Panax ginseng, also called Asian or Korean ginseng, has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that the gnarled ginseng root has been traditionally used to treat fever, headache, infertility and indigestion as well as being considered an all-around stimulant. While the root extract remains one of the most popular forms of panax ginseng, it is not without possible side effects.
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Blood Pressure Changes
Panax ginseng root extract may cause changes in blood pressure, either lowering or raising the reading. Because of this, people taking medication for high or low blood pressure should consult their medical provider before using ginseng.
Low Blood Sugar
Ginseng is known to lower blood glucose levels, making it a good supplement for diabetics. Blood sugar levels should be monitored closely if panax ginseng root is added as a supplement. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests taking the herb with food to prevent blood sugar levels that are too low.
Vaginal bleeding and nosebleeds have been reported with use of ginseng, and because ginseng can affect the absorption of blood-thinning medication, patients with blood disorders or who are taking blood-clotting medications should use caution when considering adding panax ginseng root extract to their diets.
Use of ginseng has been known to be associated with post-menopausal bleeding, tenderness in the breasts, male breast enlargement, erectile dysfunction and an increase in sexual response.
Other Side Effects
Less commonly, panax ginseng root extract may cause dizziness, fever, headache, heartburn, palpitations, raised heart rate, nausea, vomiting and swelling in the legs. In addition, those with bipolar disorder may experience manic episodes.
Because panax is a plant of the Araliacase family, those with known allergies to these plants should avoid using any part of the ginseng plant. Allergic reactions can include shortness of breath, itching and rashes; inhaling the root dust of panax ginseng may cause late-onset or immediate asthma.
High Dosage and Long Term Use
In rare cases, swelling of brain blood vessels have been associated with high doses of ginseng, as has confusion and abnormal pupil dilation. Although evidence is limited, it is possible that long-term use of panax may cause depression, insomnia, excitability and anxiety as well as sore throat, skin spots or rashes, itching and diarrhea.