Asian Ginseng and American Ginseng

Ginseng is a root that has been used formedicinal purposes for centuries. There aretwo different forms that have been used fordiabetes: Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A.Meyer) as well as American ginseng (Panaxquinquefolius L).

Research presented at the 2003 ADAScientific Sessions in New Orleans, Louisiana,found that the addition of American ginsengto conventional treatment for type 2 diabetessignificantly decreased A1C levels.

Both Asian and American ginsengs havebeen used for diabetes and for othermedicinal purposes. Both are also used asan “adaptogen” to help the patient copewith stress and to increase energy. Bothtypes are used in cosmetics and as flavoringingredients in different foods. Asian ginsengis used to enhance thinking and memory andto prevent colds or flu. Asian ginseng is alsoused to treat erectile dysfunction.

Advice for Patients

Patients should be aware that there aredifferent ginseng varieties, but two maintypes are used for diabetes (Asian andAmerican). The doses vary depending on thetype of ginseng used. Both ginsengs havebeen studied only in relation totype 2 diabetes.

One major concern with ginseng is that theremay be problems with the manufacturingprocess: One study found that what is printedon the label may not reflect what is actuallyin the bottle. An evaluation found thatginseng content varied from less (12 percent)to more (137 percent) than was indicated onthe bottle.

Ginseng should not be used in children or inpregnant or lactating women.

Ginseng is available in capsules, tablets, teasand liquid extracts.

Q: What is the differencebetween the different types ofginseng available?

A: You may have heard abouttwo different types of ginseng, Asian andAmerican.

Asian and American ginsengs have both been used to treat diabetes, but thedoses differ for the two types. Asianginseng is dosed at 200 milligrams perday, and American ginseng is usuallydosed at 3 grams per day. They havesimilar side effects and drug interactionsand both should be used with cautionwhen taken with other medications.

Side Effects

The major side effects of ginseng are insomnia andrestlessness.

Some other worrisome side effects include increasedblood pressure or heart rate. Headache is a commoncomplaint, and ginseng may also cause mood changes,breast pain and nervousness. Ginseng is unsafe forinfants and children and may not be safe forpregnant women.

Drug Interactions

Ginseng may decrease the effectiveness of the bloodthinner warfarin (Coumadin) and cause the protectionagainst clots to be lost.

Ginseng also decreases the effects of diuretics andhypertension medications. In combination with certainantidepressants, ginseng has resulted in mania.Taken with estrogens, ginseng may produce additiveestrogenic effects. Ginseng may inhibit certain enzymesinvolved in the metabolism of drugs and result inincreased effects of certain drugs such as beta blockers,certain analgesics and some antidepressants.

Ginseng may cause low blood glucose if taken byindividuals with insulin-treated diabetes or individualson insulin secretagogues such as glyburide, glipizide,Glucotrol XL, Amaryl, Prandin or Starlix. Consult yourhealthcare provider before starting to take ginseng if youhave diabetes. Monitor your blood glucose levels morefrequently if you take ginseng.

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