The quality of ginseng supplements has improved in the last two years, although some products on the market still present considerable risks to consumers, according to a new review by ConsumerLab.com.
The tests found problems with two of the 12 American and Asian ginseng supplements reviewed. One product labeled to contain to Korean Ginseng had a high amount of the pesticide hexachlorobenzene - a probable human carcinogen banned from most crop use throughout the world.
Another product that failed the testing was a liquid labeled to contain Chinese Ginseng and sold in single-dose bottles. Despite being labeled 'EXTRA STRENGTH', this product contained less than 10 per cent of the expected ginsenosides - biologically active constituents of ginseng - according to ConsumerLab.com.
The agency did however note that results are better than those found in 2000 when nearly 60 per cent of products failed testing. In 2000, more than 30 per cent of ginseng products tested low in ginsenosides.
The current review found no products to be contaminated with heavy metals and none contained undeclared caffeine, sometimes added to help market ginseng's energy-boosting effect. In addition, all tablet and caplet products were able to properly disintegrate.
Ginseng is used for many purposes, although most commonly to improve overall energy during times of stress. While there is not much clinical evidence to support an energy boosting effect, there are studies showing its potential value in normalizing blood glucose levels in diabetics, helping to stimulate immunity and treat male impotence, and, when used with ginkgo biloba, improving memory and symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.
Dr Tod Cooperman, ConsumerLab.com's president, said: "The problems that we identified with ginseng in 2000 were an eye-opener for consumers and the industry. We would like to think that this has contributed to the apparent improvement in quality - although consumers clearly must remain cautious."
The Review can be found at ConsumerLab.com and includes results for 18 supplements, including twelve tested in the Review and six others that recently passed the same evaluation through ConsumerLab.com's Voluntary Certification Program.