Ginseng is an herbal supplement derived from the roots of the ginseng plant. It is used for a variety of reasons, but is most often used for stimulating the immune system and for improving mental functioning and overall health. It may also have blood-thinning properties and may help to lower blood sugar. Common side effects reported with ginseng supplements include headache, insomnia, and upset stomach.
Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement made from the roots of ginseng plants. There are several different types; usually, the term "ginseng" refers to one particular type, known as Panax ginseng. This type is not the same as American or Siberian type. Other common names for Panax ginseng include but are not limited to:
- Asian ginseng
- Chinese ginseng
- Korean ginseng.
People take it for a wide variety of reasons. Often, it is used to stimulate the immune system or to improve mental functioning and overall mental health.
(Click Benefits of Ginseng for more information on what it is used for, including additional uses.)
There are numerous different active compounds in ginseng, and it is thought that it is probably a combination of several of these active compounds that is responsible for the actions of the supplement. Some of these compounds have "blood-thinning" properties, helping to keep blood platelets from sticking together (although it is not clear if this effect is significant in humans). Some of the compounds may stimulate the immune system, which may theoretically help fight off infections or cancer. The supplement may also help to lower blood sugar using various mechanisms (including increasing insulin production and increasing the sensitivity of the body to insulin). It may also have estrogen-like effects, although there is considerable disagreement about whether these effects really occur.
These are just some of the ways it may possibly work. As more is learned through research about the different components, more will be known about how (and if) it works for various uses.