Top Therapeutic Properties of Ginseng

By Dr. Diane Fulton

Did you know that ginseng, a root-based plant, has wonderful health benefits for your brain and heart and protects the natural functioning and balance of your entire body?

The healing properties of ginseng have been known in Asian medicine for thousands of years. The primary components found in ginseng responsible for healing are called ginsenosides.

Scientific evidence in both basic and clinical research is growing on the amazing abilities of ginseng as neuroprotective, cardioprotective, liver protective and as a treatment for serious diseases such as cancers, diabetes and illnesses caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. Ginseng has also been found to improve immunity, energy and sexuality.[i],[ii],[iii],[iv]

Neuroprotective Properties

Ginsenosides have extensive neuroprotective properties. Ginseng helps with depression, insomnia, Alzheimer׳s disease, Parkinson׳s disease and drug-induced neural cell damage.[v]

Ginseng has the potential to increase cognitive ability for those with Alzheimer’s disease and alter gut microbiology by affecting the expression of apoptosis proteins. This neuroprotective effect and positive changes in the large intestine microbiota were demonstrated in a study of tree shrews.[vi]

In a meta-analysis of 18 eligible studies involving 343 animals, results suggested that ginseng has positive effects in animal models of Parkinson’s disease including improved TH-positive cells and Nissi-positive cells in the nigra and dopamine levels in the striatum part of the brain as well as reduced time to perform tasks, thus demonstrating powerful neuroprotective potential for human Parkinson’s disease.[vii]

Hydroponically-cultivated red ginseng, wild growing white ginseng and a placebo were studied for effects on the brain activity of healthy elderly subjects during relaxation and mental challenges over four weeks. Both ginseng treatments resulted in higher memory, attention and mental performance compared to the placebo but the red ginseng also had stronger mood and calming effects on subjects.[viii]

In a stroke meta-analysis from six databases, the ginsenoside Rb1 showed the strongest neuroprotection — reducing brain water content, increasing neurogenesis, anti-apoptosis, anti-oxidation and anti-inflammation properties while enhancing energy and cerebral circulation.[ix]

Cardioprotective Effects

Ginseng also has antiobesity, antidiabetic and cardioprotective effects. Findings of an in vitro study of ginsenoside show ginseng inhibits the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells through G0/G1 cell cycle arrest and eNOS/NO/cGMP pathway activation and has strong potential to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.[x]

Eighteen research studies with 1,549 participants were meta-analyzed. Ginseng was more effective than nitrates for treating ischemic heart disease in general and angina pectoris in particular.[xi]

In a systematic review of 113 research studies using ginseng, benefits included decreased fatigue and dementia and significant improvements in treating heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancers.[xii]

Ginseng also helped patients with congestive heart failure in a study of 54 subjects. Those treated with ginseng had better balance in important thyroid hormones, which helped increase the cure rate and effectiveness of existing therapies compared to the control group.[xiii]

In a rat model, administration of ginsenoside Rg2 for 28 days increased cardiac function, alleviated myocardial fibrosis and suppressed TGF-β1/Smad signalling pathways in heart tissues — confirming ginseng’s cardioprotective abilities.[xiv]

In an in vitro study, a treatment of ginsenoside Rg3 balanced cholesterol and triglyceride levels and activity of AMPK, a major regulator of energy metabolism.[xv] American ginseng was safe and effective in glycemic control in Type 2 diabetes patients.[xvi]

Liver Protective

In an induced mouse model of alcoholic hepatitis, treatment with ginsenoside Rg1 showed strong hepatoprotection. Animals had decreased serum biochemical parameters and improved liver histology by preventing growth of reactive oxygen species, mitochondria damage and hepatocellular death.[xvii]

In vivo and in vitro studies of induced liver fibrosis in mice demonstrated ginsenocide Rg1 reduced serum levels of liver enzyme alterations markedly, dramatically improved the extent of liver fibrosis and suppressed the hepatic levels of fibrotic markers, showing its potential in treating human liver fibrosis.[xviii]

In a rat model of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease induced by feeding a high-fat diet, ginsenoside Rg1 was administered for eight weeks, resulting in improved liver function and remission of the disease, showing that ginseng could be a highly effective liver protector in humans.[xix]

