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Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal supplements in the world. Although it is used for the treatment and prevention of many ailments, it is also used to increase work efficiency and is purported to increase energy and physical stamina. Athletes use ginseng for its alleged performance-enhancing attributes. However, many studies examining the pharmacological effects of ginseng on physical performance have not employed sound scientific design and methodology. The purpose of this review is to provide an update on published empirical research focusing primarily on the efficacy of ginseng with respect to physical and athletic performance. Despite attempts in recent investigations to improve on the scientific rigor used in examining the ergogenic properties of ginseng, the authors conclude that many of the same methodological shortcomings observed in earlier studies persist. Enhanced physical performance after ginseng administration in well-designed investigations remains to be demonstrated.
Bahrke is with Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL 61825-5076. Morgan and Stegner are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI.