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American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) 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 upper airway infection, for diabetes, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support 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). These are different plants with different effects.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
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Info

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.

When 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. Side effects may include headache.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

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.

Children: American ginseng is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when taken by mouth for up to 3 days. 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.

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.

Medications for depression (MAOIs)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

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)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

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.

Warfarin (Coumadin)

Interaction Rating=Major Do not take this combination.

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).

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar: American ginseng might lower blood sugar. If it is taken along with other herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar, blood sugar might get too low in some people. Some herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar include devil's claw, fenugreek, ginger, guar gum, Panax ginseng, and eleuthero.

There are no known interactions with foods.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:

  • For upper airway infection: 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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