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Ginseng during pregnancy: Is it safe for expecting mums to consume this herb?

Ginseng during pregnancy: Is it safe for expecting mums to consume this herb?
PHOTO: Facebook/Seoul red ginseng

 For most women, pregnancy can be a smooth ride. But for some, not so much. Some women are perpetually nauseated and experience aches, pains, and even heartburn.

To reduce discomfort and make pregnancy a comfortable experience, many mums-to-be turn to alternative natural treatments.

This can inlcude yoga, meditation, and occasional consumption of natural herbs. One such natural herb is ginseng. It is used across the globe, and is especially popular in Asian countries. But is taking ginseng pregnancy-safe?

Let’s find out! 

What is ginseng?

Ginseng is a herb grown in Asia (Panax ginseng) and the US (Panax quinquefolius). Ginsenosides are the active component in all species of ginseng. This herb comes in varied forms such as teas, powders, creams, oils and supplements. People have been consuming it for thousands of years for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and medicinal properties.

Types and uses of ginseng 

There are four known types of ginseng that are grown across the globe.  

  • Panax Ginseng. Also known as Korea Ginseng, this type is grown in China and Korea. It is a lateral root and has distinct morphological characteristics including a well-developed human-shaped form.
  • Panax Quinquefolius. This type is grown in the states of Virginia and Wisconsin in the US, as well as the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. It is also called American ginseng and is grown as a short-tap and lateral root. 
  • Panax Notoginseng Burk. Grown in China, Yunnan, and Guangxi, it is also called tienchi seng. It has rugged and black roots. 
  • Panax Japanicus. Grown in Japan, this is bamboo-shaped and uneven. It is also called Japanese ginseng. 

With so many forms available in the market, there is enough clinical evidence to prove its natural healthcare benefits. Some of the common benefits include the following:

  • Boosts the immune system and enhances digestion 
  • Increases energy, stamina, and strength
  • Improves brain and cognitive abilities 
  • Reduces signs of ageing and prevents cell damage
  • Prevents cold, flu, and other respiratory syncytial viruses  
  • Lowers blood sugar levels and helps to treat diabetes 
  • Helps to treat erectile dysfunction
  • Eases menopause period, and more

But is the use of ginseng pregnancy-safe?

Ginseng is a fairly safe herb to consume when you are not pregnant and are taking it in moderate quantities. However, there is hardly any scientific evidence on the efficacy or safety of using ginseng during pregnancy and lactation. 

A study found that the active compound in ginseng, ginsenoside Rb1, influences direct teratogenicity (disturbance of development of fetus). It also caused abnormal effects in rat embryos.

Hence, women should be cautious about consuming ginseng during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. Thus, ginseng is not considered safe during pregnancy. 

Warnings about use of ginseng during pregnancy

There are certain reasons you should avoid ginseng while you are pregnant:

  • It has anticoagulant properties (blood thinning) that might cause congenital disabilities.
  • Ginseng could disturb your sleep patterns and cause mood swings.
  • This herb may also lower blood sugar levels, causing dizziness and nausea.
  • Ginseng might stop the normal clotting of blood during and after pregnancy.
  • It sometimes causes diarrhoea, dry mouth, headache, dehydration, and fatigue.  
  • Ginseng may reduce the effect of any medication prescribed by your gynaecologist.
  • It might cause excess bleeding during a caesarean birth.

Is ginseng safe during breastfeeding?

Well, if you’ve avoided ginseng during pregnancy, perhaps avoid it during the breastfeeding phase too. According to a study, ginseng was of no real benefit during the lactation phase.

Some women also experienced gynecomastia and breast pain while consuming ginseng during the breastfeeding phase. There is little evidence on the effectiveness and safety of using ginseng.

It is, therefore, best to avoid ginseng while you are breastfeeding.   

Are there any alternatives to ginseng?

As we know, herbal remedies are largely popular because they are natural. However, that does not make all herbs safe or suitable for pregnant and lactating women. Whether you are trying to conceive, are pregnant, or breastfeeding, it is always best to avoid herbs or consult a qualified professional before trying any herbal remedy. 

Drinking herbal teas with ginger, garlic, cinnamon, caraway, and mint can be great alternatives to ginseng. But, again, you must consume them in moderation and after consulting with a medical expert only.  

At the end, all that matters is your baby’s health. If that means making a few sacrifices on the way, so be it.  

This article was first published in theAsianparent.
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