Panax ginseng is also used for depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), for boosting the immune system, and for fighting particular infections in a lung disease called cystic fibrosis. These infections are caused by a bacterium named Pseudomonas.
Some people use Panax ginseng to treat breast cancer and prevent ovarian cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, and skin cancer.
Other uses include treatment of anemia, diabetes, inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis), fever, hangover, and asthma.
Panax ginseng is also used for bleeding disorders, loss of appetite, vomiting, intestinal problems, fibromyalgia, sleeping problems (insomnia), nerve pain, joint pain, dizziness, headache, convulsions, disorders of pregnancy and childbirth, hot flashes due to menopause, and to slow the aging process.
Some men use Panax ginseng on the skin of the penis as part of a multi-ingredient product for treating early orgasm (premature ejaculation). Men also use it for erectile dysfunction (ED). There is some evidence that Panax ginseng is effective for these uses.
In manufacturing, Panax ginseng is used to make soaps, cosmetics, and as a flavoring in beverages.
Ginseng has been used as a medicine for over two thousand years. Today, approximately 6 million Americans use it regularly.
In Western medicine, Panax ginseng is used as a stimulant to make people more active. But, in contrast, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Panax ginseng is used to make people feel calmer. It is also widely used in China for the heart and blood vessels. Higher doses are generally used in TCM than in Western medicine.
Be aware that Panax ginseng products are not always what they claim. The contents of products labeled as containing Panax ginseng can vary greatly. Many contain little or no Panax ginseng.
Panax ginseng interacts with many prescription drugs. See the section below titled “Are there any interactions with medications?” If you take medications, talk to your healthcare provider before taking Panax ginseng.
The English word ginseng derives from the Chinese term rénshēn (simplified: 人参; traditional: 人蔘). Rén means “man” and shēn means a kind of herb; this refers to the root’s characteristic forked shape, which resembles the legs of a man. The English pronunciation derives from a southern Chinese reading, similar to Cantonese yun sum (Jyutping: jan4sam1) and the Hokkien pronunciation “jîn-sim”.
The botanical/genus name Panax means “all-heal” in Greek, sharing the same origin as “panacea”, and was applied to this genus because Linnaeus was aware of its wide use in Chinese medicine as a muscle relaxant.
Besides Panax ginseng, there are many other plants which are also known as or mistaken for the ginseng root. The most commonly known examples are Xiyangshen, also known as American Ginseng 西洋参 (Panax quinquefolius), Japanese ginseng 东洋参 (Panax japonicus), crown prince ginseng 太子參 (Pseudostellaria heterophylla), and Siberian ginseng 刺五加 (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Although all have the name ginseng, each plant has distinctively different functions. However, true ginseng plants belong to the Panax genus.
How effective is it?
Possibly effective for…
- Thinking and memory. Taking Panax ginseng by mouth might improve abstract thinking, mental arithmetic skills, and reaction times in healthy, middle-aged people. Panax ginseng alone does not seem to improve memory, but there is some evidence that a combination of Panax ginseng and ginkgo leaf extract can improve memory in otherwise healthy people between the ages of 38 and 66.
- Diabetes. There is some evidence that Panax ginseng might lower fasting blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Male impotence (erectile dysfunction, ED). Taking Panax ginseng by mouth seems to improve sexual function in men with ED.
- Premature ejaculation (reaching orgasm too early) when a cream containing ginseng and other ingredients is applied directly to the skin of the penis.
Possibly ineffective for…
- Improving athletic performance.
- Improving mood and sense of well-being.
- Hot flashes associated with menopause. Taking Panax ginseng by mouth doesn’t seem to help hot flashes but it might improve other menopausal symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and depression.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…
- Breast cancer. Some studies conducted in China suggest that some people with breast cancer treated with any form of ginseng (American or Panax) do better and feel better. But this may not be a result of taking the ginseng, because the people 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.
