Is it safe? Ginseng during pregnancy and lactation

Panax ginseng should be consumed with caution during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, and during lactation.

Here’s what we know.

Researchers from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Canada searched electronic databases and compiled data according to the grade of evidence that was found.

And, the results.

  • There’s strong scientific evidence in humans that Panax ginseng is not associated with adverse effects when used during pregnancy.
  • Panax ginseng was misreported in the literature as causing androgenization, (male characteristics) when, in fact, the case reported was due to an adulterant.
  • Evidence of teratogenicity with exposure to ginsenosides (steroid-like compounds in Panax ginseng) comes from animal embryos and is based on higher levels than achieved during normal consumption in humans.
  • There are no human studies on the safety of Panax ginseng during lactation.

The bottom line?
The results of this literature review are reassuring. But considering it’s not a life-saving medicine combined with the poor record of manufacturing quality control for herbals in general, caution is advised. ConsumerLab has run quality control tests on 20 brands of ginseng, which can be accessed here.

For balance, the ginseng review on WebMD does not recommend taking ginseng during pregnancy. A review written in 2006 on the website also does not recommend taking ginseng during pregnancy.

1/23/08 21:56 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.