American Ginseng and Diabetes

Like its more familiar cousin Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), the root of American ginseng is used medicinally. The plant grows wild in shady forests of the northern and central United States, as well as in parts of Canada. It is cultivated in the United States, China, and France.

Many Native American tribes used it, medicinal applications ranged from digestive disorders to sexual problems. It was also used by the Chinese after it was imported during the 1700s. The traditional applications in China are significantly different from those for Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng).

Constituents

American ginseng contains ginsenosides, which are thought to fight fatigue and stress by supporting the adrenal glands and the use of oxygen by exercising muscles. The type and ratio of ginsenosides are somewhat different in American and Asian ginseng. The extent to which this affects their medicinal properties is unclear. A recent preliminary trial with healthy volunteers found no benefit in exercise performance after one week of taking it.

In a small pilot study, 3 grams was found to lower the rise in blood sugar following the consumption of a drink high in glucose by people with type 2 diabetes. The study found no difference in blood sugar lowering effect if the herb was taken either 40 minutes before the drink or at the same time. A follow-up to this study found that increasing the amount to either 6 or 9 grams did not increase the effect on blood sugar following the high-glucose drink in people with type 2 diabetes. This study also found that it was equally effective in controlling the rise in blood sugar if it was given up to two hours before or together with the drink.

Standardized extracts of the herb, unlike Asian ginseng, are not available. However, dried root powder, 1–3 grams per day in capsule or tablet form, can be used. Some herbalists also recommend 3–5 ml of tincture three times per day.

Side effects or Interactions

Occasional cases of insomnia or agitation have been reported with the use of American ginseng. These conditions are more likely, however, when caffeine-containing foods and beverages are also being consumed.


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