Anticancer Powerhouses

Ginsenosides are anticancer powerhouses. Scientists studied ginseng treatment of gastrointestinal cancer and confirmed its benefits as apoptotic (increasing cancer cell death), angiogenesis inhibitive (decreasing flow of blood to new cancer cells), anti-proliferative (stopping cancer cells from multiplying) and anti-metastatic (reducing cancer spread to other organs).[xx]

From a human cell in vitro study, the ginsenoside 20(S)-Rh2 had the highest therapeutic potential for treating colorectal cancer; results showed decreased cancer cell viability and inhibition of cancer cell invasion.[xxi]

In a meta-analysis of 18 trials comprising 1,531 patients, treatment with ginsenoside Rg3 combined with chemotherapy improved the clinical efficacy and alleviated treatment-induced side effects for digestive system cancer.[xxii]

Ginsenoside exhibits anticancer activity in various human cancer cell lines by modulating several signaling pathways and could effectively be used to reverse drug resistance and enhance therapeutic effects in cancer therapy.[xxiii]

The combination of treatment of calcitriol — an active component of vitamin D — and ginsenoside Rh2 were studied in vitro with human prostate cancer cells and results showed inhibited cell viability up to 80%, lowered cell proliferation and increased pro-apoptotic actions using this synergistic combo as an anticancer treatment.[xxiv]

In scientific studies of breast cancer cells, treatment with ginsenosides induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, interfered with breast cancer metastasis, promoted efficacy of chemotherapy via suppressing migration and proliferation and suppressed breast cancer malignancy.[xxv]

In a systematic review of 200 studies on the treatment of multiple cancers, scientists learned that ginsenoside Rh2 not only exhibits the anti-proliferation, anti-invasion, anti-metastasis, induction of cell cycle arrest, promotion of differentiation and reversal of multidrug resistance activities against multiple tumor cells, but also alleviates side effects from chemotherapy or radiotherapy.[xxvi]

Six healthy adults who regularly consumed a Western diet and received seven days of oral American ginseng had higher levels of ginsenoside compound K and higher cancer prevention potential compared to those on an Asian diet.[xxvii]

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Targeting microRNAs using small chemical molecules has become a promising strategy for inflammatory disease treatment. In an in vitro study, the use of ginsenoside Rb2 effectively tamped down the inflammatory responses of the microRNA miR-216a associated with endothelial cell aging and atherosclerosis via the Smad3/NF-κB signaling pathway and highlighted its anti-inflammatory benefits.[xxviii]

Depression-like behaviors caused by chronic stress are related to inflammation and microglia activation as well. Ginsenoside Rb1 was effective in countering depression in a chronic restraint stress-induced model of mice and showed positive anti-inflammatory effects in the hippocampus, serum and microglia and de-activated cell signaling proteins often associated with cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological diseases.[xxix]

Treatment with Korean ginseng in an arthritis-induced mouse model showed that ginseng has similar analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects as ibuprofen without the side effects, suggesting it as a potentially safer rheumatoid arthritis treatment.[xxx]

Antioxidant Effects

Accumulating evidence shows that natural medicines, such as ginseng, can treat atherosclerosis by inhibiting endothelial cell apoptosis, which can be aggravated by oxidative stress from oxidized low-density lipoprotein, reactive oxygen species, tumor necrosis factor-α, homocysteine and lipopolysaccharides.[xxxi]

Korean red ginseng was compared to vitamin E (a natural antioxidant) in fighting the drug cyclopospamide-induced liver damage, which is a common drug treatment for liver disease. Ginseng was overall superior to vitamin E (also an antioxidant) as a hepatoprotector in restoring blood biochemical findings and decreasing overall liver damage from drug treatment.[xxxii]

In a study of ginsenoside Rb1 of 197 patients with chronic kidney disease, those who received 500 milligrams (mg) per day of ginseng for six months showed increased renal function and reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, which slowed the progression of the disease compared to the control group.[xxxiii]

Ten healthy volunteers received 300 mg of an antiretroviral zidovudine used for HIV patients orally with a two-week treatment of American ginseng — 200 mg twice daily. Results showed no interference with zidovudine and lowered oxidative stress markers.[xxxiv]

Ginseng’s Therapeutic Value

Ginseng has long been a valuable natural therapy and its worth is only rising as the scientific community analyzes its medicinal advantages to protect your body from diseases and restore your health and well-being. For in-depth research on ginseng, see GreenMedInfo.com’s topics of ginseng, ginsenosides, American ginseng and panax ginseng.

