Monday, May 16, 2011

Panax Ginseng: Benefits to the Brain


    • Ginseng is capable of neuron and neuronal network regeneration, which may hold significant importance for neurodegenerative diseases where there is a loss of neurons (such as in Down syndrome and in Alzheimer’s disease). In typical adult mice, the ginsenoside Rg1, was shown to increase the number of neural cells in the hippocampus (the memory area) part of the brain.
    • Protection of the neurons of the brain. Ginsenosides protect neurons from cell death by their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic properties. More specific research has shown protection for the cholinergic (in Alzheimer’s animal models) and dopamine neurons. As such, it is suggested that ginsensoides may play a therapeutic role in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases.
    • Thinking and memory. Taking Panax ginseng by mouth might improve abstract thinking, mental arithmetic skills, and reaction times in healthy, middle-aged people. Panax ginseng alone does not seem to improve memory, but there is some evidence that a combination of Panax ginseng and ginkgo leaf extract can improve memory in otherwise healthy people between the ages of 38 and 66.
    • Diabetes. There is some evidence that Panax ginseng might lower fasting blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Taking Panax ginseng by mouth seems to improve lung function and improve some symptoms of COPD.
    Panax ginseng is a plant (not to be confused with American ginseng, Siberian ginseng, or Panax pseudoginseng). Panax ginseng is used for improving thinking, concentration, memory and work efficiency, physical stamina, and athletic endurance. 

    Ginsenosides (a class of steroid glycosides, and triterpene saponins, found only in Panax ginseng) is involved in several major areas of cognitive improvement. Ginsenosides not only protect the brain, but also provides the potent ability to regenerate parts of the neuronal network in damaged brains. Regeneration of neurons is called neurogenesis. The study below (Ginseng enhances contextual fear conditioning and neurogenesis in rats.) states that it is likely that Ginseng enhances not proliferation but survival of newly generated neurons in the hippocampus.

    It's important to support neurogenesis for people with Down syndrome because, in the aging brains of people with DS, it's been found that self-destruction of brain cells (apoptosis) occurs more quickly than it should.

    Apoptosis has been associated with the gradual loss of neurons (nerve and brain cells) called neurodegeneration. Neurodegeneration causes impairments in general growth and involves disturbances with immunity, in the heart and increases some cancer risks. (See Apoptosis in Down's syndrome for details.)

    The use of panax ginseng is a little complicated because children and young adults sh
    ouldn't take it and because it needs to be taken for less than three months at a time, rather than long term.
    It also interacts with many prescription drugs. Finding a good TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner would be a good idea if you are interested in ginseng.

    Another interesting use for those with DS is its ability to treat diabetes.


    Products (I haven't tried since his young and I haven't looked into it with a TCM.)

    Herb Pharm Chinese Ginseng Liquid Herbal Extract -- 1 fl oz

    Be sure to get $10 off your first VitaCost vitamin order.

    For treating type 2 diabetes: 200 mg daily. (
    While ginseng has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for conditions as diverse as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, some individuals may experience negative side effects or complications with current medications.)
    The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that adults limit their intake of American and Asian ginseng to two grams a day of fresh or dried root, 6 tsp. of tincture, or 1 1/2 tsp. of raw fluid extract a day. 

    In all circumstances, children and young adults should avoid ginseng tea and other products containing ginseng, unless under the express supervision of a doctor.

    Side Effects

    The most common side effect is trouble sleeping. Less commonly, people experience menstrual problems, breast pain, increased heart rate, high or low blood pressure, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, itching, rash, dizziness, mood changes, vaginal bleeding and other side effects.

    Uncommon side effects that have been reported include severe rash called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, liver damage, and severe allergic reactions.

    Heart conditions: Panax ginseng can affect heart rhythm and blood pressure slightly on the first day it is used. However, there are usually no changes with continued use. Nevertheless, Panax ginseng has not been studied in people with cardiovascular disease. Use Panax ginseng with caution if you have heart disease.

    Diabetes: Panax ginseng might lower blood sugar. In people with diabetes who are taking medications to lower blood sugar, adding Panax ginseng might lower it too much. Monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes and use Panax ginseng.

    More Research

    Effects of Sun Ginseng on Memory Enhancement and Hippocampal Neurogenesis.

