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Ginseng can treat prevent influenza and respiratory virus

By Connie Wan, P.h.D | January 1st, 2018

Ginseng, an herb prized by Chinese Traditional Medicine, has long been hailed as a cure-all from anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, boosting immune system to increasing endurance and fighting fatigue. In a study by researchers from Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences, the scientists report that Ginseng can help treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages.

Seasonal influenza is a serious respiratory disease that causes annual epidemics in humans worldwide, resulting in about three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. There are challenges with existing influenza vaccines, such as required annual updates and no protection against pandemic strains and bird flu. And, there are no vaccines available for RSV, which affects millions and is the leading cause of inflammatory bronchiolitis pneumonia and viral death in infants and in some elderly adults.

In the study published in Nutrients, GSU group investigated whether red ginseng extract has preventive effects on influenza A virus infection. The researchers found that red ginseng extract improves the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with influenza virus. Also, treatment with red ginseng extract reduced the expression of genes that cause inflammation.

After infection with influenza A virus, mice that were orally administered ginseng over a long time showed multiple immune modifying effects, such as stimulated antiviral production of proteins important in immune response and fewer inflammatory cells in their bronchial walls. The study indicates the beneficial effects of red ginseng extract on preventing influenza A virus infections could result from immune modifying capabilities of ginseng.

In a second publication published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, the GSU group investigated whether Korean red ginseng extract has antiviral effects, or the ability to treat RSV infection. They found that Korean red ginseng extract improved the survival of human lung epithelial cells against RSV infection and inhibited the virus from replicating, or multiplying, in the body. Specifically, treatment with Korean red ginseng extract suppressed the expression of RSV-induced inflammatory genes and the formation of chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen, which play a role in virus-induced epithelial damage in RSV. In addition, it is observed that mice that were orally administered Korean red ginseng extract had lower viral levels after infection with RSV. The results suggest that Korean red ginseng extract has antiviral activity against RSV infection.

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Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jong Lee, Hye Hwang, Eun-Ju Ko, Yu-Na Lee, Young-Man Kwon, Min-Chul Kim, Sang-Moo Kang. Immunomodulatory Activity of Red Ginseng against Influenza A Virus Infection. Nutrients, 2014; 6 (2): 517 DOI: 10.3390/nu6020517
  2. Jone Seok Lee, Eun-ju Ko, Hye Suk Hwang, Yu-na Lee, Yong-man Kwong, Min-chul kim and Sang-Moo Kang. Antiviral activity of ginseng extract against respiratory syncytial virus infection. Int J Mol Med. 2014 Jul; 34(1): 183–190; doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2014.1750

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