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Panax ginseng, also called Asian or Korean ginseng, has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that the gnarled ginseng root has been traditionally used to treat fever, headache, infertility and indigestion as well as being considered an all-around stimulant 1. While the root extract remains one of the most popular forms of panax ginseng, it is not without possible side effects.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Blood Pressure Changes
Panax ginseng root extract may cause changes in blood pressure, either lowering or raising the reading. Because of this, people taking medication for high or low blood pressure should consult their medical provider before using ginseng.
Low Blood Sugar
Side Effects of Red Ginseng
Ginseng is known to lower blood glucose levels, making it a good supplement for diabetics. Blood sugar levels should be monitored closely if panax ginseng root is added as a supplement. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests taking the herb with food to prevent blood sugar levels that are too low 1.
Vaginal bleeding and nosebleeds have been reported with use of ginseng, and because ginseng can affect the absorption of blood-thinning medication, patients with blood disorders or who are taking blood-clotting medications should use caution when considering adding panax ginseng root extract to their diets.
Diseases That Cause Bloody Noses
Use of ginseng has been known to be associated with post-menopausal bleeding, tenderness in the breasts, male breast enlargement, erectile dysfunction and an increase in sexual response.
Other Side Effects
Less commonly, panax ginseng root extract may cause:
- raised heart rate
- swelling in the legs
In addition, those with bipolar disorder may experience manic episodes.
Because panax is a plant of the Araliacase family, those with known allergies to these plants should avoid using any part of the ginseng plant. Allergic reactions can include shortness of breath, itching and rashes; inhaling the root dust of panax ginseng may cause late-onset or immediate asthma.
High Dosage and Long Term Use
In rare cases, swelling of brain blood vessels have been associated with high doses of ginseng, as has confusion and abnormal pupil dilation.
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- University of Maryland Medical Center: American Ginseng
- Shishtar E, Sievenpiper JL, Djedovic V, et al. The effect of ginseng (the genus panax) on glycemic control: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. PLoS One. 2014;9(9):e107391. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107391
- Szczuka D, Nowak A, Zakłos-Szyda M, et al. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) as a source of bioactive phytochemicals with pro-health properties. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1041. doi:10.3390/nu11051041
- Lho SK, Kim TH, Kwak KP, et al. Effects of lifetime cumulative ginseng intake on cognitive function in late life. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2018;10(1):50. doi:10.1186/s13195-018-0380-0
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- Ernst E, Posadzki P, Soo Lee M. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction in older men and women: an overview of systematic reviews. Maturitas. 2011;70(1):37-41. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.06.011
- Lee NH, Yoo SR, Kim HG, Cho JH, Son CG. Safety and tolerability of Panax ginseng root extract: a randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial in healthy Korean volunteers. J Altern Complement Med. 2012;18(11):1061–1069. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0591
- Sellami M, Slimeni O, Pokrywka A, et al. Herbal medicine for sports: a review. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15:14. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0218-y
- NIH. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Asian ginseng. Updated September 2016.
- Drugs.com. Ginseng. Updated December 2, 2019
- Qi LW, Wang CZ, Du GJ, Zhang ZY, Calway T, Yuan CS. Metabolism of ginseng and its interactions with drugs. Curr Drug Metab. 2011;12(9):818–822. doi:10.2174/138920011797470128
- Epstein NE. Preoperative measures to prevent/minimize risk of surgical site infection in spinal surgery. Surg Neurol Int. 2018;9:251. doi:10.4103/sni.sni_372_18
- Drugs.com. Ginseng drug interactions. Updated December 2, 2019.
- Malati CY, Robertson SM, Hunt JD, et al. Influence of Panax ginseng on cytochrome P450 (CYP)3A and P-glycoprotein (P-gp) activity in healthy participants. J Clin Pharmacol. 2012;52(6):932–939. doi:10.1177/0091270011407194
- He Y, Yang J, Lv Y, et al. A review of ginseng clinical trials registered in the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:1843142. doi:10.1155/2018/1843142
- MedlinePlus. Siberian ginseng. Updated November 7, 2019.
Robin Hewitt began her writing career in 2008. She is the coauthor of several books, including "The Joyous Gift of Grandparenting," which covers the nutritional and fitness needs of both grandchildren and grandparents.