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I'm 50 years old and want a pick-me-up for extra energy. An herbalist recommended Panax ginseng, but the herb shop is full of different kinds of ginseng. Which is best?

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Ginseng comes in many forms, depending on the species of plant and the country where the herb is grown. Panax ginseng, also called Chinese, Korean, or Asian ginseng, is a popular energy tonic. A related species called American or Western ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is grown mainly in the midwest. A completely different herb called eleuthero, or Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), is not a true ginseng but is used for similar purposes.

Ginseng can also be white or red. Most of the ginseng sold in the U.S. is of the dried, white variety. The red type is fresh ginseng that has been steamed to turn red.

As a revitalizing tonic, Panax ginseng is a good long-term choice, suggests WHMD Advisor expert Dr. Efrem Korngold. But avoid red Chinese or Korean ginseng, he warns; they may worsen hypertension. Take 100 to 250 mg a day, standardized to contain at least 7% ginsenosides, the active ingredients.

You can also try eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) at 100 to 300 mg two or three times a day. Alternatively, Dr. Korngold notes that the simplest way to take ginseng is to eat two or three slices of dried white herb (either the Panax or the American variety) each day. Chew it until it becomes soft and mushy, then swallow.

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