Warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of ginseng include the following:
- Ginseng may have effects on the heart rhythm and blood pressure. It is not known if ginseng is safe for people with heart problems.
- It is thought that ginseng may have estrogen-like effects (although there is considerable controversy about this issue). If you have a medical condition that is sensitive to estrogen, it may be a good idea to avoid ginseng.
- Ginseng may theoretically decrease the ability of blood platelets to stick together, decreasing the ability to form blood clots. While this can be beneficial in many situations, it can be dangerous for people with a bleeding disorder. It could also be dangerous during a surgery or if you take medications that "thin" the blood.
- There have been reports that ginseng may cause insomnia and agitation in people with schizophrenia. In general, ginseng should be avoided by people with schizophrenia.
- Ginseng may theoretically increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). If you have diabetes, check with your healthcare provider before taking ginseng.
- Ginseng appears to stimulate the immune system. If you have an autoimmune disorder or if you have had an organ transplant, check with your healthcare provider before taking ginseng.
- Ginseng can potentially interact with several medications (see Ginseng Drug Interactions).
- It is not known if ginseng is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see Ginseng and Pregnancy and Ginseng and Breastfeeding).
- If you decide to use supplements, what you see on the label may not reflect what is in the bottle. For example, some herbal supplements have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals or prescription drugs, and some have been found to have much more or much less of the featured ingredient than their label states. Therefore, make sure the manufacturer of your ginseng product is a trusted and reputable manufacturer. It is a good sign if a manufacturer abides by the rules of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for drugs. It is also a good sign if a product has the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) seal, which means that the product has been independently tested and shown to contain the correct ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are most reputable.