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Ginseng Abuse Syndrome Problems With the Panacea

Ronald K. Siegel, PhD
JAMA. 1979;241(15):1614-1615. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03290410046024.
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GINSENG has been used by man for thousands of years, and Oriental folk medicine describes it as both a tonic for restoration of strength and a panacea (hence, the genus Panax, meaning all healing). The term "ginseng" can refer to any of 22 related plants, but it is generally associated with P ginseng.1 It is widely used in contemporary Chinese medicine as a stimulant to increase metabolism and to regulate blood pressure and blood glucose.2 The only recognized medical use in the United States is as a demulcent in skin ointments.

Recently there has been increased Western interest in ginseng, and it is readily available in health food stores, markets, and drugstores in a bewildering assortment of commercial preparations. Numerous popular books have promoted ginseng as a healthful tonic, stimulant, and aphrodisiac.3-8 Using current import and sales statistics from members of the Herb Trade Association, I have


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