Ginseng is an herb used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. In Mandarin Chinese, the word
Ginseng literally means “root of man”. It was so named because the root of this plant resembles the
shape of a human body. Almost 2,000 years ago, the great Chinese medical directory stated that
ginseng increased longevity. The main active ingredients in ginseng are called ginsenosides. The
higher the quantity of ginsenosides, the better the quality of the ginseng.
Some people classify ginseng as an adaptogen; a substance that helps the body resist the effects of
physical and environmental stress. Some people also claim that ginseng can increase physical
endurance under stress, improve mental alertness, memory, thinking ability or even resistance to
infection. Based on the Herb Bible by Earl Mindel, PhD and Ginseng by Betty Kamen, PhD, ginseng
facilitates the reduction of cholesterol and blood pressure. Ginseng may also reduce the risk of
metastasis (spread) of tumor (cancer). In addition, ginseng may also helps protects the user from
viral infection and reduced cellular oxygen. Ginseng helps reduce discomfort caused by menopause.
There are two major types of ginseng: American and Asian. Asian ginseng contains high contents of
the active ingredients, while American ginseng is mild. Siberian ginseng belongs to different family of
herbs. The “ginseng” in this article refers to Asian ginseng.
What are the potential health benefits of ginseng?
Ginseng may have multiple health benefits on people at risk or even suffered from various conditions.
However, most scientific supports arose from either animal or in vitro studies. Here outlines some
a. Cold Symptom Complex Kaneko et al confirmed the preventive effects of medical ginseng on the
common cold symptom complex, including flu, by clinical observation. 
b. Learning and Memory Deficits Nishijo H. found that red ginseng has ameliorating effects on learning
and memory deficits due to hippocampal lesions and aging in rats. 
c. Cancer Kim et al concluded that ginsenosides Rg3 and Rh2 could inhibit the proliferation of prostate
cancer cells. 
d. Immunoglobulin Production Enhancement Ginseng extract was prepared by boiling the ginseng root
in 50% ethanol. Then, this extact was injected into mice. The researchers found the serum levels of
immunoglubulins IgM, IgG and IgA were significantly elevated. 
e. Lim et al extracted water-soluble ginseng Marc polysaccharide and studied its effect on murine
peritoneal marcrophages. They found this chemical significantly increased the lysosomal phosphatase
activity and the phagocytic index of peritoneal macrophages. 
Some Studies suggest ginseng is safe.
In a 4-week-placebo-controlled study involving 77 women, no side effects were observed for the 34
subjects supplemented with a mixture of ginseng, ginkgo, and damiana, L-arginine, multivitamins, and
Forty-five patients with class IV cardiac function were divided into three groups: group I (digoxin
group), group II (Red Ginseng group) and group III (Red Ginseng plus digoxin group). After treatment,
the improvement of the hemodynamical and biochemical indexes of group II and group III were
greater than those of group I, and group III was the most significant amongst all. The results
suggested that Red Ginseng and digoxin had synergism for treatment of congestive heart failure, and
Red Ginseng was an effective and safe adjuvant without any side effects. 
Song et al found ginsan-an important ingredient in Panax ginseng did not cause hepatic injury in their
Does ginseng have side effects?
When used appropriately, ginseng appears to be safe. NCCAM suggests that its use be limited to 3
months because of concerns about the development of side effects or adverse events. Ginseng
potentially interacts with many drugs, we must be more aware of its side effects and its drug
interactions, and avoid long term use of ginseng supplements. The common side effects of ginseng
are mental status changes [nervousness, restlessness, excited feeling, trouble sleeping,
gastrointestinal problems etc.]. Other side effects include vaginal bleeding, mastalgia diarrhea, high
blood pressures. However, some reported ginseng has hypotensive effects.  Ginseng may also
cause allergic reactions. [2,6,7] Because ginseng has side effects related to our mental states,
digesive and cardiovascular systems, certain types of people should avoid ginseng:
a. People with mental problems. A 56-year-old woman with a previous affective disorder presented a
manic episode during ginseng intake. Symptoms disappeared rapidly with low doses of neuroleptics
and benzodiazepines after ginseng suppression. 
b. People who are preparing for surgery. Ginseng may increase the risk of bleeding; ginseng should be
discontinued prior to dermatologic surgery to minimize the risk of surgical complications. [4,7]
c. People who drink coffee and smoke excessively. A 39-year-old female patient experienced
menometrorrhagia, after a prolonged use of oral and topical ginseng. This patient also had a habit of
smoking, and drinking coffee. After stopping smoking, drinking coffee and using ginseng products for
about two weeks, she had no sign of menometrorrhagia or tachyarrhythmia and her hemoglobin
levels were in the normal range. Smoking and coffee consumption, along with ginseng use, (or just
ginseng alone) can be responsible for arrhythmogenic effects .
d. People who have high/low blood pressure or diabetes or those who are using medications/herbs to
control blood pressure. Ginseng may have effects on blood pressure and increase the risk of bleeding.
[4,7] Ginseng may also lower blood sugar levels. This effect may be seen more in diabetes. Thus,
people with diabetes should use extra caution with ginseng, especially if they are taking blood sugar
lowering medicines or other herbs including bitter melon and fenugreek.
Users must consult with their doctors before taking ginseng supplements, because of its multiple side
What brand is good?
The brand is very important, it determines the quality of genseng.
Serving recommendations and other information vary among different brands of ginseng
supplements. The content does not vary much among different lots of the same brand, while the
content vary widely between ginseng brands (e.g. total ginsenosides in ginseng ranged from 5.3-18.2
mg per serving).
Because the ginseng content varies from brand to brand, its doesn’t mean that the most expensive
one contains the largest amount of ginseng actives. I would consider only the brands manufactured
under GMP. After a few trials, if I don’t see any effects, I will change the brand.
Ginseng’s Compound K