Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer (Araliaceae)
Other Panax species, including P. quinquefolius L. (American ginseng), P. notoginseng
Burk. (San-chi ginseng), P. pseudoginseng Wall. ssp. japonicus Hara P. japonicus
C.A. Meyer (Japanese chikutsu ginseng) and P. notoginseng ssp. himalaicus (Himalayan
ginseng) have also been referred to as “ginseng” and used medically.
However, scientific documentation of these species is insufficient to justify
the preparation of a monograph at this time
Chosen ninjin, ginseng, Ginsengwurzel, hakusan, hakushan, higeninjin, hongshen,
hungseng, hungshen, hunseng, jenseng, jenshen, jinpi, kao-li-seng, korean ginseng,
minjin, nhan sam, ninjin, ninzin, niuhuan, Oriental ginseng, otane ninjin, renshen,
san-pi, shanshen, sheng-sai-seng, shenshaishanshen, shengshaishen, t’ang-seng,
tyosenninzin, yakuyo ninjin, yakuyo ninzin, yehshan- seng, yuan-seng, yuanshen
A perennial herb with characteristic branched roots extending from the middle
of the main root in the form of a human figure. Stem erect, simple, and not
branching. Leaves verticillate, compound, digitate, leaflets 5, with the 3 terminal
leaflets larger than the lateral ones, elliptical or slightly obovate, 4–15cm
long by 2–6.5 cm wide; apex acuminate; base cuneate; margin serrulate
or finely bidentate. In general, 1 leaf in the first year with 1 leaflet added
annually until the sixth year. Inflorescence a small terminal umbel, hemispherical
in early summer. Flowers polygamous, pink. Calyx vaguely 5-toothed. Petals 5,
stamens 5. Fruit a small berry, nearly drupaceous, and red when ripe in autumn
Plant material used
Microchemical, thin-layer chromatographic, and spectrophotometric methods are
used for the qualitative and quantitative analysis of ginsenosides. High-performance
liquid chromatography and liquid chromatography– mass spectrometry methods
are also available. Characteristic saponins known as ginsenosides, not less
than 1.5% calculated as ginsenoside Rg1 (D-glucopyranosyl-6-glucopyranosyl-20Sprotopanaxatriol,
relative molecular mass 800)
Major chemical constituents
The major chemical constituents are triterpene saponins. More than 30 are based
on the dammarane structure, and one (ginsenoside Ro) is derived from oleanolic
acid. The dammarane saponins are derivatives of either protopanaxadiol or protopanaxatriol.
Members of the former group include ginsenosides Ra1-3, Rb1-3, Rc, Rc2, Rd,
Rd2, and Rh2; (20S)-ginsenoside Rg3; and malonyl ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, Rc,
and Rd. Examples of protopanaxatriol saponins are ginsenosides Re2, Re3, Rf,
Rg1, Rg2, and Rh1; 20- gluco-ginsenoside Rf; and (20R)-ginsenosides Rg2 and
Rh1. Those considered most important are ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Rf,
Rg1, and Rg2; Rb1, Rb2, and Rg1 are the most abundant
Crude plant material, capsules and tablets of powdered drugs, extracts, tonic
drinks, wines, and lozenges. Store in a cool, dry place in well-sealed containers.
Uses supported by clinical data
Radix Ginseng is used as a prophylactic and restorative agent for enhancement
of mental and physical capacities, in cases of weakness, exhaustion, tiredness,
and loss of concentration, and during convalescence.
Uses described in pharmacopoeias and well
Radix Ginseng has been used clinically in the treatment of diabetes, but further
clinical studies are needed. The drug is also used in the treatment of impotence,
prevention of hepatotoxicity, and gastrointestinal disorders such as gastritis
Uses described in traditional medicine
Proven pharmacological activity
Treatment of liver disease, coughs, fever, tuberculosis, rheumatism, vomiting
of pregnancy, hypothermia, dyspnoea, and nervous disorders
Immunostimulant, Adaptogenic (physical and mental performance enhancer)
Antifatigue, Psychomotor stimulant, Antidiabetic, Impotence
No information available.
Diabetic patients should consult a physician prior to taking Radix Ginseng,
as ginseng intake may slightly reduce blood glucose levels.
There are two reports of an interaction between Radix Ginseng and phenelzine,
a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. The clinical significance of this interaction
has not been evaluated.
Drug and laboratory test interactions
Carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, impairment of fertility
Radix Ginseng is not carcinogenic or mutagenic in vitro, and does not have any
effect on fertility.
Pregnancy: teratogenic effects
Radix Ginseng is not teratogenic in vivo.
Pregnancy: non-teratogenic effects
The safety of Radix Ginseng for use in pregnancy has not been established.
Excretion of Radix Ginseng compounds into breast milk and its effects on the
newborn have not been established.
The safety and efficacy of Radix Ginseng use in children have not been established.
Various researchers who studied Radix Ginseng extracts using conventional toxicological
methods in five different animal models reported no acute or chronic toxicity
of the extract. On the basis of Radix Ginseng’s long use, and the relative
infrequency of significant demonstrable side-effects, it has been concluded
that the use of Radix Ginseng is not associated with serious adverse effects
if taken at the recommended dose. However, in Siegel’s open study of 133
patients ingesting large quantities, ginseng was reported to result in hypertension,
nervousness, irritability, diarrhoea, skin eruptions, and insomnia, which were
collectively called ginseng abuse syndrome (GAS). Critical analysis of this
report has shown that there were no controls or analyses to determine the type
of ginseng being ingested or the constituents of the preparation taken, and
that some of the amounts ingested were clearly excessive (as much as 15 g per
day, where the recommended daily dose is 0.5–2g). When the dose was decreased
to 1.7 g/day the symptoms of the “syndrome” were rare. Thus the
only conclusion that can be validly extracted from the Siegel study is that
the excessive and uncontrolled intake of ginseng products should be avoided.
One case of ginseng-associated cerebral arteritis has been reported in a patient
consuming a high dose of an ethanol extract of ginseng root (approximately 6g
in one dose). However, again the type and quantity of ginseng extract were not
reported. Two cases of mydriasis and disturbance in accommodation, as well as
dizziness have been reported after ingestion of large doses (3–9g) of
an unspecified type of ginseng preparation. Estrogenic-like side-effects have
been reported in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women following the use
of ginseng. Seven cases of mastalgiaand one case of vaginal bleeding in a postmenopausal
woman were reported after ingestion of unspecified ginseng products. An increased
libido in premenopausal women h also been reported. Specific studies on the
possible hormonal side-effects of ginseng have been carried out with a standardized
ginseng extract. Under physiological conditions, there is no interaction of
the ginseng extract with either cytosolic estrogen receptors isolated from mature
rat uterus or progesterone receptors from human myometrium. Furthermore, clinical
studies have demonstrated that a standardized ginseng extract does not cause
a change in male and female hormonal status.
Unless otherwise prescribed, daily dose (taken in the morning): dried root 0.5–2g
by decoction; doses of other preparations should be calculated accordingly