• Panax ginseng;
  • randomised controlled trials;
  • herbal medicine;
  • systematic review

Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer is a common herb with many purported health benefits. However, there is no conclusive evidence supporting its use in the treatment of any particular disease. We conducted a systematic review to evaluate randomised controlled trials. Four English databases were searched with no publication date restriction. Included studies evaluated P. ginseng in patients with any type of disease or in healthy individuals. We assessed the quality of studies using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Of the 475 potentially relevant studies, 65 met the inclusion criteria. These studies examined P. ginseng's effects on psychomotor performance (17 studies), physical performance (ten), circulatory system (eight), glucose metabolism (six), the respiratory system (five), erectile dysfunction (four), immunomodulation (four), quality of life/mood (four), antioxidant function (two), cancer (two), menopausal symptoms (two) and dry mouth (one). The risk of bias was unclear in most studies. Authors evaluated adverse events in 40 studies, with 135 minor events and no serious adverse events reported. P. ginseng shows promising results for improving glucose metabolism and moderating the immune response. This may have implications for several diseases including type 2 diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions. Further studies are needed to explore P. ginseng's potential as an effective treatment for these and other health conditions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.