    Lee CH, Kim JM, Kim DH, Park SJ, Liu X, Cai M, Hong JG, Park JH, Ryu JH.
    Phytother Res. 2012 Oct 29. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4873. [Epub ahead of print]
    PMID: 23109250
    Ginsenoside Rd maintains adult neural stem cell proliferation during lead-impaired neurogenesis.
    Wang B, Feng G, Tang C, Wang L, Cheng H, Zhang Y, Ma J, Shi M, Zhao G.
    Neurol Sci. 2012 Oct 17. [Epub ahead of print]
    PMID: 23073826
    Ginsenoside Rg1 facilitates neural differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells via GR-dependent signaling pathway.
    Wu J, Pan Z, Cheng M, Shen Y, Yu H, Wang Q, Lou Y.
    Neurochem Int. 2013 Jan;62(1):92-102. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2012.09.016. Epub 2012 Oct 9.
    PMID: 23063465
    Promotive effect of ginsenoside Rd on proliferation of neural stem cells in vivo and in vitro.
    Lin T, Liu Y, Shi M, Liu X, Li L, Liu Y, Zhao G.
    J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Aug 1;142(3):754-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.05.057. Epub 2012 Jun 7.
    PMID: 22683911
    Antidepressant-like effects of ginsenoside Rg1 are due to activation of the BDNF signalling pathway and neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
    Jiang B, Xiong Z, Yang J, Wang W, Wang Y, Hu ZL, Wang F, Chen JG.
    Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Jul;166(6):1872-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.01902.x.
    PMID: 22335772
    Effects of Panax notoginseng saponins on proliferation and differentiation of rat hippocampal neural stem cells.
    Si YC, Zhang JP, Xie CE, Zhang LJ, Jiang XN.
    Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(5):999-1013. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X11009366.
    PMID: 21905288
    Ginsenoside Rb1 improves spatial learning and memory by regulation of cell genesis in the hippocampal subregions of rats.
    Liu L, Hoang-Gia T, Wu H, Lee MR, Gu L, Wang C, Yun BS, Wang Q, Ye S, Sung CK.
    Brain Res. 2011 Mar 25;1382:147-54. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.01.051. Epub 2011 Jan 26.
    PMID: 21276426
    Ginsenosides and their CNS targets.
    Radad K, Moldzio R, Rausch WD.
    CNS Neurosci Ther. 2011 Dec;17(6):761-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2010.00208.x. Epub 2010 Dec 8. Review.
    PMID: 21143430
    Ginseng total saponins enhance neurogenesis after focal cerebral ischemia.
    Zheng GQ, Cheng W, Wang Y, Wang XM, Zhao SZ, Zhou Y, Liu SJ, Wang XT.
    J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 27;133(2):724-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.01.064. Epub 2010 Nov 10.
    PMID: 21073942
    Targeting hypoxia inducible factor-1α: a novel mechanism of ginsenoside Rg1 for brain repair after hypoxia/ischemia brain damage.
    Tang B, Qu Y, Wang D, Mu D.
    CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2011 Mar;10(2):235-8.
    PMID: 20874696
    New achievements in ginseng research and its future prospects.
    Chu SF, Zhang JT.
    Chin J Integr Med. 2009 Dec;15(6):403-8. doi: 10.1007/s11655-009-0403-6. Epub 2010 Jan 18. Review.
    PMID: 20082243
    Panaxadiol glycosides that induce neuronal differentiation in neurosphere stem cells.
    Liu JW, Tian SJ, de Barry J, Luu B.

    J Nat Prod. 2007 Aug;70(8):1329-34. Epub 2007 Jul 31.
    PMID: 17663584
    [Nootropic mechanisms of ginsenoside Rg1--influence on neuronal plasticity and neurogenesis].
    Zhang JT.Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2005 May;40(5):385-8. Review. Chinese. No abstract available.
    PMID: 16220777
    Ginseng enhances contextual fear conditioning and neurogenesis in rats.
    Qiao C, Den R, Kudo K, Yamada K, Takemoto K, Wati H, Kanba S.
    Neurosci Res. 2005 Jan;51(1):31-8.
    PMID: 15596238
    Ginsenoside Rg1 promotes proliferation of hippocampal progenitor cells.
    Shen LH, Zhang JT.
    Neurol Res. 2004 Jun;26(4):422-8.
    PMID: 15198871
    J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 27;133(2):724-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.01.064. Epub 2010 Nov 10.

