Panax ginseng is a form of ginseng, the roots of which we quite often see used in traditional, herbal medicines. It’s also a common supplement, used in a variety of ways for a variety of health giving benefits. It grows in East Asia’s mountainous regions, where it has been traditionally drunk as a tea for centuries.
Benefits of Panax Ginseng
Panax ginseng is quite often touted as something of a panacea – a cure all promising to improve the overall state of your health and wellbeing. This is in part because it really can make you feel better across most metrics that concern us on a daily basis.
For instance, it is known to improve memory, stamina, and concentration. It’s an anti-inflammatory, too, which will bring some potent benefits across quite a wide array of health concerns and body mechanisms.
Inflammation is thought to be an underlying factor in several chronic diseases and health concerns, including the likes of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Because of this, reducing inflammation is perhaps the most profound thing you can do to ensure long term wellbeing.
Hence the popularity of anti-inflammatories, of which Panax ginseng is a prime example. Ginseng has been found to positively affect inflammatory markers in a number of ways. For example, it may lower interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor (alpha TNF-a), though academic work looking into these benefits has sometimes been accused of bias.
Separately, ginseng has been shown to drastically reduce levels of CRP in those starting out with elevated CRP levels.
The science is young and more data are always welcome. However, the evidence is beginning to build into a solid case; those wishing to fight inflammation would do well to consider adding some form of it to their daily supplement regime.
Panax ginseng also shows promise as a great aid for reducing the effects of diabetes. It may lower glucose levels, making it a perfect adjunction therapy to conventional medication in those suffering with diabetes. The research is also quite robust, here: it has been shown to improve fasting glucose and postprandial insulin glucose levels, for instance.
It has also been shown to significantly reduce fasting blood glucose compared to a placebo. Though the effects are modest, with a drop in blood glucose of about 5 mg/dl in those with already well-controlled glucose levels, modest changes are still statistically significant (even if clinical significance may waver).
Panax ginseng also looks quite promising for those suffering with high cholesterol levels. This is important as high cholesterol represents a risk factor for coronary artery disease, among others. Clinical data suggest that Panax ginseng may help to lower cholesterol levels. Though the effects of ginseng on lipid profiles and improvements in cholesterol, triglyceride, or HDL and LDL-cholesterol levels have been found to be insignificant in many, they have been found to be significant in certain subgroups where larger ginseng doses were taken over more significant periods of time.
However, clinical data also suggest that Panax ginseng may be comparable to a placebo with regards its effects on blood pressure, total and LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Thus, the jury is still out. Panax ginseng’s effects on cholesterol and blood pressure would benefit from a lot more scrutiny, with a lot more clinical data being needed before we can accurately judge its efficacy.
As above, many Panax ginseng advocates claim that it is something of a panacea, or cure all.
It does show some potential, as we have seen. Not least, it is a potent anti-inflammatory, which is really quite profound. However, clinical data suggest that there are plenty of conditions for which it is not appropriate.
For example, studies have suggested that it isn’t effective for relieving menopause symptoms, including hot flushes, for improving athleticism, specifically endurance, or for treating upper respiratory infections. It has not been definitively shown to possess anticancer properties or promote anticancer activity. Nor has it been definitively shown to help with medical concerns as varied anemia, bronchitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression or fibromyalgia, despite numerous studies looking into its effect on these conditions.
Panax Ginseng Side Effects
There are no overly troubling side effects associated with Panax ginseng. Indeed, ginseng is pretty ubiquitous, with plenty of common beverages including it to no ill effect. However, this isn’t to say that there are no side effects associated with it.
As with any other herbal supplement or traditional form of medication, there can be some unexpected, unwanted side effects from it, especially if you take too much.
You may suffer from allergic reactions to ginseng, including severe skin rashes.
Too much ginseng can interrupt your sleep schedule, potentially even leading to insomnia. Alongside this, it can lead to stomach upset and digestive concerns, including nausea and diarrhea. It can also cause mastalgia, or breast tenderness/pain.
In severe cases, too much Panax ginseng can lead to vaginal bleeding and liver damage, though these are both very rare.
Panax ginseng can affect your blood. This is part of its charm – it can lead to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, if you have high blood pressure, or hypertension, you may need to check with your doctor before taking it, especially if you’re already on medication for your blood pressure.
Similarly, your blood sugar levels can be dropped too far. This can be dangerous for those on diabetes medicine. If you suffer with diabetes, you would also do well to check with your doctor before taking Panax ginseng, as combining it with insulin or anti diabetes medications can lead to dangerous hypoglycemia.
It can also interfere with blood clotting. If you suffer with any kind of blood clotting disorder, such as thrombophilia, or are on any blood thinners, such as warfarin, Panax ginseng may not be a good idea.
Panax ginseng boosts immune function by causing the immune system to become more active. Though generally a positive thing, this may be inappropriate for some people. If you suffer with any kind of autoimmune disease – such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis, for example – it may not be a good idea to take ginseng. It may inhibit immune suppressing medications, too, such as the kind you’ll be on after undergoing an organ transplant.
There are some additional interactions to be wary of. Panax ginseng can affect several different forms of medication.
For instance, if you take it alongside any kind of stimulant, such as guarana or caffeine, your blood pressure and heart rate may rise to unhealthy levels. It may inhibit the efficacy of a few forms of diuretic, especially furosemide. It may heighten the risk factor associated with MAOIs, increasing the likelihood you will suffer side effects.
Those taking QT interval prolonging medications should beware ginseng, too, as it may increase their risk of suffering with irregular heartbeats and palpitations.
Alongside these, ginseng can adversely interfere with nifedipine, Imatinib, Selegilline, and Midazolam, and may increase the risk of liver toxicity in those taking Raltegravir.
Always check with your doctor before taking Panax ginseng if you are concerned about any of the above.
Dosing Panax Ginseng
There is no recommended standard dose of Panax ginseng. There is no scientific or clinical consensus on it. Moreover, there is no standardized strength or volume of gensinosides in ginseng supplements. Your own personal need will depend on why you are using it.
Therefore, it is hard to say exactly how much Panax ginseng any one person should be taking. Dosage recommendations can run from anything as little as 200 mg per day all the way up to more like 3,000 mg (or 3 g) per day.
We can break this down a little bit, however. If you’re taking a supplement made from root extract, you can go with the lower end of this range. A couple of 100 mg daily doses should be effective. On the other hand, if the supplement you’re using is made from root powder, you will need to go high. 2,000 mg per day will be appropriate.
In general, you should aim for your dosing to deliver no less than 6 mg of gensinosides, which the above doses should manage.
Should You Take Panax Ginseng?
Most people will benefit from taking ginseng. They will be able to make the most of the many benefits it offers – improved memory, stamina, and concentration, for instance – whilst being able to take in one of the best anti-inflammatories money can buy.
Dosing is a little tricky as we simply don’t know enough to be precise at the moment. There are also some medical concerns to think about, some interactions to worry about.
However, as long as you consult your healthcare provider before taking it, you should be OK and you could benefit a great deal.