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Ginseng Dietary Supplements

By Jill Turner, Vice President of Operations for Cooper Concepts, the company that markets Cooper Complete Nutritional Supplements.

We recently had a reader write in and ask us our opinion on Ginseng, a supplement not currently in the Cooper Complete line.

Ginseng is a dried root of one of several species of the Araliaceae family of herbs. Ginseng comes in several forms – Asian (Panax ginseng) and American (P. quinquefolius L.) are the most common, but there’s also a Siberian (Eleutherococcus senticosus) ginseng which is much less expensive, but doesn’t contain the same active compounds that American and Asian ginseng contain.

Ginseng root that is mostly unprocessed is called “white ginseng” while “red ginseng” is typically Asian ginseng root that has been steamed and dried. Traditional Chinese medicine delineates between the “white” and “red” form, but scientific evidence doesn’t indicate significant differences.

Ginseng is typically marketed as an herb that will improve overall energy, particularly in those who are tired or stressed, and in 1997 sales topped 300 million annually. Unfortunately, the scientific research to date hasn’t been able to confirm that ginseng helps to improve energy at all, so these are essentially unsupported but well believed marketing pitches.

Researchers have also studied the impact of Ginseng on other health conditions, and have found that American Ginseng may lower blood sugar levels before and after meals in patients with type II (adult onset) diabetes. Because of this, diabetics should work with their physicians when adding Ginseng to their supplement regiment.

There have been other interactions reported too – Asian ginseng (Panax Ginseng) may cause manic episodes in those on antidepressants. And taking Asian Ginseng in conjunction with Coumadin or Warfarin, may decrease the effect of the drug.

Long term use of Ginseng doesn’t seem to be the norm. Typically the product is taken for two- or three weeks, and then followed by a one- to two week “rest” period.


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