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Overview InformationAmerican ginseng (Panax quinquefolis) 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 infections of the airways such as colds and flu, for diabetes, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support any of 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). They have different effects.
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.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- 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. Taking American ginseng by mouth daily for 8 weeks might also help lower pre-meal blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
- Infection of the airways. 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 colds. In people who do get the flu, taking this extract seems to help make symptoms milder and last for less time. Some research shows 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. It does not seem to help prevent cold or flu-like symptoms in patients with weakened immune systems.
Possibly Ineffective for
- Athletic performance. Taking 1600 mg of American ginseng by mouth for 4 weeks does not seem to improve athletic performance. But it might decrease muscle damage during exercise.
Insufficient Evidence 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.
- 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 1-6 hours before a mental test improves short-term memory and reaction time in healthy people.
- 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.
- Muscle soreness caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking American ginseng for four weeks might decrease muscle soreness from exercise. But this doesn't seem to help people work out more.
- Schizophrenia. Early research shows that American ginseng might improve some mental symptoms from schizophrenia. But it doesn't seem to improve all mental symptoms. This treatment might also reduce some physical side effects of antipsychotic drugs.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Bleeding disorders.
- Digestive disorders.
- Hangover symptoms.
- Memory loss.
- Nerve pain.
- Pregnancy and childbirth complications.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Swine flu.
- Symptoms of menopause.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyWhen 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. American ginseng can cause some side effects including diarrhea, itching, trouble sleeping (insomnia), headache, and nervousness. Rare side effects include a severe rash called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, liver damage, and severe allergic reaction.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Children: American ginseng is POSSIBLY SAFE ffor children when taken by mouth, short-term. 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.
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.
Diabetes: American ginseng might lower blood sugar. In people with diabetes who are taking medications to lower blood sugar, adding American ginseng might lower it too much. Monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes and use American ginseng.
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.
Do not take this combination
Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with AMERICAN GINSENG
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).
Be cautious with this combination
Medications for depression (MAOIs) interacts with AMERICAN GINSENG
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) interacts with AMERICAN GINSENG
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.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For diabetes: 3 grams up to 2 hours before a meal. 100-200 mg of American ginseng has been taken daily for up to 8 weeks.
- For infection of the airways: 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.
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