The answer to the question, "How long should I take ginseng?" should be discussed with your medical practitioner. Ginseng is a powerful herbal preparation that shows promise in treating a number of illnesses, but side effects have been reported, and ginseng abuse syndrome is an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous condition.
Ginseng can be derived from the roots of a number of plants in the family Araliaceae, like Korean ginseng and American ginseng. Herbal preparations created from these plants can have different concentrations of beneficial compounds, and the specific combinations of active and inactive ingredients in these over-the-counter preparations vary.
Ginseng is often referred to as a tonic, and there is substantial research on the ginosenosides in ginseng that suggests that these compounds can improve cognitive function, increase immune system function, help treat type-2 diabetes, and improve erectile function. Also called devil's shrub, wild pepper, and touch-me-not, preparations made from ginseng can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and since there are no FDA standards in place to insure the purity of the products you are buying, for the best results, complete a course of treatment using products from a reliable source.
Importance of Consulting a Doctor
Always consult a physician before beginning treatment with ginseng. He will evaluate the potential adverse effects caused by interactions with other drugs you may be taking. You should avoid taking ginseng if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Do not treat children with ginseng. Other conditions for which ginseng is contraindicated are:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Plant allergies
- Diabetes (insulin dependent)
Always take ginseng as directed on the package and in accordance with any recommendations given by your doctor. Select a formulation, like tablets or tea, and stick with that. Blending formulations can accidentally cause overdose. Keep ginseng away from bright light and humid conditions by storing it in a cool, dry, dark place.
Potential Side Effects and Other Considerations
Side effects from taking ginseng can include:
- Vaginal bleeding
Ginseng can also react with other substances, like:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Blood thinners
Be sure to ask your doctor for more information if you are taking prescription medications.
How Long Should I Take Ginseng?
Ginseng is often prescribed for extended periods and can usually be taken safely as long as there is a gap in the course of treatment. This is called cycling an herb or medication. As an example, a user would be instructed to take ginseng for a few weeks and then "cycle" off the drug for a few weeks, alternating periods of treatment with periods in which no ginseng is ingested. Prolonged use of ginseng without a break can lead to Ginseng Abuse Syndrome, a condition that can cause fluid retention, nervousness and sleeplessness. Taking aspirin or caffeine with ginseng can increase the effects of Ginseng Abuse Syndrome.
To determine an effective treatment schedule for you, consult your medical practitioner. Ask him candidly, "How long should I take ginseng?" and follow his instructions. Read all labeling carefully before you begin a course of treatment, and be aware of possible drug interactions and side effects.