The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider that is qualified in the field of botanical medicine. Always tell your doctor about any herbs you may be taking.
Side effects are rare, but may include:
- High blood pressure
- Breast pain
- Vaginal bleeding
To avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), even in people without diabetes, take American ginseng with food.
People with hypertension (high blood pressure) should not take American ginseng products without the close supervision of their doctors. At the same time, people with low blood pressure, as well as those with an acute illness, should use caution when taking American ginseng.
People with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder should not take ginseng, because it may increase the risk of mania.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take American ginseng.
Women who have a history of breast cancer, or other hormone-sensitive conditions, should not take ginseng.
Stop taking American ginseng at least 7 days prior to surgery. American ginseng can lower blood glucose levels and could create problems for patients fasting before surgery. In addition, American ginseng may act as a blood thinner, increasing the risk of bleeding during or after the procedure.
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use ginseng without talking to your doctor:
Medications for diabetes. American ginseng may lower blood sugar levels, so it could interfere with the effectiveness of prescription drugs for diabetes. Talk to your doctor before taking American ginseng if you are taking medicines for diabetes, including insulin and oral hypoglycemic agents, such as metformin (Glucophage).
Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants). One small study suggested that American ginseng might decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin), a blood-thinning medication. If you take any blood-thinning medications, talk to your doctor before taking ginseng.
MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Ginseng may increase the risk of side effects when taken with MAOIs, a type of antidepressant. There have been reports of interaction between ginseng and phenelzine (Nardil) causing headaches, tremors, and mania. MAOIs include:
- Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- Phenelzine (Nardil)
- Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
Antipsychotic medications. American ginseng may increase the effects of medications used to treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. So they should not be taken together.
Stimulants. Ginseng may increase the stimulant effect and side effects of some medications taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin).
Morphine. Asian ginseng may block the painkilling effects of morphine.
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