Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement thought to have anti-cancer properties and to boost stamina, improve physical and mental abilities, and help people cope with stress.
Previous studies suggest it is regularly used by pregnant women, particularly in Asian countries.
Studies done, found up to 10 percent of women had taken the supplement while pregnant. Another recent survey found about 9 percent of pregnant women were taking herbal supplements, including ginseng.
The current study out of Hong Kong measured fetal growth in rats that were and were not given an active ingredient in ginseng called ginsenoside. Results showed those who received more than 30 micrograms scored significantly lower on a standard test to assess organ development. The scores went down as the dose of the ginsenoside increased.
Researchers say, their study has demonstrated that ginsenoside exerts a direct teratogenic effect on rat embryos: that is to say it is capable of causing malformations in rat embryos .
However more research is called for to assess the possible effects of ginseng on human pregnancies, but according to their findings they suggest, "Use of ginseng during first trimester of pregnancy should be with caution."