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American Ginseng

Botanical name: Panax quinquefolius

Photo

© Steven Foster

Parts used and where grown

Like its more familiar cousin Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), the root of American ginseng is used medicinally. The plant grows wild in shady forests of the northern and central United States, as well as in parts of Canada. It is cultivated in the United States, China, and France.

American ginseng has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
2Stars

Common cold

Type 2 diabetes

1Star

Athletic performance

Infection

Stress

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Many Native American tribes used American ginseng. Medicinal applications ranged from digestive disorders to sexual problems.1 The Chinese began to use American ginseng after it was imported during the 1700s.2 The traditional applications of American ginseng in China are significantly different from those for Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng).3

Active constituents

American ginseng contains ginsenosides, which are thought to fight fatigue and stress by supporting the adrenal glands and the use of oxygen by exercising muscles.4 The type and ratio of ginsenosides are somewhat different in American and Asian ginseng. The extent to which this affects their medicinal properties is unclear. A recent preliminary trial with healthy volunteers found no benefit in exercise performance after one week of taking American ginseng.5

In a small pilot study, 3 grams of American ginseng was found to lower the rise in blood sugar following the consumption of a drink high in glucose by people with type 2 diabetes.6 The study found no difference in blood sugar lowering effect if the herb was taken either 40 minutes before the drink or at the same time. A follow-up to this study found that increasing the amount of American ginseng to either 6 or 9 grams did not increase the effect on blood sugar following the high-glucose drink in people with type 2 diabetes.7 This study also found that American ginseng was equally effective in controlling the rise in blood sugar if it was given up to two hours before or together with the drink.

How much is usually taken?

Standardized extracts of American ginseng, unlike Asian ginseng, are not available. However, dried root powder, 1–3 grams per day in capsule or tablet form, can be used.8 Some herbalists also recommend 3–5 ml of tincture three times per day.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Occasional cases of insomnia or agitation have been reported with the use of American ginseng. These conditions are more likely, however, when caffeine-containing foods and beverages are also being consumed.9

Are there any drug interactions?
Certain medicines may interact with American ginseng. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.

References:

1. Duke J. Ginseng: A Concise Handbook. Algonac, MI: Reference Publications, 1989, 36.

2. Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993, 358–9.

3. Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993, 358–9.

4. Shibata S, Tanaka O, Shoji J, Saito H. Chemistry and pharmacology of Panax. Econ Med Plant Res 1:218–84.

5. Morris AC, Jacobs I, McLellan TM, et al. No ergogenic effect on ginseng ingestion. Int J Sport Nutr 1996;6:263–71.

6. Vuksan V, Sivenpiper JL, Koo VYY, et al. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) reduces postprandial glycemia in nondiabetic subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:1009–13.

7. Vuksan V, Sivenpiper JL, Koo VYY, et al. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) reduces postprandial glycemia in nondiabetic subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:1009–13.

8. Foster S. Herbs for Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 48–9.

9. Yun TK, Choi Y. Preventive effect of ginseng intake against various human cancers: A case-control study on 1987 pairs. Cancer Epidem Biomarkers Prev 1995;4:401–8.

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