By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The use of ginseng has been associated with several side effects and adverse drug interactions. Generally, the short-term use of ginseng is considered safe for the majority of people but some research suggests that long-term use can lead to several adverse side effects.
Some of the side effects that have been associated with using ginseng include:
- A sports nutrition FAQ published by the UMass Amherst suggested that insomnia is a common side effect of using Asian ginseng. However, this claim has not yet been supported by any scientific evidence.
- Gastrointestinal side effects reported by some studies include nausea, diarrhea and abdominal bloating and discomfort. However, these effects could also be attributed to ingestion of the pesticides which are used in abundance to produce ginseng on a commercial scale.
- Unilateral and bilateral headaches have also been reported, but this effect could also occur as a result of ingesting pesticides.
- Blood pressure may be too high or too low in some individuals.
- Some women taking ginseng also complain of breast pain or mastalgia.
- The use of ginseng may cause mania in people suffering from depression if the agent is taken in conjunction with antidepressants.
- Ginseng has also been shown to cause adverse effects when taken with warfarin, phenelzine or antidepressants.
- Due to lack of adequate safety data, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid using ginseng.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2014