Ginseng (Asian)

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

Ginseng (Asian)

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More
Ginseng (Asian)

Common Names

  • Chinese ginseng
  • Ren shen
  • Korean ginseng
  • Red 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.

What is it?

Asian ginseng is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. It also comes as capsules, softgels, tablets, and liquid extracts.

What are the potential uses and benefits?

Asian ginseng is used to:

  • Boost the immune system.
  • Increase strength and stamina.
  • Treat diabetes.
  • Treat erectile dysfunction (ED, trouble getting or keeping an erection).

Asian ginseng has other uses, but doctors have not studied them to see if they work.

Talk with your healthcare providers before taking Asian ginseng supplements. They can interact with some medications and affect how they work. For more information, read the “What else do I need to know?” section below.

What are the side effects?

Side effects of using Asian ginseng may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heart rate
  • Nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up)
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Diarrhea (loose or watery bowel movements)
  • Insomnia (trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early)
  • Nervousness
What else do I need to know?
  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®). Asian ginseng may increase your risk of bleeding.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re taking imatinib (Gleevec®). Asian ginseng may increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re taking raltegravir (Isentress®, Isentress® HD). Asian ginseng may increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re on insulin. Asian ginseng may lower your blood sugar to harmful levels.
  • Asian ginseng should not be confused with herbs such as American ginseng, Siberian ginseng, or Panax notoginseng. These herbs are not the same as Asian ginseng.

For Healthcare Professionals

Brand Name
Ginsana®, G115®, Ginsai®
Scientific Name
Panax ginseng
Clinical Summary

Panax ginseng is an herb native to East Asia and Russia. It is also cultivated for its medicinal properties and the root is widely used as a “Yang” tonic in traditional medicine (1). Patients take ginseng to improve athletic performance, strength, and stamina, and as an immunostimulant. Some use it to treat diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and a variety of other conditions. Ginsenosides, the saponin glycosides, are thought responsible for medicinal effects of P. ginseng. They have both stimulatory and inhibitory effects on the CNS, alter cardiovascular tone, and increase humoral and cellular-dependent immunity (2).

Studies in humans are limited. Although ginseng has been used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (4), the effect may be trivial and the quality of evidence for most studies is low (46). Other preliminary data suggest it can be helpful for type II diabetic patients (5), but more studies are needed.

Small studies suggest ginseng may enhance immune functioning in various populations (19) (21) (47) or benefit patients with prehypertension or hypertension (42). It may also improve menopausal symptoms and markers for cardiovascular disease (30). Other data suggest ginseng helps alleviate idiopathic chronic fatigue (33) and cold hypersensitivity of hands and feet in women (39).

Ginseng has also been investigated for potential anticancer properties. Ginsenosides exhibit antiproliferative effects in vitro (25) (26). Epidemiological data in breast cancer patients show improved survival and quality of life with ginseng use (3), and reduced risk of endometrial cancer in breast cancer survivors (38). In addition, two case-controlled studies indicate a positive association between consumption and reduction in the incidence of all cancers (11) (12). In small randomized studies, ginseng reduced genotoxicity and improved quality of life in patients with epithelial ovarian cancer (43) but did not relieve surgical menopause symptoms in those with gynecologic cancers (48). Also, ginseng did not alleviate fatigue in advanced cancer patients (44) although a systematic review/meta analysis reported efficacy of ginseng-containing formulas in reducing fatigue, but not ginseng alone (53).

Because ginseng was shown to have estrogenic effects (23), patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should consult their physicians before using it. Panax ginseng should not be confused with American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) or Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), which have different medicinal properties. It should also not be confused with Panax notoginseng which also has different properties (52), and is a key ingredient in the TCM formula Yunnan baiyao.

Purported Uses and Benefits
  • Immunostimulation
  • Strength and stamina
  • Diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction
Mechanism of Action

Animal studies suggest ginsenosides prolong drug-induced sleeping time in mice and exhibit additional depressant effects on the CNS (2). In addition, the ginsenoside Rb1 improves acetylcholine release and enhances postsynaptic uptake of choline (2). In other animal studies, ginseng saponins lowered total plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels (15). Ginseng may improve NO synthesis in endothelium of the heart, lung, kidneys, and in the corpus cavernosum (13).

In humans, oral intake of ginseng reduced post-exercise muscle injury and inflammation marked by reduced creatine kinase, beta-glucuronidase, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (14).

