Panax ginseng (the root of Panax ginseng Meyer, Family Araliaceae) is an herb that grows in Korea and northern China. The active ingredients that trigger the medicinal effects of panax ginseng are called ginsenosides. Ginseng root is standardized on content of ginsenosides. Extracts usually contain from 4% to 7% ginsenosides. Some researches report that panax ginseng may boost the immune system, improve the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs in individuals with acute bronchitis, and improve the body’s response to flu vaccines.
Panax Ginseng Benefits and Immune System
Panax ginseng (Korean Red Ginseng) has been well known as an immunomodulator. Ginseng acts on the immune system by producing higher activity levels of natural killer cells, increasing total lymphocyte count and raising levels of T-helper cells. In vitro studies reveal enhanced natural killer cell activity and increased immune cell phagocytosis after ginsenoside exposure. A clinical trial in 60 healthy participants demonstrated enhanced chemotaxis, phagocytosis, increased total lymphocyte count, and increased numbers of T helper cells in those who received ginseng extract in a dosage of 100 mg twice daily for 8 weeks. Natural Killer Cells are a type of cytotoxic lymphocytes of innate immune system that are involved in the first line of defense against newly arising malignant cells and infected cells. Korean Red Ginseng contains a polysaccharide called ginsan that stimulates natural killer cell activity, according to a study reported in the Aug t 2011 edition of the journal Immunology Letters. Researchers have found that a combination of echinacea and ginseng increases the activity of natural killer cells, an substantial immune system component, in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome.
When given in combination with 6-MFA, an interferon inducing antiviral agent, panax ginseng was found to preserve 82-100 percent of mice infected with semliki forest virus (SFV). Panax ginseng enhances the number of immune cells in the blood, thus helping the immune system fight illnesses such as the flu. In a study reported in 2004 in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, scientists found that participants who took a ginseng had a lower incidence of acute respiratory illness than the control group. In a study of 75 participants with acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis who were treated with antibiotics or antibiotics plus panax ginseng, those in the panax ginseng group demonstrated faster bacterial clearance.
There is some findings that taking G115 (a specific panax ginseng extract) by mouth 4 weeks before a flu shot and continued for 8 more weeks can reduce the risk of getting the flu. When administered as the G115 in a 100mg dose to humans, it appears that G115 has the ability to reduce the occurrence of the flu when G115 is taken for twelve weeks and the vaccination is applied at week four. In a study using the polysaccharide of Panax Ginseng (Ginsan) in isolation, 100mg/kg injection once a day for 2 days prior to infection with an antigen resulted in appreciably higher levels of IgG1 and IgG2, as well as secretory IgA when compared to mice who did not receive Ginsan before infection. A study of 227 healthy participants showed that daily administration of 100 mg standardized Panax ginseng extract, for 12 weeks enhanced the efficacy of polyvalent influenza vaccine. The people who received panax ginseng had a lower incidence of colds and influenza, higher antibody titers, and higher natural killer cell activity levels.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is a virus that causes AIDS, a condition in which the immune system fails due to the destruction of CD4+ helper T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. The immune system may benefit from panax ginseng, especially the cell-mediated immune system, which is damaged in HIV infection. A test-tube study involving cells from HIV-positive individuals showed that ginseng might stimulate the production and function of immune cells. In a study found that steamed then dried panax ginseng had favorable effects in individuals infected with HIV, and increased the effectiveness of the anti-HIV medication, AZT. Cho YK, Lee, Oh and Kim report on a study comparing 5.4 g of panax ginseng daily on 16 HIV+ patients versus 10 people who took no anti-HIV drugs for 3 – 4 years. In the group using this form of Korean Red Ginseng, the average CD4 count increased from baseline of 301 to 359. In the control group, the baseline CD4 count of 352 decreased to 156. Researchers concluded that “Korean Red Ginseng has definite long-term immune modulating effect without adverse effects on HIV-infected patients”.
A study reported in Aug 2009 in the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, indicates that panax ginseng may have favorable effects against HIV when combined with HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy). HIV-1 (Human immunodeciency virus type 1) is a virus that causes AIDS, a condition in which the immune system fails due to the destruction of CD4+ helper T cells macrophages, and dendritic cells. Owing to the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and the improvement of many anti-retroviral medications the rates of mortality and morbidity related to HIV-1 disease have lessen significantly. But, anti-retroviral drug-resistant mutants are incessantly occurring and limit the availability of effective medications. Korean red ginseng has been shown to exert favorable effects on HAART by maintaining CD4+ T cell counts and delaying the development of resistance mutations in HIV-1 patients treated with HAART.