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Panax ginseng is an herbal supplement often used to improve mental functioning and overall mental health. Some of the active compounds of the supplement may also stimulate the immune system and lower blood sugar. While this herb is claimed to be beneficial for various uses, there is currently not enough evidence supporting this. Potential side effects include hypertension, headaches, and insomnia.

What Is Panax Ginseng?

Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement made from the roots of ginseng plants. There are several different types of ginseng; usually, the term "ginseng" refers to one particular type, known as Panax ginseng. This type is not the same as American ginseng or Siberian ginseng. Other common names for Panax ginseng include (but are not limited to):
  • Asian ginseng
  • Chinese ginseng
  • Korean ginseng.
People take Panax ginseng for a variety of reasons. Often, it is used to stimulate the immune system or to improve mental functioning and overall mental health.
(Click Benefits of Panax Ginseng for more information, including additional uses.)

How Does It Work?

There are numerous different active compounds in Panax ginseng, and it is thought that it is probably a combination of several of these active compounds that is responsible for the actions of the herbal supplement. Some of these compounds have "blood-thinning" properties, helping to prevent blood platelets from sticking together (although it is not clear if this effect is significant in humans). Some of the compounds may stimulate the immune system, which may theoretically help fight off infections or cancer. Panax ginseng may also help lower blood sugar using various mechanisms, including increasing insulin production and increasing the sensitivity of the body to insulin. Panax ginseng may have estrogen-like effects, although there is considerable disagreement about whether these effects really occur.
These are just some of the ways the supplement may work. As more is learned through research about the different components, more will be known about how (and if) Panax ginseng works for various uses.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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