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Journal of Cancer Prevention


Journal of Korean Association of Cancer prevention 2004; 9(3): 125-138

Published online September 30, 2004

© Korean Society of Cancer Prevention

Pharmacological and Physiological Effects of Ginseng

An-Sik Chung1, Kyoung-Joo Cho1, Jang-Hee Oh1 and Jong Dae Park2


For centuries, ginseng has been a high value herb in the Far Eastern countries. Recently, many clinical trials using ginseng have been undertaken in the Western countries, as well as the East Asia. In this paper, we have summarized the diverse pharmacological and physiological effects of ginseng on various diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Ginseng improves glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity. It exerts cytotoxic and antimetastatic activities against various kinds of cancers, and induces differentiation or apoptosis of several cancer cells. Furthermore, ginseng has been reported to have an antineoplastic effect by enhancing immune functions, such as increasing number of natural killer cells. An antihypertensive effect of ginseng is shown to occur by the enhanced synthesis and release of nitric oxide (NO). In addition, ginseng exerts antiatherosclerotic and antiplatelet effects. Active constituents found in most ginseng species are ginsenosides, polysaccharide, peptides, polyacethylenic alcohols, and fatty acids. The major active components in Panax ginseng are ginsenosides, a group of saponins with triterpenoid dammarane structure. More than 30 ginsenosides have been isolated and novel structures continue to be identified from various ginsengs. Recently, an acidic polysaccharide named ginsan has been isolated from ginseng, which activates natural killer cells and T-cells, and further contributes its effectiveness in the immunoprevention and immunotherapy of cancer. Although there is a wealth of evidences suggesting that ginseng is useful for the treatment of several diseases, a great deal of vital researches remains to be solved as human clinical trials, ginseng's effectiveness at molecular levels and the standardization of ginseng extract.

Keywords: Ginseng, Diabetes, Cancer, Hypertension

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