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What are the Medical Uses of Panax Ginseng?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 17, 2024
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Panax ginseng is a perennial herbal plant; the root is used for a variety of medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese medicine and as an alternative herbal remedy in western medicine. It's available in many different forms and is reputed to be helpful in the treatment of diabetes, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, weakness, depression, and anxiety. Panax ginseng is also supposed to be helpful as a supplement to improve thinking skills, to boost energy, and to cope with stress. The effectiveness for most purposes isn't supported with reliable studies, but it's thought to be safe for short-term use.

The only part of the Panax ginseng plant used in the preparation of herbal remedies is the root. Some people think that older roots are more effective than others; particularly old specimens have been known to sell for large sums of money. The herb acts on many systems of the body and appears to have stimulant properties. Panax ginseng is available in several different forms including pills and creams and can be used as an ingredient in products like teas and cosmetics as well.

There is some evidence for the effectiveness of medicinal Panax ginseng as part of a treatment regimen for type 2 diabetes. Daily doses are supposed to help lower the fasting blood sugar of diabetes patients. There is evidence that it is helpful with male sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction when taken orally. It is also an ingredient in a cream that is useful in the treatment of premature ejaculation. It is also reputed to be helpful in the treatment of fatigue, weakness, depression and anxiety but there is minimal evidence for these uses.

Another use of Panax ginseng is as a supplement to enhance certain functions. There is a limited amount of evidence that it is helpful in improving thinking and concentration including math skills and reaction time when taken orally by healthy adults. It's also been shown to be moderately helpful in improving memory when combined with ginkgo leaf. The herb is also used to enhance energy, endurance, athletic performance, as well as for stress relief, but there's less evidence that it is effective for these purposes.

There haven't been adequate studies of the effectiveness of Panax ginseng for many of its applications. Much of the existing evidence is anecdotal, but it is thought to be safe for short-term use by healthy adults. Use should be discussed with a doctor since Panax ginseng may interact with other medications. Long-term use, i.e., for periods more than three months, is not usually recommended.

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