In animal studies on pregnancy and ginseng, one of the active components of ginseng caused changes in embryos when it was given to rats. Since it is not known whether ginseng would also cause similar effects in human embryos, pregnant women are typically advised to avoid ginseng, especially during the first trimester. If you become pregnant while taking the supplement, notify your healthcare provider.
Pregnancy and Ginseng: An Overview
Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement. As with many supplements, it is not known whether ginseng is safe for use during pregnancy. In fact, research suggests that it could cause problems for pregnant women.
This article refers to Panax ginseng (also known as Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, and Korean ginseng). This type of ginseng should not be confused with American ginseng or Siberian ginseng, which are entirely different herbs.
Can I Take Ginseng During Pregnancy?
One of the active components of ginseng (known as ginsenoside Rb1) has been shown to cause changes in rat embryos that indicate it could cause birth defects. At this time, it is not known whether ginseng also causes similar effects in human embryos. As a result, pregnant women are usually recommended to avoid ginseng, especially during the first trimester.
Many women try to avoid medications during pregnancy and turn to herbal remedies as an alternative, assuming that "natural" automatically means "safe." However, natural products can be quite toxic. For instance, many poisons and toxins are natural products. It just does not make sense to use an herbal supplement for which there is no information available about safety during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, it is always a good idea to ask your healthcare provider before taking any medication or supplement. You and your healthcare provider can consider the possible risks and benefits of using ginseng in your particular situation, as well as any other treatment alternatives.
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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