Some athletes say that Asian ginseng helps reduce fatigue.
Extensive but often poorly designed studies have been conducted on the use of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) to improve athletic performance.1 , 2 While some early controlled studies suggested there might be benefits, several recent double-blind trials have found no significant effects of Asian ginseng on endurance exercise.3 , 4 , 5
Historically, it has been used to help people who are fatigued feel less lethargic. The energizing effects of Asian ginseng only last while it is in your system. If you are consistently feeling tired, it’s best to pinpoint the reason for your fatigue.
In some of the above studies, it is possible that ginseng was used in insufficient amounts or for an inadequate length of time; a more effective regimen for enhancing endurance performance may be 2 grams of powdered root per day or 200 to 400 mg per day of an extract standardized for 4% ginsenosides, taken for eight to twelve weeks.6 Short-term intense exercise has also not been helped by Asian ginseng according to double-blind trials,7 , 8 but one controlled study reported increased pectoral and quadriceps muscle strength in non-exercising men and women after taking 1 gram per day of Asian ginseng for six weeks.9
Used in the recommended amounts, ginseng is generally safe. In rare instances, it may cause over-stimulation and possibly insomnia.10 People with uncontrolled high blood pressure should use ginseng cautiously. Long-term use of ginseng may cause menstrual abnormalities and breast tenderness in some women. Ginseng is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women.
Consuming caffeine with ginseng increases the risk of over-stimulation and gastrointestinal upset.
Certain medicines interact with this supplement.
Laboratory studies have shown that compounds found in Panax ginseng enhance the ability of phenylephrine to constrict blood vessels.11 Controlled studies are necessary to determine whether taking Panax ginseng at the same time as phenylephrine will enhance the beneficial effects of the drug.
In a randomized, double-blind study, 227 people received influenza vaccine plus 100 mg of standardized extract of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) or placebo two times per day for four weeks before and eight weeks after influenza vaccination.12 Compared with placebo, Asian ginseng extract was reported to prevent colds and flu, improve immune cell activity, and increase antibody levels after vaccination.
Test tube studies show that the herbal combination sho-saiko-to enhances the antiviral activity of lamivudine.13 Sho-saiko-to contains extracts of seven herbs, including Bupleuri radix, Pinelliae tuber, Scutellariae radix, Zizyphi fructus, ginseng (Ginseng radix), licorice (Glycyrrhizae radix), and ginger (Zingibers rhizoma). Controlled studies are needed to determine whether taking sho-saiko-to might enhance the beneficial effects of lamivudine.
A case report suggested that Panax ginseng may inhibit the metabolism of imatinib, potentially increasing the toxicity of the drug. People taking imatinib should therefore not take Panax ginseng.14
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) was associated with a decrease in warfarin activity in a case study.15 This report suggests that ginseng may affect parameters of bleeding. Therefore, people taking ticlopidine should consult with a physician knowledgeable about botanical medicines before taking Asian ginseng or eleuthero/Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
Asian ginseng was associated with a decrease in warfarin activity in a case report.16 However, in a clinical trial, no interaction was seen between Asian ginseng and warfarin.17 An animal study also found no significant interaction between warfarin and pure ginseng extract.18 Nevertheless, persons taking warfarin should consult with a physician knowledgeable about botanical medicines if they are considering taking Asian ginseng or eleuthero/Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). A 1999 animal study did not reveal any significant interaction between warfarin and pure ginseng extract.19
Last Review: 07-22-2014
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