Labdoor analyzed 20 best-selling ginseng supplements in the United States for ginsenoside content, pesticide residues, and heavy metal (arsenic, silver, bismuth, cadmium, lead, antimony) contamination.
Products in this batch analysis measured an average of 24.7 mg of ginsenosides per serving, ranging from 6.8 mg to 80.1 mg. For the 11 products that specified ginsenoside content, ginsenoside measurements deviated from label claims by an average of 65%. All but 1 product recorded at least 8 mg of ginsenosides per serving, the dose at which clinical study suggests possible efficacy for preventing colds and flus and for Asian ginseng specifically, enhancing mental performance. Clinical study suggests that higher doses of Asian ginseng ginsenosides can help improve erectile dysfunction and sexual arousal. Higher doses of American ginseng ginsenosides may help reduce post-prandial glycemic levels in patients with Type II diabetes.
Currently, research has not linked short-term ginseng use to serious adverse effects, even at doses of up to 50-100 mg of ginsenosides per kg body weight. Due to hormone-like effects, regular ginseng use should be limited to a duration of 6 months. Every product in this analysis passed all 6 heavy metal screenings, indicating that products measured less than 2 PPM of each heavy metal. All products also passed screenings for 18 known pesticide residues and did not record any flagged artificial sweeteners, artificial coloring agents, or potentially harmful preservatives.
Analytical Chemistry Methods: HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) to quantify ginsenoside content; ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma - Optical Emission Spectrometry) to quantify heavy metal load; GC-MS (Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry) to quantify pesticide residue levels.
9 of 20 products in this batch analysis did not report ginsenoside content on their labels, but rather simply claimed quantities of whole ginseng extract. Of the products that did claim ginsenoside levels, measured ginsenoside content deviated from label claims by an average of 65%. These products ranged from having 66% to 236.5% of their label claims for ginsenosides. Only 2 of these products recorded ginsenoside levels within 10% of their label claims.
Auragin Korean Ginseng recorded the worst underage with only 48.9 mg of its claimed 72 mg of ginsenosides per serving. Trunature Triple Energy recorded the worst overage with 27.2 mg of ginsenosides per serving compared to its claim of 11.5 mg.
Notes: Labdoor’s Label Accuracy score is based on how much measured active ingredient quantities deviate from their label claims. Products that do not meet their label claims are penalized more heavily for their deviations than products that exceed their claims.
Samples of every ginseng product in this batch analysis passed all 6 heavy metal screenings, indicating that samples contained less than 2 PPM (parts per million) each of arsenic, lead, cadmium, bismuth, antimony, and silver. All 20 products also passed a panel screening of 18 known pesticide residues indicating that residues were not detected within limits of laboratory testing.
Ginseng products in this batch generally recorded minimal quantities of calories, fats, carbohydrates, and sugars.
Notes: Labdoor’s Nutritional Value calculations are based on a comparison of macronutrient load to established daily intake guidelines in supplement products that would not benefit from these added macronutrients. Assessed macronutrients include calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and refined sugar content.
All products in this batch analysis recorded ginsenoside levels well within Asian ginseng’s NOAEL (No Observed Adverse Effect Level), or the highest experimental point without severe adverse effect, and the highest observed safe level for American ginseng. None of the products recorded any flagged excipients.
Currently, ginseng does not have an established Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). The NOAEL for Asian ginseng is 50-100 mg of ginsenoside per kilogram body weight. American ginseng has been reported in clinical study to be safe at doses of up to 3000 mg per day. Ginseng should not be taken long-term due to hormone-like effects. Asian ginseng has been observed to be safe for up to 6 months of use.
Noted side effects of ginseng include high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, anxiety, insomnia, nosebleeds, vaginal bleeding, and gastrointestinal distress. Ginseng should be taken under close physician supervision as it can interact dangerously with other herbs, supplements, and medications. People with diabetes, high or low blood pressure, mental diseases, hormone-sensitive conditions, or upcoming surgeries are at higher risk for adverse events.
Notes: Labdoor’s Ingredient Safety calculations are based on penalties for 2 concerns - 1) meeting or exceeding the published UL for the product’s active ingredient, and 2) the presence and severity of added excipients, including artificial sweeteners, artificial coloring agents, and potentially harmful preservatives. ULs are defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the “maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects.”
Measured ginsenoside content per serving ranged from 6.8 mg in Swanson Full Spectrum Korean Red Ginseng to 80.1 mg in Nature’s Answer American Ginseng (liquid). Products recorded an average of 24.7 mg of ginsenosides per serving.
Generally, ginseng is taken at doses of 100-400 mg daily, although some studies suggest bioactivity at doses as low as 40 mg. These doses refer to Asian (Panax) ginseng extract, which has been projected in laboratory testing to contain 2-3% ginsenosides, the active components in ginseng believed to be responsible for most of its clinical benefits. In comparison, American ginseng extract contains 4-6% ginsenosides.
ASIAN GINSENG: Research into ginseng’s effective uses is fairly limited. Several studies report that Asian ginseng can improve mental performance in healthy adults (~8 mg of ginsenosides per day), and possibly in Alzheimer’s patients as well (~180 mg of ginsenosides per day). Evidence also points to Asian ginseng’s efficacy in relieving symptoms of erectile dysfunction (~55 mg of ginsenosides per day) and increasing sexual arousal in postmenopausal women (~90 mg of ginsenosides per day).
AMERICAN GINSENG: American ginseng’s specific ginsenoside composition is slightly different from that of Asian ginseng. American ginseng seems to calm the central nervous system (CNS) while Asian ginseng is stimulative and can counter fatigue. American ginseng also has a more powerful effect on lowering acute post-meal blood sugar levels than does Asian ginseng, and has been observed to be effective for this use at doses as low as ~7 mg of ginsenosides per day for 8 weeks.
Research shows that ginsenosides from both Asian and American ginseng exhibit antioxidant activity, and their effects on cancer and heart disease are being studied for this reason. Immune function also seems to be enhanced after ginsenoside supplementation. Clinical study has found that ~8-24 mg of ginsenosides per day for 3-4 months can help prevent or reduce the severity of the flu and common cold.
Notes: Labdoor based its ginseng efficacy calculations on the quantity and concentration of ginsenosides in each product sample. If a product contained other beneficial components like additional vitamins and minerals, those components were also factored into algorithms to project overall product efficacy.