Anticancer activity has been observed in vitro with several ginsenosides. Differentiation of HL-60 promyelocytic cells was induced in ginsenosides Rh2- and Rh3-treated cells (2). Rg3 exerted effects in part by blocking the nuclear translocation of the protein ß-catenin in colon cancer cells, most of which turned cancerous via activation of the Wnt/ß-catenin signaling pathway (25). Rp1 reduced breast cancer cell proliferation by decreasing stability of the insulin like growth factor 1 receptor protein in breast cancer cells (26).

  • Ginseng use should be discontinued at least 1 week before surgery (16).
  • Recommended doses of P. ginseng should not be exceeded, and products that aren’t standardized should be avoided, especially when combined with anticoagulants or some CYP450 substrates (51).
Adverse Reactions

Dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, and nervousness (1)

Case reports

Mania: In a 26-year-old male with no history of mental illness following chronic consumption of 250 mg Panax ginseng capsules 3 times a day. His symptoms, including irritability, insomnia, flight of ideas, and rapid speech, were resolved following supplement discontinuation (17). Two other cases of ginseng-associated manic psychosis were also reported (35).

Gynecomastia: In a 12-year-old boy after ingesting ginseng extract for body building (31).

Uncontrolled facial movements: In a 46-year-old woman who developed speech and eating difficulties as well as tongue-biting, following consumption of a formula containing black cohosh and ginseng. Symptoms resolved after discontinuing use of the formula (34).

Pulmonary embolism: In a 41-year-old woman after taking panax pills (40).

Perioperative bleeding: In a 72-year-old woman following cardiac surgery due to severe coagulopathy induced by high oral intake of ginseng before surgery (45).

Liver toxicity: In a 26-year-old man with chronic myelogenous leukemia who was on long-term imatinib. He had no complications with this medication until daily ingestion of Panax ginseng via energy drinks for 3 months, after which he experienced right upper quadrant pain. It is thought the interaction of ginseng with this drug played some role (24).

Herb-Drug Interactions

Insulin and sulfonylureas: In humans, P. ginseng may increase the hypoglycemic effect of insulin and sulfonylureas (5).
Antiplatelets: P. ginseng may increase aspirin bioavailability (49).
Anticoagulants: Studies on whether P. ginseng can antagonize the effects of anticoagulants are mixed (6) (7) (8) (50) (51). Clinical relevance needs further assessment.
MAOIs: In humans, P. ginseng may cause manic-like symptoms when combined with MAOIs (9).
Imatinib: A case report indicates that P. ginseng may increase risk of hepatotoxicity (24).
CYP3A4 substrates: Certain ginsenosides can induce CYP3A4 and may increase the clearance of substrate drugs (28) (29). However, effects in humans may not be clinically significant (41).
Raltegravir: Elevated plasma levels of raltegravir, an antiretroviral drug, were reported in a patient following concurrent use of raltegravir and ginseng (32).

Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  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. Cui Y, Shu XO, Gao YT, et al. Association of ginseng use with survival and quality of life among breast cancer patients. Am J Epidemiol 2006;163:645-53.
  4. de Andrade E, de Mesquita AA, Claro Jde A, et al. Study of the efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl. Mar 2007;9(2):241-244.
  5. Ma SW, Benzie IF, Chu TT, et al. Effect of Panax ginseng supplementation on biomarkers of glucose tolerance, antioxidant status and oxidative stress in type 2 diabetic subjects: results of a placebo-controlled human intervention trial. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2008 Nov;10(11):1125-7.
  6. Lee SH, Ahn YM, Ahn SY, et al. Interaction between warfarin and Panax ginseng in ischemic stroke patients. J Altern Complement Med. Jul 2008;14(6):715-721.
  7. Jiang X, Williams KM, Liauw WS, et al. Effect of St John’s wort and ginseng on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of warfarin in healthy subjects. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2004 May;57(5):592-9.
  8. Jiang X, Blair EY, McLachlan AJ. Investigation of the effects of herbal medicines on warfarin response in healthy subjects: A population pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modeling approach. J Clin Pharmacol. Nov 2006;46(11):1370-1378.
  9. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 2001.
  10. Baranov AI. Medicinal uses of ginseng and related plants in the Soviet Union: recent trends in the Soviet literature. J Ethnopharmacol 1982;6:339-53.
  11. Shin HR, Kim JY, Yun TK, Morgan G, Vainio H. The cancer-preventive potential of Panax ginseng: A review of human and experimental evidence. Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:565-76.
  12. Yun TK, Choi SY. Non-organ specific cancer prevention of ginseng: A prospective study in Korea. Int J Epidemiol 1998;27:359-64.
  13. Cheng TO. Panax (ginseng) is not a panacea. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:3329.
  14. Nah JJ, Hahn JH, Chung S, et al. Effect of ginsenosides, active components of ginseng, on capsaicin-induced pain-related behavior. Neuropharmacology 2000;39:2180-4.
  15. Cabral de Oliveira AC, et al. Protective effects of Panax ginseng on muscle injury and inflammation after eccentric exercise. Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol 2001;130:369-77.
  16. Ang-Lee MK, Moss J, Yuan CS. Herbal medicines and perioperative care. JAMA 2001;286:208-16.
  17. Engelberg D, McCutcheon A, Wiseman S. A case of ginseng-induced mania. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2001;21:535-6.
  18. Vogler BK, Pittler MH, Ernst E. The efficacy of ginseng. A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1999;55:567-75.
  19. Cho YK, et al. Long-term intake of Korean red ginseng in HIV-1-infected patients: development of resistance mutation to zidovudine is delayed. Int Immunopharmacol 2001;1:1295-305.
  20. Cardinal BJ, Engels HJ. Ginseng does not enhance psychological well-being in healthy, young adults: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. J Am Diet Assoc 2001;101:655-60.
  21. Scaglione F, et al. Efficacy and safety of the standardized ginseng extract G115 for potentiating vaccination against common cold and-or influenza syndrome. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1996;22:65-72.
  22. Inoue M, Wu CZ, Dou DQ, et al. Lipoprotein lipase activation by red ginseng saponins in hyperlipidemia model animals. Phytomedicine. 1999 Oct;6(4):257-65.
  23. Lee Y, Jin Y, Lim W, et al. A ginsenoside-Rh1, a component of ginseng saponin, activates estrogen receptor in human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2003 Mar;84(4):463-8.
  24. Bilgi N, Bell K, Ananthakrishnan AN, et al. Imatinib and Panax ginseng: A potential interaction resulting in liver toxicity. Ann Pharmacother. 2010 May;44(5):926-8.
  25. He BC, Gao JL, Luo X, et al. Ginsenoside Rg3 inhibits colorectal tumor growth through the down-regulation of Wnt/ß-catenin signaling. Int J Oncol. 2011 Feb;38(2):437-45.
  26. Kang JH, Song KH, Woo JK, et al. Ginsenoside Rp1 from Panax ginseng Exhibits Anti-cancer Activity by Down-regulation of the IGF-1R/Akt Pathway in Breast Cancer Cells. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2011 Sep;66(3):298-305.
  27. Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. California: Art of Medicine Press; 2004.
  28. Hao M, Ba Q, Yin J, et al. Deglycosylated ginsenosides are more potent inducers of CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP3A4 expression in HepG2 cells than glycosylated ginsenosides. Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2011;26(2):201-5.
  29. Hao M, Zhao Y, Chen P, et al. Structure-activity relationship and substrate-dependent phenomena in effects of ginsenosides on activities of drug-metabolizing P450 enzymes. PLoS One. 2008 Jul 16;3(7):e2697.
