Panax ginseng, Chinese or Korean ginseng
- Indications with possible efficacy:
To restore work and concentration capacity (popular use)
To stimulate immune system - american ginseng (popular use)
To strengthen the body in the presence of fatigue or during convalescence (popular use)
- Indications with possible, but poorly documented efficacy :
Diabetes (improves fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin)
To increase resistance to stress
- Indications with no proof of efficacy:
Congestive heart failure
Loss of appetite and vomiting
To slow the aging process
Indicated uses are for panax ginseng, except if something else is mentionned.
- Risk of Drug Interactions: High
- Adverse Effects: Not Frequents
Part of the plant used: roots
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a small perennial plant that used to grow wild in China and Korea. Its root has been used for medicinal purposes for several thousand years. However, because of over-harvesting, wild ginseng is now very rare. It is widely cultivated in China, Korea, Russia and Japan. Other related species, with similar properties, are also used: Panax quinquefolium (American ginseng), Panax japonicum (Japanese ginseng) and Panax pseudoginseng (Himalayan ginseng). However, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) should be avoided since it is not real ginseng.
The source, age and part of the root used in the various commercial preparations all determine the quality of ginseng or ginseng extract available. Well-formed old roots from wild plants are very precious while small roots from cultivated plants are less sought after. For economical reasons, most ginseng preparations available in North America contain only low quality ginseng often mixed with products of no interest.
Ginseng root contains saponins, called ginsenosides, thought to be responsible for the plant's medicinal activity
Direction of use
- Tonic effect and to restore work and concentration capacity:
Ginseng appears to have an adaptogen effect (tonic) on people who suffer from fatigue or are in convalescence. It also seems to effectively improve work and concentration capacity. Also use to strengthen the body in the presence of fatigue or during convalescence:
Used doses: 500 to 3000 mg of dried root daily, in divided doses or 200 to 400 mg daily of standardized extract containing 4% to 7% of ginsenosides.
Treatment should last a maximum of 3 consecutive months, with a 2-week product-free period between cycles.
Ginseng may help decrease blood sugar on empty stomach.
Used doses: 200 mg daily of standardized extract containing 4% to 7% of ginsenosides
- To stimulate immune system - American ginseng:
This specific ginseng extract would help reduce risks of suffering from symptoms that can be attribuated to cold, flu and respiratory tract infection. It would also help decrease level and duration of symptoms.
Used doses: 200 mg 2 times daily for 3 to 4 months.
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that ginseng is effective in any other indication.
- Side effects
Ginseng is not associated with any specific toxicity. Most users will suffer no adverse reactions, however insomnia, anxiety, euphoria, decreased appetite, tachycardia, headaches, nausea and diarrhea may occur in some individuals. Women may experience breast tenderness, vaginal bleeding or amenorrhea. Also, if taken in a liquid form, the product have a bad taste.
Ginseng should not be taken by newborn, because intoxication that could lead to death has been reported. Ginseng is contraindicated for children, in cases of coagulation dysfunction and immune system diseases. Hypertensive patients should not use this product since there are reports of ginseng-induced hypertension. People with diabetes and cardiac disease should also use Ginseng with caution.
Ginseng appears to enhance caffeine's effect. During concomitant administration with insulin, insulin dosage adjustment may be necessary. The effect of anticoagulants (such as Coumadin) may be reduced while the effect of CNS stimulants may be enhanced. Ginseng may interact with several drugs, before taking ginseng, check with your pharmacist to make sure that there are no interactions with your regular medication.
- Pregnancy and lactation
Since there is no safety data available concerning its use during pregnancy, pregnant women should not take ginseng. It should not be used by lactating women.
- Ginseng is probably the most widely used medicinal plant around the world. Ephedrine and caffeine are often added to commercial ginseng preparations to produce the desired stimulant effect.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
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- Health Canada, Natural Products Database
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