Ginseng (American)

Ginseng (American)

Common Names

  • Xi yang shen
  • Tienchi ginseng
  • Western ginseng
  • Five-fingers

For Patients & Caregivers

American ginseng has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.

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. Ginsenosides both stimulate and inhibit the central nervous system in humans and stimulate the immune system in mice. Other lab studies suggest that American ginseng may have some anticancer properties.

In human studies, American ginseng was shown to lower blood sugar levels, reduce number and severity of colds, and improve memory. It may also be useful in reducing cancer-related fatigue. However, breast cancer patients should use this herb with caution because it can stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. American ginseng also decreases the blood-thinning effects of warfarin, a commonly used anticoagulant.

  • To improve athletic performance
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To prevent and treat cancer
    There are no data to back this claim. Studies suggest that American ginseng may improve cancer-related fatigue and quality of life. However, breast cancer patients should use this herb with caution because it can stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • To treat diabetes
    A few studies show a blood glucose-lowering effect of American ginseng.
  • To stimulate the immune system
    Some studies show an immunostimulant effect in animals. Human data are lacking.
  • For increased strength and stamina
    One trial suggests that American ginseng may improve cancer-related fatigue. Additional confirmatory studies are needed. 
  • You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners: American ginseng may interfere with the action of the anticoagulant.
  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4: American ginseng may make the drugs less effective.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Panax quinquefolius

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. Ginsenosides have both stimulatory and inhibitory effects on the central nervous system (4), and can alter cardiovascular tone, enhance humoral and cellular-dependent immunity, and exert anticancer effects (3) (15) (16) (28).

Current data suggest that American ginseng may improve glucose control in diabetics (2) (6) and that it is safe for long-term use (25). It also demonstrated a modest effect in reducing number and severity of colds (12), and enhanced working memory in young (21) and middle aged (27) healthy adults as well as in patients with schizophrenia (24).

In laboratory studies, the anticancer activity of American ginseng was enhanced when combined with antioxidants (14). The herb also showed synergistic effects with 5-fluorouracil against colorectal cancer cells (17), and conferred protection against oxidative stress in irradiated human lymphocytes (18).

Data from an epidemiological study indicate that American ginseng improves survival and quality of life in breast cancer patients (13). Findings from a randomized controlled trial support its benefits in improving cancer-related fatigue (23).

  • Cancer prevention
  • Cancer treatment
  • Diabetes
  • Health maintenance
  • Immunostimulation
  • Strength and stamina

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 another study, the herb was shown to significantly attenuate azoxymethane/dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colon carcinogenesis by reducing the colon tumor number and tumor load, associated with suppression of DSS-induced proinflammatory cytokine activation (26).

Breast cancer patients should use this product with caution as American ginseng may stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells (9).

Warfarin: American ginseng has been shown to antagonize warfarin’s effects (11).
Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 substrates: Certain ginsenosides can induce CYP3A4 and may affect the metabolism of drugs that are substrates of this enzyme  (19) (20).

Reductions in PT, PTT, and INR and blood glucose may occur.
 (8) (11)


  1. Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York: CRC Press; 1999.

  2. Attele AS, Wu JA, Yuan CS. Ginseng pharmacology: multiple constituents and multiple actions. Biochem Pharmacol 1999;58:1685-93.

  3. Chen SE. American ginseng. III. Pharmacokinetics of ginsenosides in the rabbit. Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet 1980;5:161-8.

  4. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 2001.

  5. Amato P, Christophe S, Mellon PL. Estrogenic activity of herbs commonly used as remedies for menopausal symptoms. Menopause 2002;9:145-50.

  6. Yuan CS, et al. Brief Communication: American Ginseng reduces Warfarin’s effect in healthy patients. Annals of Internal Medicine 2004;141:23-27.

  7. Li B, Wang CZ, He TC, et al. Antioxidants potentiate American ginseng-induced killing of colorectal cancer cells. Cancer Letters. 2010;289(1):62-70.

  8. Xie JT, Du GJ, McEntee E, et al. Effects of Triterpenoid Glycosides from Fresh Ginseng Berry on SW480 Human Colorectal Cancer Cell Line. Cancer Res Treat. 2011 Mar;43(1):49-55.

  9. Li XL, Wang CZ, Sun S, et al. American ginseng berry enhances chemopreventive effect of 5-FU on human colorectal cancer cells. Oncol Rep. 2009 Oct;22(4):943-52.

  10. Lee TK, O’Brien KF, Wang W, et al. Radioprotective effect of American ginseng on human lymphocytes at 90 minutes postirradiation: a study of 40 cases. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):561-7.

  11. Barton DL, Liu H, Dakhil SR, et al. Wisconsin Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) to improve cancer-related fatigue: a randomized, double-blind trial, N07C2. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Aug 21;105(16):1230-8.

  12. Mucalo I, Jovanovski E, Vuksan V, Božikov V, Romić Z, Rahelić D. American Ginseng Extract (Panax quinquefolius L.) Is Safe in Long-Term Use in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:969168.

  13. Yu C, Wen XD, Zhang Z, et al. American ginseng attenuates azoxymethane/dextran sodium sulfate-induced colon carcinogenesis in mice. J Ginseng Res. 2015 Jan;39(1):14-21.

  14. Wang CZ, Yu C, Wen XD, et al. American Ginseng Attenuates Colitis Associated Colon Carcinogenesis in Mice: Impact on Gut Microbiota and Metabolomics. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2016 Oct;9(10):803-811.

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