  30. Kim SY, Seo SK, Choi YM, et al. Effects of red ginseng supplementation on menopausal symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors in postmenopausal women: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 2012 Apr;19(4):461-6.
  31. Kakisaka Y, Ohara T, Tozawa H, et al. Panax ginseng: A newly identified cause of gynecomastia. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2012;228(2):143-5.
  32. Mateo-Carrasco H, Gálvez-Contreras MC, Fernández-Ginés FD, Nguyen TV. Elevated liver enzymes resulting from an interaction between Raltegravir and Panax ginseng: A case report and brief review. Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2012;27(3):171-5.
  33. Kim HG, Cho JH, Yoo SR, et al. Antifatigue effects of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 17;8(4):e61271.
  34. Sen A. Orobuccolingual dyskinesia after long-term use of black cohosh and ginseng. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2013 Fall;25(4):E50.
  35. Norelli LJ, Xu C. Manic Psychosis Associated With Ginseng: A Report of Two Cases and Discussion of the Literature. J Diet Suppl. 2015 Jun;12(2):119-25.
  36. Jia L, Zhao Y. Current evaluation of the millennium phytomedicine—ginseng (I): etymology, pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, market and regulations. Curr Med Chem. 2009;16(19):2475-84.
  37. Lee J, Lee E, Kim D, Lee J, Yoo J, Koh B.Studies on absorption, distribution and metabolism of ginseng in humans after oral administration. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Feb 25;122(1):143-8.
  38. Hsu WL, Tsai YT, Wu CT, Lai JN. The Prescription Pattern of Chinese Herbal Products Containing Ginseng among Tamoxifen-Treated Female Breast Cancer Survivors in Taiwan: A Population-Based Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:385204.
  39. Park KS, Park KI, Kim JW, Yun YJ, Kim SH, Lee CH, Park JW, Lee JM. Efficacy and safety of Korean red ginseng for cold hypersensitivity in the hands and feet: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Dec 2;158 Pt A:25-32.
  40. Yigit M, Cevik E. A rare cause of pulmonary embolism: Panax. Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Feb;33(2):311.e1-2.
  41. Kim DS, Kim Y, Jeon JY, et al. Effect of Red Ginseng on cytochrome P450 and P-glycoprotein activities in healthy volunteers. J Ginseng Res. 2016 Oct;40(4):375-381.
  42. Lee HW, Lim HJ, Jun JH, Choi J, Lee MS. Ginseng for Treating Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trials. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2017;15(6):549-556.
  43. Kim HS, Kim MK, Lee M, Kwon BS, Suh DH, Song YS. Effect of Red Ginseng on Genotoxicity and Health-Related Quality of Life after Adjuvant Chemotherapy in Patients with Epithelial Ovarian Cancer: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2017 Jul 19;9(7). pii: E772.
  44. Yennurajalingam S, Tannir NM, Williams JL, et al. A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Panax Ginseng for Cancer-Related Fatigue in Patients With Advanced Cancer.J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2017 Sep;15(9):1111-1120.
  45. Viviano A, Steele D, Edsell M, Jahangiri M. Over-the-counter natural products in cardiac surgery: A case of ginseng-related massive perioperative bleeding. BMJ Case Rep. 2017 Aug 7;2017:bcr2016218068.
  46. Lee HW, Lee MS, Kim TH, et al. Ginseng for erectile dysfunction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Apr 19 2021;4(4):Cd012654.
  47. Kim IK, Lee KY, Kang J, et al. Immune-modulating Effect of Korean Red Ginseng by Balancing the Ratio of Peripheral T Lymphocytes in Bile Duct or Pancreatic Cancer Patients With Adjuvant Chemotherapy. In Vivo. May-Jun 2021;35(3):1895-1900.
  48. Chung YS, Lee IO, Lee JY, et al. Effects of Korean Red Ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) on Menopausal Symptoms in Premenopausal Women After Gynecologic Cancer Surgery: A Double-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. Jan 2021;27(1):66-72.
  49. Petersen MJ, Bergien SO, Staerk D. A systematic review of possible interactions for herbal medicines and dietary supplements used concomitantly with disease-modifying or symptom-alleviating multiple sclerosis drugs. Phytother Res. Jul 2021;35(7):3610-3631.
  50. Dong H, Ma J, Li T, et al. Global deregulation of ginseng products may be a safety hazard to warfarin takers: solid evidence of ginseng-warfarin interaction. Sci Rep. Jul 19 2017;7(1):5813.
  51. Lin JF, Fan LL, Li BW, et al. A study to evaluate herb-drug interaction underlying mechanisms: An investigation of ginsenosides attenuating the effect of warfarin on cardiovascular diseases. Eur J Pharm Sci. Jan 15 2020;142:105100.
  52. Liu H, Lu X, Hu Y, et al. Chemical constituents of Panax ginseng and Panax notoginseng explain why they differ in therapeutic efficacy. Pharmacol Res. Nov 2020;161:105263.
  53. Li X, Yang M, Zhang YL, et al. Ginseng and Ginseng Herbal Formulas for Symptomatic Management of Fatigue: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
    J Integr Complement Med. 2023 Feb 1. doi: 10.1089/jicm.2022.0532. Online ahead of print.
Email your questions and comments to [email protected].

Last Updated