Manic psychosis associated with ginseng: a report of two cases and discussion of the literature

J Diet Suppl. 2015 Jun;12(2):119-25. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2014.902001. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


Background: Herbal medicine use, highly prevalent in the general population, is often a neglected component of the medical history. Herbs are presumed safe because they are "natural" self-care products. We call attention to the following issues: Panax ginseng, one of the most frequently used herbal medicines, has complex pharmacological activity, and can be associated with severe psychiatric symptoms. Physicians may be unfamiliar with herbal therapy risks, and the need for further education and systematic research is highlighted.

Objective: To describe two cases of new onset manic psychoses associated with high dose, chronic ginseng use, and review the relevant literature.

Case reports: A 23-year-old man developed acute mania after one month of daily ginseng use and intermittent cannabis use. A 79-year-old man developed hypomania while using ginseng and yohimbine for erectile dysfunction, and had a recurrence of mania after stopping yohimbine but increasing his daily intake of ginseng.

Conclusions/summary: Symptoms of mania fully remitted within days upon discontinuation of ginseng and supportive treatment. Available data prevent a clear determination of causation; however, ginseng-induced mania in the these and previous case reports is suggested by the following: patients had no prior psychiatric history, daily use of ginseng was temporally associated with mania onset, patients ingested much higher doses for a longer duration than recommended in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and withdrawal of ginseng led to rapid remission. Generally well tolerated, many physicians are unaware that ginseng may be associated with acute and significant psychiatric disturbances for certain at-risk individuals.

Keywords: complementary therapies; ginseng; herbal medicine; mania; panax ginseng; psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bipolar Disorder / chemically induced*
  • Cannabis / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panax / adverse effects*
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Recurrence
  • Yohimbine / administration & dosage
  • Yohimbine / adverse effects


  • Plant Extracts
  • Yohimbine