- Xi yang shen
- Western ginseng
For Patients & Caregivers
Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.
How It Works
Studies on whether American ginseng can help reduce cancer-related fatigue are mixed, but a multisite double-blind trial suggests benefit.
Scientists think that the medicinal properties of American ginseng come from components called ginsenosides, but most research has been done on another species, Panax ginseng. Lab studies suggest some anticancer properties, and effects on the central nervous system and immune system.
Studies in humans are limited. American ginseng may help lower blood sugar levels, reduce number and severity of colds, and improve memory. Studies on whether it can reduce cancer-related fatigue are mixed, but a larger multisite trial does suggest benefit. However, breast cancer patients should use this herb with caution because it may stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. American ginseng also decreases the blood-thinning effects of warfarin, a commonly used anticoagulant.
To reduce cancer-related fatigue
Studies on whether it can reduce cancer-related fatigue are mixed, but a larger multisite trial does suggest benefit.
To prevent and treat cancer
There are no clinical studies to back this claim. In addition, breast cancer patients should use this herb with caution because it may stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.
To treat diabetes
A few studies show that American ginseng has a blood glucose-lowering effect.
To stimulate the immune system
Lab studies suggest immunostimulant effects, but human data are lacking.
Do Not Take If
For Healthcare Professionals
A popular herb often confused with Asian or Panax ginseng, American ginseng has unique medicinal properties. It is frequently used in Chinese medicine to nourish “Yin” (1). American ginseng is also used in supplemental form to improve athletic performance, strength, and stamina, and to treat diabetes and cancer. The saponin glycosides, also known as ginsenosides or panaxosides, are thought responsible for the herb’s biological effects. In lab studies, ginsenosides have both stimulatory and inhibitory CNS effects (4), can alter cardiovascular tone, enhance humoral and cellular-dependent immunity, and exert anticancer effects (3) (15) (16) (28). Other lab studies suggest enhanced anticancer activities when combined with antioxidants (14), synergistic effects with 5-fluorouracil (17), and protection against oxidative stress in irradiated human lymphocytes (18).
Studies in humans are limited. Current data suggest that American ginseng may help improve glucose control in diabetics (2) (6) (29) (30) and that it is safe for long-term use (25). It had a modest effect in reducing number and severity of colds (12), and enhanced working memory in young (21) and middle-aged (27) healthy adults, and patients with schizophrenia (24).
Findings from clinical trials on whether American ginseng can improve cancer-related fatigue are mixed (23) (31), although the larger multisite trial suggests benefit (23). Epidemiological data suggest it may improve survival and quality of life in breast cancer patients (13), but more studies are needed.
Mechanism of Action
Ginsenosides are thought responsible for American ginseng’s activity, although the exact mechanism of action is unknown. Related species, such as Panax ginseng, have been the focus of most laboratory and clinical research. Experiments using extracts from these species indicate that ginsenosides stimulate and inhibit the central nervous system (4). The extracts also stimulate TNF alpha production by alveolar macrophages (10).
The Rg1 ginsenoside present in American ginseng is associated with improvements in humoral and cell-mediated immune response and increases in T helper cells, T lymphocytes, and NK cells in mice (5). American ginseng was also shown to lower serum glucose and may affect carbohydrate metabolism (2) (6).
Several ginsenosides demonstrated anticancer properties in vitro (3). Current data suggest that the antiproliferative effects of American ginseng are due to compound K, a metabolite of the ginsenoside Rb1, but not Rb1 as previously thought (22). In a rodent study, the herb significantly attenuated colon carcinogenesis by reducing tumor number and load, associated with suppression of proinflammatory cytokine activation (26).
Warfarin: American ginseng has been shown to antagonize warfarin’s effects in humans (11).
Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 substrates: Lab studies suggest certain ginsenosides can induce CYP3A4 and may affect the metabolism of drugs that are substrates of this enzyme (19) (20). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.