- Infection of the airways in the lung (bronchitis). Panax ginseng, combined with treatment with antibiotics, might be more effective in killing bacteria that antibiotic treatment alone.
- Common cold. There is some evidence that taking a specific Panax ginseng extract (G115) by mouth can decrease the chance of catching a cold.
- Influenza. There is some evidence that taking a specific Panax ginseng extract (G115) by mouth four weeks before a flu shot and continued for eight more weeks can decrease the risk of getting the flu.
- Cancer (stomach, lung, liver, ovarian, skin). Population studies suggest that taking ginseng by mouth might decrease the occurrence of cancer, specifically stomach cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, ovarian cancer, and skin cancer.
- Fluid retention.
- Stomach inflammation and other digestive problems.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate Panax ginseng for these uses.
How does it work?
Panax ginseng is often referred to as a general well-being medication, because it affects many different systems of the body.
Are there safety concerns?
A common side effect of P. ginseng’s may be insomnia, but this effect is disputed. Other side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, nose bleeds, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, and breast pain. Ginseng may also lead to induction of mania in depressed patients who mix it with antidepressants.
Ginseng has been shown to have adverse drug reactions with phenelzine and warfarin, but has been shown to decrease blood alcohol levels.
A cream (SS-Cream) containing Panax ginseng and other ingredients for reaching orgasm too quickly in men (premature ejaculation) seems to be safe when applied to the penis and removed after one hour. It might cause mild pain and irritation or a burning sensation. It is not known if this cream is safe with repeated, long-term use.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Do not use Panax ginseng if you are pregnant. It is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. One of the chemicals in Panax ginseng has been found to cause birth defects in animals.
Not enough is known about the safety of Panax ginseng during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and don’t use it.
Infants and children: Panax ginseng is LIKELY UNSAFE in infants and children. Using Panax ginseng in babies has been linked to poisoning that can be fatal. The safety of Panax ginseng in older children is not known. Until more is known, don’t use Panax ginseng even in older children.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Panax ginseng seems to increase the activity of the immune system. It might make auto-immune diseases worse. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you have any auto-immune condition.
Bleeding conditions: Ginseng seems to interfere with blood clotting. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you have a bleeding condition.
Heart conditions: Panax ginseng can affect heart rhythm and blood pressure slightly on the first day it is used. However, there are usually no changes with continued use. Nevertheless, Panax ginseng has not been studied in people with cardiovascular disease. Use Panax ginseng with caution if you have heart disease.
Diabetes: Panax ginseng might lower blood sugar. In people with diabetes who are taking medications to lower blood sugar, adding Panax ginseng might lower it too much. Monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes and use Panax ginseng.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Panax ginseng contains chemicals (ginsenosides) that can act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use Panax ginseng.
Trouble sleeping (insomnia): High doses of Panax ginseng have been linked with insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, use Panax ginseng with caution.
Schizophrenia (a mental disorder): High doses of Panax ginseng have been linked with sleep problems and agitation in people with schizophrenia. Be careful when using Panax ginseng if you have schizophrenia.
Organ transplant: Panax ginseng might make the immune system more active. This could interfere with the effectiveness of medications that are given after an organ transplant to reduce the chance that the organ will be rejected. If you have received an organ transplant, don’t use Panax ginseng.
Are there interactions with medications?
Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), clozapine (Clozaril), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), donepezil (Aricept), fentanyl (Duragesic), flecainide (Tambocor), fluoxetine (Prozac), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ondansetron (Zofran), tramadol (Ultram), trazodone (Desyrel), and others.
Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.
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.
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), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, cilostazol (Pletal), clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Some stimulant drugs include diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and many others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
Are there interactions with foods?
What’s about dose?
- For treating type 2 diabetes: 200 mg daily.
- For erectile dysfunction: Panax ginseng 900 mg three times daily.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For premature ejaculation: a cream (SS-Cream) containing Panax ginseng and other ingredients has been applied to the glans penis one hour before intercourse and washed off before intercourse.
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