain, Ginseng Americano, Ginseng d'Amérique, Ginseng D'Amérique du Nord, Ginseng Canadien, Ginseng de l'Ontario, Ginseng du Wisconsin, Ginseng Occidental, Ginseng Root, North American Ginseng, Occidental Ginseng, Ontario Ginseng, Panax Quinquefolia, Panax Quinquefolium, Panax quinquefolius, Racine de Ginseng, Red Berry, Ren Shen, Sang, Shang, Shi Yang Seng, Wisconsin Ginseng, Xi Yang Shen.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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Last reviewed - 05/13/2021