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Cold and Flu Center

Ginseng for the Common Cold

author image Charlotte Waterworth
Based in London, Charlotte Waterworth has been writing about health since 2000. Her work has appeared in trade magazines, including "Independent Community Pharmacist," "Pharmafocus," "Current Drug Discovery" and "Hospital Healthcare Europe." She is a member of the European Medical Writers Association. She holds an honors Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a doctoral degree in gene therapy, both from Cardiff University.
Ginseng for the Common Cold
American ginseng may help to prevent the common cold.

An upper respiratory condition, the common cold is characterized by sniffling, sneezing and a sore throat. There is no cure for the common cold, but thankfully they usually only last for a week to 10 days. There is no foolproof way of preventing a cold but it helps if you have a strong immune system. A herb known as American ginseng may help to prevent colds and may reduce their severity, although evidence is limited. Get medical advice before using herbs.

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Properties and Potential Benefits

American ginseng, also known as Panax quinquefolius, is sometimes used as an alternative medicine for a variety of conditions including diabetes, cancer, atherosclerosis, HIV and painful joints. It may also boost the immune system and is sometimes used to ward off colds and flu. It contains a host of active ingredients, but the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center notes that compounds known as ginsenosides likely confer this herb's medicinal effects. MedlinePlus adds that its polysaccharides might be responsible for boosting the immune system.


American ginseng can be taken as tea, a liquid tincture or in capsules. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests taking 400 mg daily to help prevent a cold or reduce symptom severity. This is intended as a guideline; the dose may vary according to age and your general health. Check with your health care provider that this is a suitable dose.


Studies evaluating the role of American ginseng in the treatment of the common cold are limited. However, the results of a clinical study published in the October 2005 issue of the "Canadian Medical Journal Association" show that American ginseng reduced the mean number of colds per person and the severity of symptoms. Research published in the March 2006 issue of the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" also found that American ginseng reduced the frequency and duration of acute respiratory infections.

Safety Considerations

Short-term use of American ginseng may be safe for adults and children, according to MedlinePlus, but it might cause side effects including diarrhea, insomnia and headache. Some women that take this herb may experience breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding. Its use is contraindicated in several conditions, including schizophrenia and hormone-sensitive cancers. Don't use it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It may interact with other drugs you may be taking, including anticoagulants and diabetes medicines.

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