The term ginseng most often refers to Asian ginseng, Latin name Panax ginseng. This type of ginseng in also known as Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, and Asiatic ginseng. This is one of several types of true ginseng another type of true ginseng is American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius. In contrast, another herb called Siberian ginseng or eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is not a true ginseng.

Asian ginseng is native to China and Korea.

Asian ginseng has been used in various forms of medicine for centuries. It is traditionally used to boost overall health and support the immune system. It is still used to increase the taker's sense of well-being and stamina, and improve his or her mental and physical performance. It is also used to improve the health of people recovering from illness.

More modern used of ginseng include treating erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, and symptoms related to menopause, and lowering blood glucose and controlling blood pressure.

The root of the ginseng plant is dried and used to make capsules, extracts, teas, and balms.

Ginseng and Your Health

The active ingredients in ginseng are chemical components called ginsenosides or panaxosides.

Since only a handful of large clinical trials on ginseng have been conducted, research results on ginseng are not conclusive enough to prove all of the health claims associated with it. However, some studies have shown that Asian ginseng may lower blood glucose and improve immune functioning. The process that causes these effects has to be researched more fully.

The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is also supporting studies looking into how Asian ginseng interacts with other herbs and drugs. Its potential to treat chronic lung infection, impaired glucose tolerance, and Alzheimer's disease is being studied.

Side Effects of Ginseng

When taken in tablet or tea form, ginseng is well tolerated by most people. However, because of the concern of developmental side effects, some sources suggest its use be limited to three months, depending on the strength and type of treatment.

The most common side effects associated with ginseng are headaches and sleep and gastrointestinal problems. Ginseng may also cause allergic reactions in some users.

Since ginseng may lower blood glucose levels, people with diabetes are advised to use extra caution when taking ginseng since it may interact other medications to lower blood sugar. Those using bitter melon and fenugreek (which are also thought to lower blood sugar) should also exercise caution.

Even though ginseng is a natural herbal remedy, this does not mean it is safe to take for everyone. Talk to your doctor regarding ginseng to see if it is right for you before you start taking it.

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