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Korean Ginseng

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Ginseng Safety Tips

Do not take ginseng without first talking to your doctor if you have a blood clotting disorder, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you are taking any medicines to treat these conditions. 

Consult your doctor before taking ginseng if you have any other existing medical conditions, allergies, or if you are taking other medicines or health supplements. Ginseng may not be recommended in some situations. 

If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, take caution and talk to your doctor before using ginseng since it is not known whether ginseng may harm a fetus or infant. Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without first talking to the child's doctor. 

If you choose to take ginseng, follow the directions found on package label or given by your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. Store ginseng as directed on the package; protect from intense light or moisture. 

Standardized ginseng extracts and solid formulations may provide a more reliable and consistent dosage. 

To avoid the risk of overdosing, do not use different forms of ginseng simultaneously (e.g., tablets, teas, powders, and creams), unless specifically instructed to do so by a medical professional. 

What other drugs will affect ginseng?

Do not take ginseng without first talking to your doctor if you are taking any of the following medicines:

  • any heart or blood pressure medicines;
  • a medicine to control blood sugar levels such as insulin,
  • aspirin;
  • a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, others),
  • heparin

You may be advised not to take ginseng at all or you may require special monitoring or dosage adjustments while taking ginseng if you are taking any of the medicines listed.



Side Effects and Allergic Reactions of Ginseng

Ginseng has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness, or purity. All potential health benefits and/or risks may not be known. There is currently no standard set of regulations for the manufacturing of ginseng products. Therefore, there have been reported instances of herbal supplements contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal supplements should be always purchased from a reliable source to minimize risks.

  • When taken orally, ginseng is usually well tolerated. Some sources recommend limited use (up to 3 months) to avoid the development of side effects.
  • The most common side-effect of ginseng is insomnia, or inability to sleep. Other known side effects include headache, nausea, diarrhea, and abnormal blood pressure.
  • Although rare, ginseng users have reported allergic reactions. If you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, stop ginseng consumption immediately and seek emergency medical attention. These symptoms may include: difficulty breathing, throat tightening, swelling of the lips, tongue, or face, and/or breaking out in hives.
  • Asian ginseng consumption has been shown to lower blood glucose levels, especially in people with diabetes. Diabetics should use extra caution with Asian ginseng if taking other medication or herbal supplements to lower blood sugar, such as bitter melon.

Be sure to tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Giving them a full picture of what you do to manage your health will ensure safe, coordinated care. Additionally, consulting a specially trained herbal practitioner may be advantageous.

Ginseng Overdose

Panax ginseng is considered to be relatively safe; however, massive ginseng overdose has been reported to cause "Ginseng Abuse Syndrome." Symptoms include insomnia, muscle tension, and swelling or fluid retention.

Keep ginseng supplements out of reach of small children. In case of overdose, seek immediate emergency medical attention.


More Resources

Your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider may have more information about ginseng. Consultation with a licensed health care professional is highly advised before using any herbal/health supplement. Additional consultation with a specially trained herbalist may be beneficial. Coordination of treatment among all health care providers involved will ensure safe care.