Products Available

Two commercial forms of the herb are available. "White" ginseng consists of the dried root and "red" ginseng is prepared by steaming the fresh, unpeeled root before drying (9). Many different formulations of the herb are available including capsules, gelcaps, powders, tinctures, teas, slices to eat in salads, and whole root to chew. There are also a wide variety of products that claim to contain ginseng such as ginseng cigarettes, toothpaste, cosmetics, soaps, beverages (including beer), candy, baby food, gum, candy bars, and coffee. Prices vary widely based on the quantity and quality of the ginseng root used (10). Tinctures are more expensive but last for years. Powder capsules are cheaper but have a shelf-life of only 1 year (11).

One of the problems in the manufacture of ginseng is the lack of quality control and standardization (7). Although the amount of ginsenosides, the purported active ingredients, ranges widely among brands and often differs from the content stated on the label, testing by Consumer Reports revealed that the amount of ginsenosides in Ginsana®, the ginseng market leader in the United States, is well standardized (12) (see Section 9 for discussion of factors affecting ginsenoside content). The manufacturer (Pharmaton, Ridgefield, CT) claims that each Ginsana capsule contains 100 mg of standardized, concentrated ginseng (13). A study (14) of the Swedish Ginsana product revealed consistency in ginsenoside content between batches. Ginsana is available in the United States in softgel capsules and chewy squares. The capsules are green because chlorophyll is added. Other brands of ginseng are most commonly available in capsule or tablet form and are usually brown. Dosage strengths normally range between 50 mg and 300 mg of P. ginseng extract per capsule or tablet. Also, several combination products are available. For example, Ginkogin® is a combination of Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, and garlic. There are other types of ginseng on the market including Siberian, Brazilian, and Indian ginseng. These are not of the genus Panax and do not contain ginsenosides (15).

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