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Why is it hard to study the effects of ginseng?

Ginseng is difficult to evaluate in clinical or laboratory studies for a number of reasons:
  • Ginseng's effects depend on a complex mixture of substances. About 30 steroid-like compounds, summarily called ginsenosides, have been identified. They have different effects and are present in various amounts in various ginseng species. The mixture of ginsenosides depends on many factors, such as climate, season of harvesting, method of drying and preparation.
  • Ginseng means different herbs to different researchers. Confusion exists, even among researchers, about what is ginseng and what is not. Unless the extracts or ingredients of ginseng preparations and dosages used in research studies are identified, it is difficult to know if the results apply to ginseng of the Panax genus.
  • Ginseng preparations vary widely in potency. Studies of commercial ginseng products in the U.S. show that up to 25% of them contain no identifiable ginseng or ginsenosides. Of 54 ginseng preparations analyzed, almost one-quarter contained no ginseng whatsoever, and 60% of the 54 products did not contain nearly enough ginseng to reach effective levels.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.