American ginseng is a member of the famous ginseng family, with potential immune-boosting and antioxidant properties. It may prevent diabetes, common cold, and cognitive decline, but the available evidence is scarce. Keep reading to learn the benefits, side effects, and drug interactions of American ginseng.
What is American Ginseng?
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a herb that grows mainly in North America. This particular ginseng is in such high demand that it has been declared a threatened or endangered species in some states in the United States. People take it for stress, to boost the immune system, and as a stimulant .
Ginsenosides are the active components of ginseng and are usually found in the root extracts. Ginsenosides have antioxidant properties and can also help protect the brain .
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
- May help with diabetes
- May prevent cold & flu
- May improve brain function
- Clinical evidence is scarce
- Dangerous for pregnant women
- Interacts with blood thinners
Ginseng and ginsenosides have an anti-oxidant effect that is manifested as a decrease in oxidative stress .
Ginsenosides Rg2 and Rh1 are effective at improving energy metabolism and protecting mitochondria .
Several ginsenosides such as Rd, Rg1, Re, Rg3, Rh2, and Rb1 can control brain inflammatory responses in cultured brain cells. The anti-inflammatory effects might be related to the antioxidant property of ginseng .
It also suppresses inflammation in the colon and prevents DNA damage from occurring .
1) Cold Prevention
According to four clinical trials of over 1,300 participants, a specific American ginseng extract (CVT-E002, 200-400 mg twice daily) during flu season may decrease the risk of a respiratory tract infection such as the common cold or flu, especially in the elderly [7, 8, 9, 10].
However, some of these studies were funded by a company that sells the extract, which indicates a potential conflict of interest.
Taking American ginseng (3 gr, up to 2 hours before a meal) significantly prevented blood glucose rises in two studies of 19 diabetics and 10 healthy individuals [11, 12].
Both American and Asian ginseng root showed anti-diabetic effects in mice .
Preliminary research is promising, but we still lack solid clinical evidence.
No valid clinical evidence supports the use of American ginseng for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.
3) Brain Function
Administration of American ginseng to 52 healthy young adults enhanced working memory, calmness, and mood .
Ginseng and ginsenosides can rescue nerve cells by increasing cell survival, extending neurite (projections sticking out of neurons that allow for communication with other neurons) growth, and rescuing neurons from death both in humans and cell cultures .
They also showed beneficial effects in animal models of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases .
Long-term ginsenoside administration to mice prevented memory loss or impairment .
Animal and Cellular Research (Lacking Evidence)
No clinical evidence supports the use of American ginseng for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
Pseudo Ginsenoside-F11, a saponin contained in American ginseng, effectively reduced anxiety, depression, and memory deficits and alterations of monoamine contents in animal models of drug withdrawal .
Side Effects and Precautions
This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.
American ginseng is likely safe when taken in adequate amounts, short-term. It may also be safe for children, but they should use it under strict medical supervision. Possible side effects are mild and include headache and insomnia .
Due to its potential to cause birth defects, shown in animal studies, pregnant women should not take American ginseng .
Supplement-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. Always consult your doctor before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.
American ginseng may interact with blood thinners (warfarin), diabetes drugs, and immunosuppressants. Caution and strict medical supervision are warranted before using these combinations .