Ginseng Benefits and Risks


Ginseng is a natural herb root with a huge list of claimed health benefits. Ginseng is a common active ingredient on product labels, found in everything from supplements and energy drinks to teas and even cosmetics. But is Ginseng truly safe? Are there enough benefits to the herbal product to outweigh the potential risks?

The most commonly researched ginseng family is Panax Ginseng, or Asian (Korean) Ginseng. A number of key health benefits have been isolated through numerous Ginseng clinical trials. Additionally, few major side effects have been identified through Ginseng usage in isolation. However, there are a number of key drug interactions that should be considered and discussed with a health professional.

Here are the key facts that you need to know about Panax Ginseng:

Panax Ginseng Benefits

Clinical studies have shown statistically significant benefits from Ginseng supplementation in humans, including:

  • Better attention, processing, and reaction time
  • Reduced influenza symptoms
  • Reduced respiratory infection symptoms
  • Improved blood glucose levels (Type II Diabetes)

Current research, including clinical trials proven through animal models, are hoping to prove a connection between Ginseng and these human health benefits:

  • Improved sexual function
  • Anti-cancer effects

Further studies found that many common health claims based on Ginseng’s efficacy are overstated or, at the least, show no clinical effect. These unproven effects include:

  • Enhanced physical performance
  • Improved ergogenic (workout/anti-fatigue) capabilities
  • Increased concentration or memory

It is vital that you also understand the risks that come along with ginseng (see below) and consult a physician before you make the decision to take the supplement yourself.

Panax Ginseng Side Effects

Ginseng is linked to a few side effects, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure

The most common Ginseng side effects are relatively minor, but consumers considering Ginseng supplementation should also seriously consider potential drug interactions before consuming this product.

People who are taking medications and treatments for uterine and breast cancer should never take a ginseng supplement without consulting with their physician. Scientific studies have indicated the supplement could adversely affect the efficacy of cancer medications.

Another study has indicated that using ginseng in excess can induce manic-like symptoms in a certain situation if the user is also taking phenelzine/Nardil (an antidepressant). Ginseng consumption may also decrease the efficacy of Warfarin. The National Library of Medicine has developed a detailed report on Panax Ginseng including known drug interactions.

What is the bottom line? Unlike many herbal dietary supplements tested by LabDoor, there are actually significant clinical trials measuring the safety and efficacy of Ginseng. However, it is important to understand that herbal or “all-natural” products are also subject to drug-supplement and supplement-supplement interactions. You should carefully track your supplement usage and report any new or existing dietary concerns to your physician or other health professional before adding any new treatment.