Panax ginseng is a type of ginseng that is commonly grown in parts of Siberia, Korea, and northeast China, and the roots are used in herbal medicine.
It is often touted as a general well-being medication due to its active ingredients that have been shown to affect many different parts of the body.
The most prominent compounds in ginseng are thought to be steroid-like components known as ginsenosides or panaxosides.
In traditional Chinese medicine, each ginseng type is believed to have its own unique healing properties. For instance, some strains of Panax ginseng are known to have a warming effect that aid circulation.
Panax ginseng VS other types
There are several types of ginseng, and each plant has its own unique benefits and functions.
- American ginseng
- Siberian ginseng
- Panax pseudoginseng
The American ginseng is commonly used as a natural remedy for diabetes and is said to have cooling properties. This type of ginseng is also said to stimulate the immune system, improving stamina, strength, and general well-being.
The Siberian ginseng is mostly used to ease the symptoms of chemotherapy but is also used to boost immunity, stamina, and strength.
Furthermore, this type of ginseng is believed to act as an adaptogen and protects against Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), atherosclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
What are the health benefits of Panax ginseng?
Panax ginseng has long been used in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of conditions, including erectile dysfunction, diabetes, and general health.
In recent times, however, adequate research on Panax ginseng is lacking, but there is some evidence that the plant may offer certain health benefits.
Here are some of the evidence-backed health benefits of Panax ginseng:
Panax ginseng may help in managing diabetes. Multiple research has been carried out to determine its effectiveness in improving glucose levels.
For instance, a 2014 systematic review of previously published randomized clinical trials of the effects of ginseng in lowering the glucose levels in people with and without diabetes was published in PLoS.
The study discovered that although most participants of the study experienced a significant improvement in their glucose levels, further research is needed.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD)
Oral intake of Panax ginseng has been shown to help reduce some symptoms of COPD and improve general lung health.
Several studies on the effect of ginseng intake in improving COPD symptoms are promising; a 2010 review of previously published studies on the topic took into consideration, the results of 12 low-quality studies with a total of 1560 participants.
Several of the reviewed studies showed that participants who ingested ginseng alone or mixed with other herbs noticed more improvement in lung function that those who took the placebo.
A 2015 review of previously published research found that Panax ginseng may help improve cognitive performance, primarily short-term memory.
Another study carried out in 2018 also found that older adults who supplemented ginseng for five or more years, experienced increases cognitive performance.
The improvement in Cognition, as well as other benefits of this herb, is thought to be due to its antioxidant properties.
Erectile dysfunction (ED)
Oral intake of Panax ginseng may help improve sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction. A comprehensive data review of six randomized trials that were performed over 15 years showed that ginseng might boost successful erections and intercourse.
In addition, a review of alternative medicine for sexual function, conducted in 2011, also arrived at the same conclusion and included that Panax ginseng was the only dietary supplement that could improve erectile dysfunction without side effects or safety concerns.
Unlike prescription medications for the condition, which are usually taken when needed, ginseng can only function when taken on a continuous basis.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Taking Panax ginseng orally may also help reduce fatigue in women with multiple sclerosis.
A 2013 randomized trial conducted to test its effectiveness in the treatment of fatigue caused by the ailment came to the conclusion that taking Panax ginseng for a period of 3 months can reduce fatigue and significantly improve the quality of life in MS patients.
Improving response to sexual stimulation in healthy people
Although Panax ginseng has been used in traditional medicine to increase sexual function, there is research to show that taking this herb in powdered form may improve sexual arousal and satisfaction in healthy people.
A 2015 study was carried to determine the effect of Korean ginseng extracts on sexual function in Premenopausal women.
The majority of the participants experienced improved sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction after eight weeks of taking the Korean ginseng extract.
However, the authors noted that there were no statistical differences between those who took the placebo and those who took the extract; therefore, further research is needed to further determine its efficacy.
Panax ginseng is usually advertised as a cure-all herb; however, it may not be helpful for certain conditions. For example, research has pointed out that Panax ginseng is ineffective in boosting athletic performance and alleviating hot flashes.
In addition, the National Institute of Health stated that even though several studies have been conducted to determine the benefits of Panax ginseng, substantial evidence is limited to verify its effectiveness in treating several conditions.
