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Herbs & Botanicals

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American Ginseng (xi yang shen)

What is American ginseng? What is it used for?

American ginseng is a small plant native to the forests of the northern and central United States. Plant stems grow from a main root; each stem contains palm-shaped leaves with greenish-white flowers and red berries.

The root of American ginseng is used medicinally. Ginseng root is harvested when the plant reaches 4-6 years of age; the root itself is light beige or brown in color and has long, stringy offshoots.

American ginseng contains ginsenosides, which stimulate the immune system and fight fatigue and stress. The type and percentage of ginsenosides in American ginseng is somewhat different than the Asian ginseng variety. American ginseng is considered superior for gastrointestinal problems and is commonly used in the U.S. to improve athletic and mental performance. Other studies are examining the use of American ginseng in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, immune suppression, aging and depression.

How much American ginseng should I take?

The recommended dose of American ginseng is 1-2 grams fresh root; 0.6-2 grams dried root; or 200-600ml of a liquid extract daily. Patients using ginseng to improve mental or physical performance should take doses in cycles of 15-20 days, followed by a two-week break.

What forms of American ginseng are available?

Unpeeled, uncooked ginseng can be found at many Asian markets and grocery stores. Dried and peeled ginseng is available in powder, capsule or extract form.

What can happen if I take too much American ginseng? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

When used at the recommended daily dose, American ginseng is considered safe. The American Herbal Products Association has given American ginseng a class 2D rating, indicating a possible risk for patients with hypertension. It may increase the effects of caffeine, antipsychotics, blood pressure drugs or steroidal medications.

References

  • Bahrke M, Morgan P. Evaluation of the ergogenic properties of ginseng. Sports Medicine 1994;18:229—248.
  • Chen X, et al. The effects of panax quinquefolium saponin (PQS) and its monomer ginsenoside on heart. Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih 1994;19:617—20, 640.
  • Lewis R, Wake G, Court G, et al. Non-ginsenoside nicotinic activity in ginseng species. Phytother Res 1999;13(1):59—64.
  • Li J, et al. Panax quinquefolium saponins protects low density lipoproteins from oxidation. Life Sci 1999;64:53—62.
  • Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.

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