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April 10, 1991

Maternal Use of Ginseng and Neonatal Androgenization

Author Affiliations

Health and Welfare Canada Bureau of Drug Research Ottawa, Ontario

Health and Welfare Canada Bureau of Drug Research Ottawa, Ontario

JAMA. 1991;265(14):1828. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460140056022

To the Editor.—  The letter by Koren et al,1 which reported neonatal androgenization attributed to maternal use of ginseng, demands attention by consumers of herbal products and health professionals, as well as by those charged with regulating commercial plant products. The case emphasizes our inherent ignorance as to the botanical identity of such products, as well as the need for sound botanical and chemical information in any consideration of the adverse effects of herbal medicines.The widely cited statement by Siegel2 that "the term 'ginseng' can refer to any of 22 related plants" is thoroughly misleading and probably refers to the number of plant species other than Panax (22 in 12 genera of seven families) that Hu3 has identified as producing "seng"—the fleshy underground portion of many plants used as tonics by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. There appear to be three to six recognized species of