Ginseng, derived from the root of the American and Asian ginseng plants, is not only one of the most popular herbs in the United States, but also one of the costliest herbs in the world, according to the “Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders.”
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The tan-colored root slightly resembles the human figure and its Latin name, Panax, meaning cure-all, reflects its widespread use to treat conditions ranging from general fatigue to serious ailments such as cancer and asthma. Furthermore, the Overactive Bladder Treatment website states that ginseng may also be beneficial for the treatment of an overactive bladder and incontinence.
Ginseng and an Overactive Bladder
A frequent urge to urinate due to an overactive bladder affects about 33 million Americans, according to an article on Smart Publications. A weak urethral sphincter, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, medications that increase urine production, an obstructed bladder or urethra, and even frequent urinary tract infections can cause an overactive bladder and increase flow of urine.
The Natural Bladder website explains that ginseng may help relieve symptoms of an overactive bladder by increasing conversion of L-Arginine to nitric acid, which may relax bladder muscles and decrease flow of urine.
Anti-Diuretic Effect of Ginseng
In a 2005 article in “Geriatrics”, Dr. Rubin Bressler reports that ginseng decreases the diuretic effect of four renal and genitourinary drugs, Bumetanide, Ethacrynic Acid, Furosemide and Torsemide. Similarly, the Scott and White healthcare system website states that ginseng may hinder the diuretic effect of Lasix, a drug used to eliminate fluid from the body.
The anti-diuretic interaction of ginseng with these drugs indicates that ginseng may decrease flow of urine. However, as ginseng can also interact with other drugs, you should consult your physician before taking ginseng.
Interaction With Other Medications
Although the mode of action is unknown, ginseng may interact with central nervous system drugs, calcium channel blockers, diabetes drugs, stimulants and hormone therapy drugs, according to Glens Falls Hospital's "Patient Guide to Herb and Supplement Use."
Other drug interactions associated with use of ginseng include risk of bleeding if taken along with anticoagulants and further lowering of glucose levels if taken with insulin or other medications for treatment of diabetes. Additionally, ginseng may also interact with other herbs.
Possible Side Effects
Apart from interaction with prescription drugs, ginseng may intensify the effects of caffeine and cause nervousness, insomnia, sweating and even an irregular heartbeat. Avoid taking ginseng on an empty stomach, as its hypoglycemic action may lower blood glucose levels even if you are not diabetic.
Other possible side effects that may result from intake of ginseng include high blood pressure, insomnia, restlessness, euphoria, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, breast pain, vaginal bleeding and nose bleeding. Although these side effects are rare, you should only take ginseng under medical supervision to prevent any complications.