Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng)

Last Updated: March 21, 2024

Panax ginseng is commonly referred to as “Korean ginseng”. It appears to be effective for mood, immunity, and cognition, but is subpar for erectile function, testosterone, and exercise performance.

Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng) is most often used for

What is Panax ginseng?

Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng) is an herbaceous plant used in traditional Chinese medicine for a wide variety of preventative purposes. It belongs to the Araliaceae family and is the most widely used species within the Panax genus for medicinal purposes.[4] The roots of the plant, typically harvested in early autumn from mature specimens aged at least 4 years, are the primary source of bioactive compounds and are usually the parts used in supplements.[5]

While there are 13 identified species of ginseng, the two most prevalent in supplements and the food industry are Panax ginseng, grown in China and Korea, and Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), grown in regions of the United States and Canada. Panax ginseng supplements are often used to enhance mood, cognition, and immune function. Ginseng is also used as an ingredient in food and edible products (e.g., chewing gums, candies, and coffee).[6]

It is essential to distinguish genuine Panax ginseng from other herbal products marketed under the name of ginseng. Notably, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as eleuthero), Brazilian ginseng (Pfaffia paniculata), and Indian ginseng (ashwagandha) are among the commercially available alternatives that do not originate from the Panax genus. Although they carry similar names, they do not contain the same bioactive compounds, and therefore they have completely different mechanisms of action and effects.[6]

What are Panax ginseng’s main benefits?

Research on the effects of Panax ginseng on mood and cognition yields mixed findings.

One study found that Panax ginseng may have a dose-dependent calming effect on mood,[7] but subsequent research failed to replicate these results.[8] Moreover, supplementation with Panax ginseng showed initial improvements in mental health at the 4-week mark, but this effect diminished by the end of the 8-week intervention period.[9] Overall, the evidence suggests that Panax ginseng's effects on mood may be short lived, lasting between 1 and 4 weeks before diminishing.

Similarly, the potential cognitive benefits of Panax ginseng remain inconclusive due to variations in study methodologies and inconsistent results.[10][1] While some studies reported enhancements in reaction time and accuracy with Panax ginseng supplementation, others failed to establish significant cognitive improvements.[7][11] Thus, further research is necessary to validate these effects and elucidate the mechanisms underlying Panax ginseng's impact on cognition.

Additionally, Panax ginseng extracts appear to have some immunomodulatory properties and to reduce the occurrence of the flu in humans when taken alongside flu vaccination.[12]

What are Panax ginseng’s main drawbacks?

Panax ginseng supplements are generally considered safe. A systematic review assessing the safety of ginseng use in humans reported a low incidence of harm, with side effects primarily related to gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and cramps.[13][14]

However, high doses and long-term usage may lead to the development of the so-called “ginseng abuse syndrome”, characterized by symptoms such as hypertension, nervousness, sleeplessness, diarrhea, and skin eruptions when taking 3 grams of Panax ginseng per day. Higher dosages (15 grams per day or more) have also been associated with depersonalization, confusion, and depression.[15][16][17]

Furthermore, Panax ginseng exhibits mild inhibitory effects on some enzymes from the CYP450 family, such as CYP1A2, CYP2C9, and CYP3A4, which are involved in the metabolism of certain medications. This interaction appears to be of small significance and is unlikely to be clinically meaningful.[18]

How does Panax Ginseng work?

Panax ginseng contains various bioactive components, with ginsenosides being the main active compounds responsible for its pharmacological benefits. The types of ginsenosides in the plant extract and their concentration can vary depending on the extraction and preparation method used.[19] Other active ingredients found in Panax ginseng include polysaccharides, peptides, phytosterols, polyacetylenes, polyacetylenic alcohols, and fatty acids, which contribute to its overall therapeutic properties.[19]

The pharmacological effects of Panax ginseng are largely attributed to its ginsenoside content, which interacts with various molecular targets in the body to exert its beneficial effects. For example, certain ginsenosides found in red Panax ginseng, such as Ro and R(3), have been shown to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme is responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and by inhibiting this enzyme, Panax ginseng may help increase testosterone levels.[20]

What are other names for Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng)?
Note that Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng) is also known as:
  • Asian ginseng
  • Asiatic ginseng
  • Manchurian ginseng
  • Mountain Ginseng
  • True Ginseng
  • Wild Ginseng
  • 人蔘 or 人参 or 人參 (Rénshēn)
  • 인삼; 人蔘 (Insam)
  • 人参 (Ninjin)
Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng) should not be confused with:
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • American Ginseng
  • Pseudoginseng
  • Desert Ginseng
  • Black Ginseng
  • Cistanche spp
  • Chinese Ginseng
Dosage information

Panax ginseng is typically consumed in daily doses ranging from 200 to 400 mg, with the 400 mg dosage showing the most notable cognitive benefits.[1] These doses refer to standardized ginseng extracts which contain around 4–10 % total ginsenosides (Panax ginseng’s primary bioactive compounds) and are taken once daily.

Higher doses (200–20,000 mg) have been used to target improvements in glucose and lipid profiles.[2]

For trials focusing on erectile health and libido enhancement, Korean red ginseng extract is commonly administered at a dosage of 3 grams daily, divided into three doses of 1 gram each.[3]

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Examine Database: Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng)