What Is It?
Look at the nutrition label on your orange juice or multivitamin and you may notice that ginseng has been added. That’s because smart marketers have caught on to this Herb’s 2,000-year-old reputation as a “feel good” tonic that can boost energy, combat the physical effects of stress, empower the immune system, improve concentration, and provide Antioxidant actions. Its legendary properties, particularly as an aphrodisiac, were once so prized in China that only the emperor was allowed to gather the herb. Today some men still take it to treat impotence and infertility although it’s unclear whether it actually improves these conditions.
The healing ingredients in Panax ginseng are concentrated in the root, or what traditional Chinese healers call the “man root” because it’s shaped like a person. This classic form of ginseng, also known as Asian, Chinese, or Korean ginseng, is the most widely available and extensively studied form.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are botanical cousins with different effects. A growth period of four to six years is necessary for full maturity of the herb’s complex mixture of energizing compounds known as ginsenosides, panaxans (substances that reportedly lower blood sugar), and polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules that enhance the immune system).
High-quality ginseng root is expensive and must be properly cured to be of any therapeutic value. A recent analysis of products on the market revealed that some so-called ginseng supplements are devoid of active ingredients. Other examinations have found that the amount of active ginsenosides in different brands varies widely. Such ginseng products as chewing gum and soft drinks probably contain little if any of the root.
Use products standardized to contain at least 7% ginsenosides, the main active ingredient in ginseng.
Because of the risk of unwanted interactions, don’t take ginseng with MAO inhibitors (drugs primarily used to treat depression), antipsychotics, diabetes medications, heart disease medications, high blood pressure medications, diuretics (furosemide in particular), or oral Corticosteroids. Consult your doctor if you have any questions.
Ginseng may increase the risk of overstimulation and stomach upset when taken with methylphenidate (Ritalin) and other nervous system stimulants.
Consuming large amounts of caffeine or other stimulants while taking ginseng can result in nervousness, sleeplessness, elevated blood pressure, and other complications.
Avoid ginseng if you have an acute illness, uncontrolled high blood pressure, an irregular heart rhythm, or if you are pregnant.
Because the effects of long-term use of ginseng remain to be carefully examined, avoid using it for more than three months at a stretch.
Ginseng is a stimulant, so don’t take it too close to bedtime.
Higher than commonly recommended doses may cause nervousness, insomnia, headache, skin eruptions, stomach upset, and increased menstrual bleeding and breast tenderness. If you experience any of these reactions, reduce your dose or stop taking the herb.
Andropause – 600-700 mg mg twice a day or 1/2 tsp. liquid extract twice a day
Diabetes – Take 1-3 g of the crude root, or 200-600 mg of a standardized extract daily
Fatigue – 535-650 mg or 1/2 tsp. liquid extract twice a day
Impotence – 600-700 mg mg twice a day or 1/2 tsp. liquid extract twice a day
Infertility, male – 650 mg twice a day or 1/2 tsp. liquid extract
Stress – 100-200 mg 2 or 3 times a day
For product recommendations and orders click here for the Natural Apothecary or call 773-296-6700, ext. 2001.
David Edelberg, MD