Advertisements are encouraging me to try ginseng and GBE (gingko biloba extract) products, but I am skeptical. What are the benefits and risks to taking these products?
A medicine that comes from a natural source is still a medicine. Many herbal products are milder and safer than pharmaceutical industry drugs, but you are wise to be cautious. Personally, I think it is a good general philosophy to avoid taking any medication that you don’t need.
Of course, the manufacturers want you to buy their products and commercials can be very effective at persuading viewers that they do need the product. This is not a slam on herbal medicine; there are many ads for prescription drugs that entice you to ask your doctor about a particular medication, without even telling you what it is for.
Ginseng has conventionally been taken for a number of medical conditions. Only a fraction of them have been truly researched. All that said, some herbal remedies are good medicine. Unfortunately, because the industry is not well-regulated, you have to do your own homework to find out which herbs are effective, how to take them, and which are the best quality products.