*WARNING: Always consult a medical herbalist or your health care practitioner when using both natural and pharmaceutical medicines for any diagnosed condition. This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be used as medical advice.


References

[i] Zubair Ahmed Ratan, Mohammad Faisal Haidere, Yo Han Hong, Sang Hee Park, Jeong-Oog Lee, Jongsung Jae Youl Cho. Pharmacological potential of ginseng and its major component ginsenosides. J Ginseng Res. 2021 Mar ;45(2):199-210. Epub 2020 Mar 25. PMID: 33841000

[ii] Jong Seok Lee, Yu-Na Lee, Young-Tae Lee, Hye Suk Hwang, Ki-Hye Kim, Eun-Ju Ko, Min-Chul Kim, Sang-Moo Kang. Ginseng protects against respiratory syncytial virus by modulating multiple immune cells and inhibiting viral replication. Nutrients. 2015 ;7(2):1021-36. Epub 2015 Feb 4. PMID: 25658239

[iii] Wei Zhang, Xiaoyu Wang, Min Zhang, Min Xu, Wenyan Tang, Yi Zhang, Lei Lu, Jing Gao, Shen Gao. Intranasal Delivery of Microspheres Loaded with 20 (R)-ginsenoside Rg3 Enhances Anti-Fatigue Effect in Mice. Curr Drug Deliv. 2017 09 6 ;14(6):867-874. PMID: 27834150

[iv] Tae-Hwan Kim, Seung Hyun Jeon, Eun-Joo Hahn, Kee-Yoeup Paek, Jong Kwan Park, Nae Young Youn, Hyung-Lae Lee. Effects of tissue-cultured mountain ginseng (Panax ginseng CA Meyer) extract on male patients with erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl. 2009 May;11(3):356-61. Epub 2009 Feb 23. PMID: 19234482

[v] Yumao Jiang, Zongyang Li, Yamin Liu, Xinmin Liu, Qi Chang, Yonghong Liao, Ruile Pan. Neuroprotective effect of water extract of Panax ginseng on corticosterone-induced apoptosis in PC12 cells and its underlying molecule mechanisms. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Jan 15 ;159:102-12. Epub 2014 Nov 15. PMID: 25446601

[vi] Yuqian Guo, Limei Wang, Jiangli Lu, Jianlin Jiao, Yi Yang, Hongbin Zhao, Zhang Liang, Hong Zheng. Ginsenoside Rg1 improves cognitive capability and affects the microbiota of large intestine of tree shrew model for Alzheimer’s disease. Mol Med Rep. 2021 Apr ;23(4). Epub 2021 Mar 2. PMID: 33649817

[vii] Yi-Bo He, Yong-Lin Liu, Zheng-Dong Yang, Jia-Hong Lu, Yao Song, Yan-Ming Guan, Yi-Min Chen. Effect of ginsenoside-Rg1 on experimental Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies. Exp Ther Med. 2021 Jun ;21(6):552. Epub 2021 Mar 25. PMID: 33850524

[viii] Wilfried Dimpfel, Pierre-Antoine Mariage, Alexander G Panossian. Effects of Red and White Ginseng Preparations on Electrical Activity of the Brain in Elderly Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Three-Armed Cross-Over Study. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021 Feb 25 ;14(3). Epub 2021 Feb 25. PMID: 33668699

[ix] Yi-Hua Shi, Yan Li, Yong Wang, Zhen Xu, Huan Fu, Guo-Qing Zheng. Ginsenoside-Rb1 for Ischemic Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms. Front Pharmacol. 2020 ;11:285. Epub 2020 Mar 31. PMID: 32296332

[x]

[xi] Jia Y, Zhang S, Huang F, Leung SW. Could ginseng-based medicines be better than nitrates in treating ischemic heart disease? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complement Ther Med. 2012 Jun;20(3) 155-166. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2011.12.002. PMID: 22500665.

