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What are the uses and side effects of ginseng?

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Quick Answer

People use the two main types of ginseng as a folk remedy to fight colds, influenza and AIDS; for fighting cancer, heart disease and other diseases; and to relieve fatigue, says WebMD. Asian ginseng is used to improve thinking, physical stamina, work efficiency and relieve anxiety. Side effects of American ginseng include insomnia, diarrhea, itching, nervousness and headache. Side effects of Asian ginseng include insomnia, increased heart rate, breast pain, blood pressure changes and menstrual problems.

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Full Answer

American ginseng is possibly effective in the treatment of diabetes and respiratory infections, but there is insufficient evidence to rate it for other medical conditions, according to MedlinePlus. Asian ginseng is possibly effective for treating Alzheimer's disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure and sexual conditions, including erectile dysfunction.

Asian or Panax ginseng should not be confused with American ginseng, WebMD says. The site lists different uses for the two types of ginseng, some of which overlap, especially in the area of anti-inflammation and boosting the immune system. Asian ginseng is considered more stimulating, while American ginseng is used as an aid to relaxation.

Conclusive evidence of the efficacy of the two main types of ginseng in fighting cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction and hepatitis C has not been found, but researchers have found some promise in the root, according to WebMD. Some studies show ginseng helps modestly with learning and concentration. While some studies of ginseng's use in lowering blood sugar, boosting the immune system and fighting disease show some positive results, its benefits in most medical uses are inconclusive.

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