Ginseng: side effects

Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a plant belonging to the Araliaceae family.

The term Panax comes from the Greek, from the composition of the word pan “all” and akeia “cure”, the term ginseng, on the other hand, comes from the Chinese rènshēn, meaning “plant of Man”, because the shape of its root recalls the body of a man.

Ginseng is known for its adaptogenic and anti-stress action, but it is also used for its hypoglycemic properties in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Let’s find out more about the characteristics and side effects of ginseng.

Ginseng: characteristics and properties

Ginseng is a perennial plant with palmate and finely toothed stem and leaves. It has a fusiform and fleshy human-shaped rhizome.

The inflorescence is simple or branched and the flowers have green-yellow corollas. Finally, the fruit is a drupe the size of a pea, purple, shiny and smooth.

The properties of ginseng largely depend on vitamins, essential oil and polysaccharides present in the roots. These also contain triterpene saponins, called ginsenosides and considered the main active ingredients. 

Ginseng is able to strengthen the immune, endocrine and nervous systems, thus improving the body’s physical and mental abilities and promoting the ability to adapt to stress. 

There are also numerous studies that highlight the hypoglycemic property of ginseng, useful for reducing the blood concentration of glucose in the case of diabetes mellitus.

Ginseng is also a stimulant, because it acts on all systems, improving reflexes, accelerating the nervous response, reducing mental fatigue and strengthening physical endurance and memory, making it suitable for those who study or have an intense sporting activity.

Finally, ginseng is also considered an aphrodisiac food because it stimulates male sexual desire and functions. 

The Side Effects of Ginseng

Although it is generally well tolerated, prolonged or excessive use of ginseng can bring several side effects.

Between these: 

  • Insomnia;
  • nervousness and agitation, 
  • headache;
  • loss of concentration;
  • diarrhea and vomiting;
  • asthma;
  • palpitations.

Furthermore, the intake of ginseng is contraindicated in case of hypertension, tachycardia, palpitations, insomnia, anxiety and tremors, and, due to its estrogenic effects, is highly not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

Finally, interactions have been reported with anticoagulant drugs and with phenelzine (a principle present in some psychotropic drugs), with hypoglycemic drugs and insulin: consequently it is not recommended to take Ginseng in these cases. In any case, it is always recommended to take it with caution and to consult a specialist before taking it. 

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