[xii] Mellar P Davis, Bertrand Behm. Ginseng: A Qualitative Review of Benefits for Palliative Clinicians. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2019 Jan 27:1049909118822704. Epub 2019 Jan 27. PMID: 30686023

[xiii] X Dai, Y Zhou, X Yu. Effect of ginseng injection in treating congestive heart failure and its influence on thyroid hormones. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1999 Apr;19(4):209-11. PMID: 11783267

[xiv] Quanwei Wang, Wenwen Fu, Xiaofeng Yu, Huali Xu, Dayun Sui, Yeling Wang. Ginsenoside Rg2 alleviates myocardial fibrosis by regulating TGF-β1/Smad signalling pathway. Pharm Biol. 2021 Dec ;59(1):106-113. PMID: 33535854

[xv] Seohyun Lee, Mak-Soon Lee, Chong-Tai Kim, In-Hwan Kim, Yangha Kim. Ginsenoside Rg3 reduces lipid accumulation with AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) activation in HepG2 cells. Int J Mol Sci. 2012 ;13(5):5729-39. Epub 2012 May 11. PMID: 22754327

[xvi] Iva Mucalo, Dario Rahelić, Elena Jovanovski, Velimir Bozikov, Zeljko Romić, Vladimir Vuksan. Effect of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Coll Antropol. 2012 Dec ;36(4):1435-40. PMID: 23390846

[xvii] Cheng Yang, Xiaoqing He, Jinqiu Zhao, Wenxiang Huang. Hepatoprotection by Ginsenoside Rg1 in alcoholic liver disease. Int Immunopharmacol. 2021 Mar ;92:107327. Epub 2021 Jan 4. PMID: 33412392

[xviii] Chan Mo, Shuwen Xie, Ting Zeng, Yuqi Lai, Sha Huang, Chuying Zhou, Weixin Yan, Shaohui Huang, Lei Gao, Zhiping Lv. Ginsenoside-Rg1 acts as an IDO1 inhibitor, protects against liver fibrosis via alleviating IDO1-mediated the inhibition of DCs maturation. Phytomedicine. 2021 Feb 20 ;84:153524. Epub 2021 Feb 20. PMID: 33667840

[xix] Danshan Gu, Haoan Yi, Kerong Jiang, Syed Hassam Fakhar, Jing Shi, Yongshu He, Bo Liu, Yunping Guo, Xiaoming Fan, Shude Li. Transcriptome analysis reveals the efficacy of ginsenoside-Rg1 in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Life Sci. 2021 Feb 15 ;267:118986. Epub 2020 Dec 29. PMID: 33385408

[xx] Jing Xu, Yunxia Pan, Yanyan Liu, Sha Na, Hui Zhou, Lu Li, Fengyuan Chen, Hang Song. A review of anti-tumour effects of ginsenoside in gastrointestinal cancer. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2021 Apr 9. Epub 2021 Apr 9. PMID: 33836068

[xxi] Songhee Han, Ae Jin Jeong, Heejung Yang, Kyo Bin Kang, Haeri Lee, Eun Hee Yi, Byung-Hak Kim, Chung-Hyun Cho, Jin Woong Chung, Sang Hyun Sung, Sang-Kyu Ye. Ginsenoside 20(S)-Rh2 exerts anti-cancer activity through targeting IL-6-induced JAK2/STAT3 pathway in human colorectal cancer cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 24 ;194:83-90. Epub 2016 Aug 23. PMID: 27566200

[xxii] Linlin Pan, Tingting Zhang, Haiyang Sun, Guirong Liu. Ginsenoside Rg3 (Shenyi Capsule) Combined with Chemotherapy for Digestive System Cancer in China: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019 ;2019:2417418. Epub 2019 Dec 17. PMID: 31929811

[xxiii] Haibo Zhang, Song Park, Hai Huang, Eungyung Kim, Junkoo Yi, Seong-Kyoon Choi, Zaeyoung Ryoo, Myoungok Kim. Anticancer effects and potential mechanisms of ginsenoside Rh2 in various cancer types (Review). Oncol Rep. 2021 Apr ;45(4):1-10. Epub 2021 Mar 2. PMID: 33649861

