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April 13, 1979

Ginseng Abuse SyndromeProblems With the Panacea

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1979;241(15):1614-1615. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03290410046024

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