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 ginseng. 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.
Ginseng may also help to lower blood sugar using various mechanisms (including increasing insulin production and increasing the sensitivity of the body to insulin). Ginseng may have estrogen-like effects, although there is considerable disagreement about whether these effects really occur.
These are just some of the ways ginseng may possibly work. As more is learned through research about the different components of ginseng, more will be known about how (and if) ginseng works for various uses.
Ginseng Use in Children
It is not known whether medicinal use of ginseng is safe for children. Keep in mind that children may be more sensitive to the effects and toxicities of medications or supplements. Check with your child's healthcare provider before giving your child ginseng for any purpose.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed March 11, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: Asian ginseng (September 2005). NCCAM Web site. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/asianginseng/. Accessed March 11, 2008.
Kiefer D, Pantuso T. Panax ginseng. Am Fam Physician 2003;68:1539-42.
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