Side Effects Of Ginseng

Side effects of Ginseng, an herb thought to improve memory, mood and sex while fighting the effects of aging. It is not without its dangers, and should be treated with respect.

Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal supplements, with reported therapeutic effects ranging from increased erectile function in men, enhanced memory and cognitive functioning, improved moods, increased energy and resistance to stress and some of the signs of aging. With such claims, it's no wonder everyone wants to take ginseng.

There are actually three different plants that are sold under the name 'ginseng'; Asian Ginseng, American Ginseng, and so-called Siberian Ginseng, which isn't a ginseng at all but has similar effects. In all cases, the part of the plant used is the root.

A number of studies seem to support the claim that ginseng can have a positive effect on cognitive ability; memory, concentration, and reasoning. The Merck Manual reports that ginseng appears to lower blood sugar and to increase levels of 'good cholesterol'. Studies are difficult, however, due to the variable nature of the supplements; since the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements, the amount of 'active ingredient' can vary widely from brand to brand. For this reason, children, and pregnant or nursing mothers should avoid ginseng (indeed, all supplements, without the advice of a physician).


It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between a 'therapeutic effect' and a 'side effect' of a particular treatment. If a plant causes improved bloodflow and decreased blood sugar and you take it for the improvement to your circulation, is the decrease in blood sugar a side-effect? We typically use the phrase 'side effect' to mean 'an unwanted effect of this compound'.Side effects can be consistent throughout the population of people who use the compound, or a very rare occurrence that only effects one or two users.

Ginseng, if used in correct dosages, has minimal side effects, but they should not be under-estimated. The most common is insomnia and nervousness. This effect is usually reported in people who are taking ginseng consistently in large dosages. While this doesn't sound very threatening, an inability to sleep for two or three days can be very dangerous, indeed, can induce psychotic episodes.

Ginseng also appears to interfere with the action of blood-thinning drugs. These drugs are taken by people who have dangerous bloodclots which would cause stroke or heart attacks, and they must take blood-thinners and monitor their blood's coagulation carefully. Ginseng is clearly contra-indicated for people taking blood-thinners.

A few people have had apparent allergic reactions to ginseng. Ginseng is suspected of causing asthma attacks in several asthmatics, and elevating blood pressure in some.

There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs which may be rendered ineffective or combine dangerously with ginseng. These include aspirin and other anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofin, anticoagulants such as warfarin (mentioned above), drugs that treat diabetes by lower blood sugar and a variety of anti-depressants.

If you are taking any of these drugs, consult your doctor before adding ginseng to your daily supplements; you may need to take an altered dosage of ginseng, your prescription may need to be adjusted, or you may not be able to take ginseng at all.

Ginseng is a so-called 'cycle' herb, one that should not be taken consistently for long periods of time. After a few weeks of taking ginseng, you should go 'ginseng-free' for a few weeks. Extended use can lead to the same side effects that strong doses can cause.

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