Even if you’re not an herb person, you’ve surely heard of the famous ginseng. Both types of the root, American and Panax (Asian) ginseng are taken orally by many as adaptogens, aphrodisiacs, nourishing stimulants, and in the treatment of type II diabetes, as well as sexual dysfunction in men. The root is typically available in dried form, either whole or sliced. Ginseng is often found in those popular energy drinks: usually the “tea” varieties or functional foods.
Until now, it has been difficult to verify the medicinal benefits of ginseng using science, as there are contradictory results from various studies, possibly due to the wide variety and quality of ginseng used in studies. Ginseng is in subclinical doses does not have measurable medicinal effects but now lab experiments have demonstrated the potent immunological effects of ginseng. Researchers have now shown that the herb, much used in traditional Chinese and other Asian medicine, has anti-inflammatory effects, which is key for treating a host of chronic diseases.
A team of researchers from the University of Hong Kong identified 7 ginseng constituents, ginsenosides, which showed immune-suppressive effects and the anti-inflammatory role of ginseng may be due to the combined effects of these ginsenosides, targeting different levels of immunological activity, and so contributing to the diverse actions of ginseng in humans. The scientists treated human immune cells with different extracts of ginseng and found that of the 9 they identified, 7 could selectively inhibit expression of the inflammatory gene CXCL-10. Of course, further studies will be needed to examine the potential beneficial effects of ginsenosides in the management of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases in humans.
Interestingly, the researchers were able to holistically test the ginseng extract’s immune effects by using special purification technologies to identify individual constituents and define their bioactivity using genomics and bioactivity assays. Then they reconstituted them back into a whole extract with definable individual ginsenosides to re-confirm the effects.
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