Some of the conditions with insufficient evidence include:
- Digestive problems
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Joint pain
- Disorders of pregnancy and childbirth
- Nerve pain
- Bad breath
- Alzheimer’s disease and others
There are multiple evidence that may suggest their beneficial effects for these conditions, but most of them are conflicting, and more studies are needed to clarify these claims.
Possible side effects of Panax ginseng
Ginseng is a widely used product and is commonly found in beverages, topical creams, and other products. It’s presence in beverages, and other food products may lead you to believe that it’s completely safe.
But like every other herbal medication or supplement, it can have unwanted side effects.
Researchers believe that the intake of ginseng is likely not harmful when taken for up to six months. However, it is likely unsafe when taken for more than six months, and it may have some hormone-like effect that could be harmful with long term use.
Some of the commonly reported side effects include
- Digestive problems
- Less common symptoms side effects include
- Breast pain
- Menstrual problems
- Mood changes
- Vaginal bleeding
- Loss of appetite and other symptoms
Uncommon side effects that have been reported include liver damage, severe rash, and severe allergic reactions.
Ginseng may also affect blood rate; therefore, if you have hypertension (high blood pressure) you should avoid ginseng unless you are under close supervision by a physician).
Pregnant and nursing mothers, including children, are should avoid Panax ginseng.
Interactions of Panax ginseng with Drugs and other supplements
Panax might reduce blood clotting; therefore, it is advisable not to take it with other blood-thinning medications (Antiplatelets and anticoagulants) may increase the risk of adverse effects like bruising and bleeding.
Antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications include aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, and others.
Some herbal supplements have also been known to cause bleeding, and when combining with ginseng, can lead to an increased risk of bleeding.
Since Panax ginseng increases blood thinning, there is some concern that it might interfere and decrease the effectiveness of blood clotting medications such as warfarin (Coumadin).
However, it is not clear if this interference is a big problem. But make sure to go for regular blood checks and speak with your doctor to see if you might need to increase your dose of warfarin (Coumadin).
Panax ginseng may lower blood glucose levels, and it interacts with medications for diabetes, so make sure you speak to your health care provider if you have diabetes, and you are considering adding ginseng to your diet.
Taking this herb alongside stimulant drugs might lead to serious health complications, including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. So, it is advisable to avoid Panax ginseng if you are taking any stimulant medication.
Some stimulant medications include diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and many others.
Panax ginseng can affect the metabolism of monoamine oxidases (MAO) inhibitors such as isocarboxazid, phenelzine sulfate, and tranylcypromine sulfate.
It is also thought to affect levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals responsible for carrying messages from nerve cells to other cells) and may also interact with antipsychotic drugs like chlorpromazine.
Research also shows that Panax ginseng may interfere with the metabolism of medications processed by an enzyme called CYP3A4. If you are on any medication, make sure to ask your doctor if taking any drug of this type.
Dosage and duration for Panax ginseng
There is no single dosage recommendation for Panax ginseng, as several doses have been used in different research.
For instance, a study conducted in 2018 to determine the effect of Panax ginseng on various health issues took into consideration, 91 clinical trials.
The authors stated that suitable recommendations and dosages were difficult to conclude due to the diversity of the trials. The dosages for these clinical trials ranged between 0.2 g to 9 g of Panax ginseng daily for about four to 24 weeks.
While Panax ginseng may help manage certain health conditions and boost your energy, it’s important that you speak with your doctor first if you are considering taking it.
What to look for
In ancient Chinese medicine, the method used in preparing the ginseng is believed to influence its action. For instance, red ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) is unpeeled ginseng that was steamed before drying.
On the other hand, White ginseng goes through the drying process before it is peeled (but not steam-treated). Black ginseng is a more recent type that is produced from a repeated steaming/drying process.
Red ginseng is believed to produce “yang” energy (which is heating and stimulating), to a higher degree than white ginseng.
Therefore, Red ginseng may not be suitable for people who tend to feel hot or those with conditions such as kidney stones, tumors, certain psychological conditions, inflammatory conditions, or gallstones.
Red and white ginseng is available in liquid extracts, tinctures, creams, capsules, and powders.