Ginseng, Korean – Chinese / Asian (Panax ginseng)

Asian ginseng has been a part of Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. The first reference to the use of Asian ginseng dates to the 1st century A.D. Ginseng is commonly used by elderly people in the Orient to improve mental and physical vitality. As each individual’s response to ginseng is unique, you should be monitored for signs of possible ginseng toxicity. It is best to begin at lower doses and increase gradually. The Russian approach for long term administration is to use ginseng cyclically for a period of 15-20 days followed by a two week interval without.

Studies have been performed on standardized extracts of ginseng that demonstrate the absence of side effects and mutagenic or teratogenic effects. A number of side effects are reported, including hypertension, euphoria, nervousness, insomnia, skin eruptions, and morning diarrhea, almost always using material of unknown quality or high doses.

Panax ginseng

For largely economic purposes, the majority of ginseng in the American marketplace is derived from the lowest grade root, diluted with excipients, blended with adulterants, or totally devoid of active constituents (ginsenosides). There is currently an almost complete lack of quality control in ginseng products marketed in the United States. Independent research and published studies have clearly documented that there is a tremendous variation in the ginsenoside content of commercial preparations. In fact, the majority of products on the market contain only trace amounts of ginsenosides, and many formulations contain no ginseng at all. This has led to several problems, ranging from toxicity reactions to lack of medicinal effect. The widespread disregard for quality control in the health food industry has done much to tarnish the reputation of ginseng as well as other important botanicals.

Korean or Chinese Ginseng may prove especially effective in restoration of normal adrenal function and prevention of adrenal atrophy associated with corticosteroid administration. In rats, ginseng has been found to inhibit cortisone-induced adrenal and thymic atrophy. Ginseng could be combined with other botanicals with adrenal enhancing activity in the treatment of adrenal atrophy (exhaustion).

The standard dose for ginseng root is in the range of 4.5 to 6gm daily. However, the use of standardized ginseng preparations will ensure sufficient ginsenoside content, more consistent therapeutic results, and reduced risk of toxicity. The typical dose (taken one to three times daily) for general tonic effects should contain a saponin content of at least 25mg of ginsenoside Rgl. For example, with a high quality ginseng root powder containing 5% ginsenosides, the dose would be 500mg; for a standardized Panax ginseng extract containing a 14% saponins calculated as ginsenoside Rgl, the standard dose would be 200mg.


Ginseng, Korean - Chinese / Asian (Panax ginseng) can help with the following


Premature/Signs of Aging

Ginseng can help resist the effects of aging. Ginseng helps to treat cardiovascular diseases and has been shown to help relieve tiredness. Korean ginseng products contain phenolic compounds and a substance called maltol which effects the aging process by delaying the devolution of cells while stimulating the regeneration of cells. It also reduces agents responsible for the damage of cell membranes that cause changes with skin pigmentation.


Drug Side Effects  

Chemotherapy Side-Effects/Risks

The use of Asian ginseng provides a protective effect from the stress of drug and radiation therapies.


Radiation, Side-Effects

People who are getting cancer treatment, including radiation, can greatly benefit from taking ginseng. Ginseng is an effective agent that can protect the body from the stress of drug and radiation therapies.

Emergency Care  

Upcoming Surgical Procedure

Panax ginseng, also called Chinese ginseng, could increase the risk of bleeding and interfere with anticlotting medications. It has also been linked to rapid heart beat and elevated blood pressure in a surgical setting. Low blood sugar is also a potential risk.


Low Adrenal Function / Adrenal Insufficiency

Both Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) are known to exert beneficial effects on adrenal function and enhance resistance to stress.

Ginseng may prove especially effective for the restoration of normal adrenal function and prevention of adrenal atrophy associated with corticosteroid administration. In rats, ginseng has been found to inhibit cortisone-induced adrenal and thymic atrophy. Ginseng could be combined with other botanicals with adrenal enhancing activity in the treatment of adrenal atrophy.


