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Consult your diabetes care team before starting any nutritional supplement. Blood glucose levels should be checked more often to determine the effectiveness of the supplement or if a medication change is needed.
Ginseng is a root that has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. There are two different forms that have been used for diabetes: Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) as well as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L).
Research presented at the 2003 ADA Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, Louisiana, found that the addition of American ginseng to conventional treatment for type 2 diabetes significantly decreased A1C levels.
Both Asian and American ginsengs have been used for diabetes and for other medicinal purposes. Both are also used as an “adaptogen” to help the patient cope with stress and to increase energy. Both types are used in cosmetics and as flavoring ingredients in different foods. Asian ginseng is used to enhance thinking and memory and to prevent colds or flu. Asian ginseng is also used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Advice for Patients
Patients should be aware that there are different ginseng varieties, but two main types are used for diabetes (Asian and American). The doses vary depending on the type of ginseng used. Both ginsengs have been studied only in relation to type 2 diabetes.
One major concern with ginseng is that there may be problems with the manufacturing process: One study found that what is printed on the label may not reflect what is actually in the bottle. An evaluation found that ginseng content varied from less (12 percent) to more (137 percent) than was indicated on the bottle.
Ginseng should not be used in children or in pregnant or lactating women.
Ginseng is available in capsules, tablets, teas and liquid extracts.
Q: What is the difference between the different types of ginseng available?
A: You may have heard about two different types of ginseng, Asian and American.
Asian and American ginsengs have both been used to treat diabetes, but the doses differ for the two types. Asian ginseng is dosed at 200 milligrams per day, and American ginseng is usually dosed at 3 grams per day. They have similar side effects and drug interactions and both should be used with caution when taken with other medications.
The major side effects of ginseng are insomnia and restlessness.
Some other worrisome side effects include increased blood pressure or heart rate. Headache is a common complaint, and ginseng may also cause mood changes, breast pain and nervousness. Ginseng is unsafe for infants and children and may not be safe for pregnant women.
Ginseng may decrease the effectiveness of the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) and cause the protection against clots to be lost.
Ginseng also decreases the effects of diuretics and hypertension medications. In combination with certain antidepressants, ginseng has resulted in mania. Taken with estrogens, ginseng may produce additive estrogenic effects. Ginseng may inhibit certain enzymes involved in the metabolism of drugs and result in increased effects of certain drugs such as beta blockers, certain analgesics and some antidepressants.
Ginseng may cause low blood glucose if taken by individuals with insulin-treated diabetes or individuals on insulin secretagogues such as glyburide, glipizide, Glucotrol XL, Amaryl, Prandin or Starlix. Consult your healthcare provider before starting to take ginseng if you have diabetes. Monitor your blood glucose levels more frequently if you take ginseng.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.