Panax ginseng

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-18 (EDT)

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Panex ginseng is known as the King of Herbs and was used in Asia to absorb energy from the earth, prolong life, tonify the five viscera, benefit the understanding and replace lost Qi. To explore the characteristics, medicinal uses and prescribing considerations of this herb in more detail, check out the references indicated.[1] [2]


  • Common Names: Ginseng, Ren Shen, Shen Cao, Korean ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Asian/Oriental ginseng, Panex schinseng, Nees, Asiatic ginseng
  • Family: Araliaceae
  • Habitat: Panex ginseng can be found in its native habit in the mountainous regions of China, Japan, Korea, and Russia but is now extremely rare in the wild.
  • Parts Used: Root from 4-5 year-old plants
  • Constituents: triterpenoid glycosides/saponins (ginsenosides), peptidoglycans (panaxans)
  • Medicinal Actions: stimulant to CNS and reproductive systems, adaptogen (in relatively balanced physiology), stimulant (only under the challenge of stress), immune modulating, improves endocrine function, hepatoprotective, male tonic, nervine, antitumour, antiaging, vulnerary at the deepest level, cardiac tonic, carminative, cognition enhancing


Historical Uses:

Panex ginseng is known as the King of Herbs and was used in Asia to absorb energy from the earth, prolong life, tonify the five viscera, benefit the understanding and replace lost Qi. It was also considered an aid in study and spiritual development.

It was used traditionally by Western herbalists as a mild stomachic tonic, complaints from mental and nervous exhaustion, cerebral anemia, asthma, convulsions, paralysis, and urinary gravel (stones).

Medicinal Uses:

  • Cognitive Support
  • Can help improve memory, focus and concentration.
  • Stress and fatigue (physical and mental), chronic fatigue, low vitality, weak and elderly people, to improve learning, convalescence
  • Immune Support
  • immune compromise and stress, cancer (especially during radiation)
  • increases endurance and performance by sparing muscle glycogen stores during prolonged exercise
  • Other Conditions

Prescribing Considerations

The information provided is intended to augment the treatment from a naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional. Although most herbs are generally safe, it is recommended that you avoid self-prescribing especially when there is an underlying ongoing medical condition, if you are on any prescription medications or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Formulations and Preparation

Do not take for >6 weeks to 3 months; 1 month on, 2 months off recommended; continuous use in unwell and elderly is appropriate but is a sedative in large doses.


The safety and prescribing considerations for this herb include:[3], [4]

  • Generally regarded as safe.
  • Side-effects are insomnia (most common), restlessness, nervousness, euphoria, hypertension, diarrhea, and skin eruptions
  • Cautions and Contraindications: hypertension (empirical, human case report), acute illness with fever (empirical), premenopausal women with unstable hormonal cycles, excessive menstruation or nose bleeds (empirical), controlled diabetes, brittle type 1 diabetes, concomitant use of stimulants, headaches, palpitations, or insomnia (empirical), anxiety, nervousness, or emotional imbalance (speculative), affective disorders such as major depression (case report), children, pregnancy (speculative), lactation (safety not established), 24 hr - 1 week prior to surgery (speculative)
  • Drug-Herb Interactions.[3]
  • Amoxicillin and Related Beta-Lactam Antibiotics - Beneficial or supportive interaction not requiring professional management; Ginseng increases T helper cell type 1 (Th1) immunity and may enhance effectiveness of many antimicrobial agents, although evidence of interaction is specific to amoxicillin (clinical significance: possibly widely applicable but not currently known). Consider co-administration especially in antibiotic-resistance and in immunocompromised.
  • Antineoplastic Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy - Potential or theoretical beneficial or supportive interaction with professional management, prevention or reduction of drug adverse effect; Ginseng may decrease drug toxicities and increase drug efficacy through multiple mechanisms, including immunomodulation, chemosensitization, and specific toxicity reduction (Western clinical support negligible, despite anecdotal clinical support). Pretreatment and co-adminstration with chemotherapy and radiation recommended with professional management.
  • Ethanol - Impaired drug absorption and bioavailability with negligible effect, prevention or reduction of drug adverse effect, beneficial or supportive interaction not requiring professional management; Clearance of alcohol may be increased by Ginseng pretreatment.
  • Narcotic Analgesic (Opiates) and Psychostimulants - Interaction likely but uncertain occurrence and unclear implications; Ginseng may reduce drug-induced tolerance development and decrease adverse effects of drug use. Consider possible use as additional support for adverse effect reduction in analgesia or withdrawal from narcotic/opioid abuse.
  • Phenelzine and Other Monoamine Oxidase (MAO-A) Inhibitors - Potential or theoretical adverse interaction of uncertain severity; Ginseng effect on neurotransmitters not considered physiologically significant. Current low use of nonselective MAOIs renders clinical significance marginal (interaction overstated).
  • Vaccine Immunotherapies - Potential or theoretical beneficial or supportive interaction with professional management; Ginseng extracts may increase antibody response and effectiveness of some vaccine therapies by enhancing antigen-presenting cell (APC) activity. In particular, ginsenosides may be a useful pretreatment and adjuvant for improving potency and immunogenicity of vaccines.
  • Warfarin and Related Oral Vitamin K Antagonist Anticoagulants - Potential or theoretical adverse interaction of uncertain severity; INR reduction in a single report, probably idiosyncratic (significance unknown, likely minimal). Observe normal INR monitoring, especially if adding or removing any drug/herb to stable anticoagulation.


  1. Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide Second Edition Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, CCNM Toronto.
  2. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul, Barlow Kerry, Gowan Matt (2011) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Advanced Botanical Medicine. V3 CCNM Press, Toronto.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stargrove Mitchell Bebell, Treasure Jonathan, McKee Dwight L (2008) Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies.
  4. Brinker Francis (1997) Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions: Plus Herbal Adjuncts With Medicines, 4th Edition Eclectic Medical Publications.