Low Progesterone or Estrogen Dominance

It must be noted that Panax ginseng has been proven to have a mild estrogen-promoting activity in some women and would thus would be contraindicated where estrogen is already excessive, as may be the case with PMS or breast cancer. Eleuthero ginseng is not estrogen-promoting. Panax ginseng can cause insomnia, hypertension and muscle tightness if taken in excess.

The Immune System  

Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Adaptogenic herbs like Asian ginseng may be useful for people with chronic fatigue syndrome. This may be because these herbs are thought to have an immuno-modulating effect and also help support the normal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the hormonal stress system of the body. [Quart Rev Natural Med 1996;Summer: pp.95-7]

While studies have been conflicting regarding Korean ginseng use and athletic performance, there are many people struggling with fatigue who have reported a renewal of energy after only a few days use.


Weakened Immune System

At the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Jilin Province, researchers in the pharmacology department evaluated the effects of ginseng on immune responses. The immune responses of mice were tested with different dosages of extracts obtained either from the leaf or the root of ginseng. Significant changes in the response of the reticuloendothelial (RES) system were found, especially with moderate doses of the root extracts. Larger doses did not improve the response. RES cells are the immune system components that devour foreign organisms without leaving their original sites in the liver, spleen and other tissues of the body.

However, ginseng has not yet been proven effective for bolstering the immune system.



Research has repeatedly shown that ginseng helps the body cope with stress. Laboratory studies from several different countries have demonstrated that mice under stress showed less abnormalities of behavior and distress when Asian ginseng was used. Stephen Fulder, M.A., PhD reported that when ginseng was taken, following a stressful event, the body activity also settled back to normal more quickly. Korean and Chinese research has shown that ginseng acts directly on the adrenal glands while others have shown that it may act on the brain itself.


Organ Health  

Diabetes Type II

A blinded trial found that 200mg of Asian ginseng per day improved blood sugar levels in people with type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes. [Diab Care 1995;18: pp.1373-5]


Cancer / Risk - General Measures

Ginseng is known to reduce the risk of many types of cancers.



Vaginal Dryness

In one trial, panax ginseng for two to three months at 100mg of a standardized extract three times daily greatly improved vaginal dryness and painful intercourse in all of the women studied. Doses were then tapered to a maintenance level.

Women with a history of vaginal dryness and painful intercourse were asked to volunteer for biopsies of the vaginal mucosa. When examined microscopically, the biopsy specimens showed typical atrophy, with thinned epithelial layer and little to no mucous production. Macroscopic examination prior to biopsy of course showed the same changes. Tissue appearance and mucus levels returned to normal levels by the end of the study.

Although this research was not “double-blind” the biopsies and microscopic changes (as well as symptom remission) are definitely significant. (Wright) finds this approach very useful and reliable in practice, usually recommending 100 milligrams of a standardized extract three times daily until the objective is achieved. Quantities can often be lessened thereafter to a “maintenance level.”


Male Infertility (Low Sperm Count)

A double-blind trial with a large group of infertile men over a 3 month period found that 4gm of Asian ginseng per day improved sperm count and motility. [Panmineva Med 1996;38: pp.249-54]


Erectile Dysfunction (ED, Impotence)

Two months of treatment with Korean red ginseng (900mg 3 times daily) improved erectile function scores in a well-designed study of 45 men with erectile dysfunction. [J Urol 2002;168(5): pp.2070-3]

A double-blind trial in Korea found that 1,800mg per day of Asian ginseng extract for three months helped improve libido and the ability to maintain an erection in men with erectile dysfunction. [Int J Impotence Res 1995;7: pp.181-6]


May do some good
Likely to help
May have adverse consequences



Production of genetic alterations.


Causing abnormal embryonic growth processes.


High blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure because it adds to the workload of the heart, causing it to enlarge and, over time, to weaken; in addition, it may damage the walls of the arteries.


Excessive discharge of contents of bowel.


Steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex.


(gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.


Any of various mostly toxic glucosides that occur in plants (as soapwort or soapbark) and are characterized by the property of producing a soapy lather.


(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

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