New Law Roots Out Ginseng Supplement Confusion; National Survey Shows That Consumers Need More Education on Category

RIDGEFIELD, Conn., Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- A new federal law provides consumers with much needed direction on what to look for when purchasing true, quality ginseng. The Congressional legislation stipulates that labeling cannot identify a product as ginseng "unless it is an herb or herbal ingredient derived from a plant classified within the genus Panax."

Panax ginseng is scientifically proven to safely and naturally enhance energy and promote overall well-being. But prior to the new law, consumers seeking the benefits of true ginseng had to sift through a variety of products, including those marketed as Siberian "ginseng." The Siberian plant contains none of the beneficial compounds -- known as ginsenosides -- that are found in Panax and that have been extensively tested.

As a result of the new law, any product that claims to be ginseng -- but is not derived from the genus Panax -- must be taken off store shelves.

"The magnitude of this new law is quite significant for consumers," said Barbara Levine, RD, PhD, Director of the Nutrition Information Center, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

"With the overwhelming array of ginseng supplements on the market, this legislation will decrease confusion, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions regarding the types of products they purchase," Levine said. "This is just one example of how the government is taking a stronger stand in regulating supplements, which should reassure consumers."

The direction the legislation provides is necessary as many consumers of dietary supplements are perplexed by the multiple types and brands they see on store shelves. In fact, a recent survey indicates that when Americans purchase ginseng products, only 6 percent are familiar with the significant differences between Panax ginseng and Siberian "ginseng." In addition, with only 12 percent of respondents aware, of the new guidelines, this creates a timely opportunity for public education on ginseng products.

The survey, conducted by Caravan Opinion Research on behalf of Pharmaton Natural Health Products, indicates that consumers base their ginseng/supplement purchasing decisions on healthcare provider recommendation (53 percent), personal recommendation from a family member or friend (15 percent), and the media (6 percent).

The differences between Panax ginseng and what has been known as Siberian "ginseng" are distinct and notable.

The cultivation of a Panax ginseng crop is time intensive, taking from five to seven years to grow to a harvestable root size. Conversely, Siberian "ginseng" -- whose Latin name is Eleutherococcus senticosus -- consists of dried roots and root parts of a spiny, stemmed shrub that may be harvested within one year, generally making it cheaper to buy than true Panax ginseng.

While the new law narrows the selection of ginseng supplements, the level of quality in the marketplace still varies widely from product to product. Consumers who are searching for a quality, energy-enhancing, ginseng supplement should insist on a product that contains Panax ginseng, has been manufactured according to strict quality guidelines and is standardized to assure the same clinically proven ingredients from purchase to purchase.

"Not all Panax ginseng products are the same," said Levine. "When purchasing ginseng supplements, consumers should carefully read the product label to ensure they are getting what they pay for -- a product that is both standardized and clinically proven to be effective."

Products such as Ginsana(R) and Ginsana(R) Gold Blend, from Pharmaton, each contain G115(R) ginseng extract (standardized Panax ginseng, CA Meyer Extract). Pharmaton has always used Panax in its ginseng supplement products.

Pharmaton supports its ginseng quality claim with decades of clinical testing to prove safety and effectiveness, adherence to current Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines, and standardization. The ginseng in Pharmaton products has been proven to safely enhance energy by improving oxygen absorption.

Pharmaton believes that quality is paramount -- from the selection of plants to the product's arrival on store shelves. Packages contain precautions and a complete, accurate list of ingredients.

Pharmaton products are available at drug, food and mass retail outlets nationwide. For more information on Pharmaton and its products, please visit

The Congressional amendment to the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, was officially signed into law by President Bush in May 2002. The law clearly prohibits any herbal product that is not derived from the genus Panax to use the term ginseng on labeling or advertising.

About Pharmaton Natural Health Products

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. discovers, develops, manufactures and distributes prescription medicines and, through its Pharmaton Natural Health Products Division, proprietary phytopharmaceutical products. Pharmaton in Lugano, Switzerland pioneered the extraction and standardization of ginseng in the 1960s and these methods continue to influence the current standardization procedures for all herbal products. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., based in Ridgefield, CT, is the largest U.S. subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation (Ridgefield, CT) and a member of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies.

The Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies, headquartered in Ingelheim (Germany), is one of the 20 leading pharmaceutical firms in the world. In 2001, it reported revenues of US $6 billion.

Boehringer Ingelheim, which has some 140 affiliated companies in 42 countries worldwide, focuses on human pharmaceuticals and animal health. The human pharmaceuticals business, which accounts for 95% of sales, is comprised of prescription medicines, consumer health care products and chemicals and biopharmaceuticals for industrial customers. Research and development, production, and distribution facilities are located around the globe. In 2001, Boehringer Ingelheim's R&D spending was more than US $900 million, which is almost a fifth of net sales in prescription medicines.

For more information on Boehringer Ingelheim, please see the international Internet website

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