A photo of the echinacea plant
Echinacea is one of our top 10 herbal remedies because of its valuable immune boosting properties

Herbal remedies – 10 of the best

12 September, 2011

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Panax Ginseng – vitality tonic for men

Panax ginseng has long been regarded by health-conscious individuals as a kind of miracle cure-all and certainly millions of people around the world consume ginseng regularly.

Although most studies into its effects are small, ginseng use has demonstrated benefits including relief from fatigue, anxiety, nervousness and poor concentration and is often used as a general tonic and restorative.

In one famous American study nearly 30 years ago, nurses who had switched from day to night duty were given either panax ginseng or placebo to help them adjust. The group given the ginseng displayed better mental and physical performance as well as a greater sense of well-being. Panax has also shown some benefit in type-2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes – though more study is needed.

Ginseng is popular, but the big problem with it is that, like caffeine, it is being used to prop up people who really need to take a break.

Also panax ginseng is not great for, young women yet, it is being marketed to tired women without any mention that it can disturb menstrual function and/or occasionally make menopausal symptoms worse. For men it is best used as an energy aid alongside a time management plan that allows for reasonable rest.

There are many types of ginseng available (such as Korean or Brazilian) each with a slightly different action. If the one you want is Panax ginseng that scientific name should be printed on the label. If it does not appear on the packaging, it is usually because the product does not contain Panax.


The standard dose of Panax ginseng should contain 25 mg of the active component ginsenoside RG1 with a ratio of ginsenoside RG1 to Rb1 of 2:1. Such a  preparation will lower our risk of ginseng toxicity (see below).  When taking high quality dried root aim for between 4 and 6 grams daily.

Take care

Each individual’s response to ginseng is unique and ginseng is not appropriate for everyone. Side effects of Panax ginseng toxicity include headaches, tremors, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, hypertension, breast pain and menstrual changes.  Do not take it during a fever, cold or flu.

It should also not be used with estrogens and corticosteroids because it may potentiate their effect, nor should it betaken by those with heart conditions. It may also affect blood glucose levels and should not be used, or should only be used under professional supervision, by those with diabetes mellitus.


  • Adapted from What Works, What Doesn’t: The guide to alternative healthcare by Pat Thomas. See here for details.