[xxiv] Mohamed Ben-Eltriki, Subrata Deb, Emma S Tomlinson Guns. 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin DSynergistically Enhances Anticancer Effects of Ginsenoside Rh2 in Human Prostate Cancer Cells. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2021 Jan 22:105828. Epub 2021 Jan 22. PMID: 33493594

[xxv] Farid Hashemi, Ali Zarrabi, Amirhossein Zabolian, Hossein Saleki, Mahdi Vasheghani Farahani, Seyed Omid Sharifzadeh, Zahra Ghahremaniyeh, Atefe Kazemzade Bejandi, Kiavash Hushmandi, Milad Ashrafizadeh, Haroon Khan. Novel strategy in breast cancer therapy: Revealing the bright side of ginsenosides. Curr Mol Pharmacol. 2021 Jan 20. Epub 2021 Jan 20. PMID: 33494691

[xxvi] Xun Li, Shifeng Chu, Meiyu Lin, Yan Gao, Yingjiao Liu, Songwei Yang, Xin Zhou, Yani Zhang, Yaomei Hu, Huiqin Wang, Naihong Chen. Anticancer property of ginsenoside Rh2 from ginseng. Eur J Med Chem. 2020 Jul 13 ;203:112627. Epub 2020 Jul 13. PMID: 32702586

[xxvii] Jin-Yi Wan, Chong-Zhi Wang, Qi-Hui Zhang, Zhi Liu, Mark W Musch, Marc Bissonnette, Eugene B Chang, Ping Li, Lian-Wen Qi, Chun-Su Yuan. Significant difference in active metabolite levels of ginseng in humans consuming Asian or Western diet: The link with enteric microbiota. Biomed Chromatogr. 2017 Apr ;31(4). Epub 2016 Oct 13. PMID: 27606833

[xxviii] Yutong Chen, Shuting Wang, Shujun Yang, Rongxia Li, Yunyun Yang, Yu Chen, Weili Zhang. Inhibitory role of ginsenoside Rb2 in endothelial senescence and inflammation mediated by microRNA-216a. Mol Med Rep. 2021 Jun ;23(6). Epub 2021 Mar 31. PMID: 33786633

[xxix] Ying Guo, Jianping Xie, Lanchun Zhang, Lingli Yang, Jiaqing Ma, Yufan Bai, Wenjie Ma, Ling Wang, Haofei Yu, Yueqin Zeng, Haiyun Luo, Rongping Zhang. Ginsenoside Rb1 exerts antidepressant-like effects via suppression inflammation and activation of AKT pathway. Neurosci Lett. 2021 01 23 ;744:135561. Epub 2020 Dec 24. PMID: 33359924

[xxx] Je-Hyuk Lee, Jung-Hun Lee, Yu-Mi Lee, Pit-Na Kim, Choon-Sik Jeong. Potential analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Panax ginseng head butanolic fraction in animals. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3749-52. Epub 2008 Oct 1. PMID: 18930781

[xxxi] Huxinyue Duan, Qing Zhan, Jia Liu, Ruolan Li, Dan Wang, Wei Peng, Chunjie Wu. Suppression of apoptosis in vascular endothelial cell, the promising way for natural medicines to treat atherosclerosis. Pharmacol Res. 2021 Apr 7:105599. Epub 2021 Apr 7. PMID: 33838291

[xxxii] Ahmed Abdelfattah-Hassan, Shimaa I Shalaby, Safaa I Khater, Eman S El-Shetry, Hosny Abd El Fadil, Shafika A Elsayed. Panax ginseng is superior to vitamin E as a hepatoprotector against cyclophosphamide-induced liver damage. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Oct ;46:95-102. Epub 2019 Aug 7. PMID: 31519295

[xxxiii] Xuefang Xu, Qiandi Lu, Jingyue Wu, Yixiang Li, Jinzhu Sun. Impact of extended ginsenoside Rb1 on early chronic kidney disease: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Inflammopharmacology. 2017 Feb ;25(1):33-40. Epub 2016 Nov 17. PMID: 27853891

[xxxiv] Lawrence S Lee, Stephen D Wise, Clark Chan, Teresa L Parsons, Charles Flexner, Paul S Lietman. Possible differential induction of phase 2 enzyme and antioxidant pathways by american ginseng, Panax quinquefolius. J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 May;48(5):599-609. Epub 2008 Mar 4. PMID: 18319359

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