    Ginseng total saponins enhance neurogenesis after focal cerebral ischemia.

    Zheng GQ, Cheng W, Wang Y, Wang XM, Zhao SZ, Zhou Y, Liu SJ, Wang XT.


    Center of Neurology and Rehabilitation, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical College, Wenzhou 325027, PR China. gq



    Ginseng, the root of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer, is one of the most commonly used healing herbs for stroke and chronic debilitating conditions in China. Ginsenosides are the main active principles for ginseng's efficacy, but the mechanisms have not been fully clarified.

    To test the hypothesis whether or not the administration of Ginseng total saponins (GTS) can enhance neurogenesis after focal cerebral ischemia, and thereby improve neurological deficits.

    Male Wistar rats received intraperitoneal injections of GTS dissolved at a dose of 25 mg kg(-1) d(-1) or normal saline (NS) of same volume 3 days before the permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) model establishment until the animals were killed at the time points of 1d, 3d, 7d and 14d. The neurological function was assessed blindly. BrdU immunostaining and double staining were performed by following the 3-steps method.

    (A) GTS-treated rats have better neurological scores compared with those in NS group at 14d time point (p<0.05); (B) the number of BrdU(+) cells and BrdU(+)/NeuN(+) cells in GTS group were significantly higher than those in NS group in the ipsilateral subventricular zone and in the ipsilateral infarct area after MCAO, respectively (p<0.05 or p<0.01); (C) the increase of the number of BrdU(+)/NeuN(+) cells highly correlated with the decrease of neurological scores. Coefficient correlation r=-0.828 (p<0.01).

    GTS can improve neurological deficits after focal cerebral ischemia by inducing endogenous neural stem cells activation and thereby enhance adult central nervous system regeneration.

    Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Ginseng enhances contextual fear conditioning and neurogenesis in rats.

    Qiao C, Den R, Kudo K, Yamada K, Takemoto K, Wati H, Kanba S
    Department of Neuropsychiatry, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering, University of Yamanashi, Japan.
    Complete study here. 


    Panax Ginseng is a commonly used galenical known to have an enhancing effect on learning. Neurogenesis in the hippocampus has been shown to be necessary for hippocampus/amygdala-dependent learning tasks. To investigate the role of Ginseng in neurogenesis and learning of rats, we administered both Ginseng and BrdU for five consecutive days. As a result, Ginseng increased the number of BrdU-positive cells in the dentate gyrus in a dose-dependent manner. Further, we administered one dose of BrdU after Ginseng treatment for five consecutive days, and the number of BrdU-positive cells did not increase significantly. However, when one dose of BrdU was given 1 day before the following five consecutive days of Ginseng treatment, the number of BrdU-positive cells markedly increased in the hippocampus. Therefore, it is likely that Ginseng enhances not proliferation but survival of newly generated neurons in the hippocampus. Second, we administered both Ginseng and BrdU to rats for five consecutive days. One day after the last Ginseng and BrdU co-administration, contextual fear conditioning (CFC) was conducted. Ginseng in a dose-dependent manner increased the % freezing time and the number of BrdU-positive cells in the dentate gyrus of rats that received CFC. Thus, an increase in CFC-related neurogenesis may be one mechanism of Ginseng's properties to enhance learning ability.
    Published 14 December 2004 in Neurosci Res, 51(1): 31-8.


    1. Cheng Y, et al. Anti-amnestic and anti-aging effects of ginsenoside Rg1 and Rb1 and its mechanism of action. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2005 Feb;26(2):143-9.
    2. Rausch WD, et al. Neuroprotective effects of ginsenosides. Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2006;66(4):369-75.
    3. Zhong Z, et al. [Protective effects of Panax notoginseng saponins against pathological lesion of cholinergic neuron in rat model with Alzheimer' s disease]. Zhong Yao Cai. 2005 Feb;28(2):119-22.
    4. Chen LW, et al. Chinese herbs and herbal extracts for neuroprotection of dopaminergic neurons and potential therapeutic treatment of Parkinson's disease. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2007 Aug;6(4):273-81.
    5. Lin WM, et al. Ginsenoside Rd attenuates neuroinflammation of dopaminergic cells in culture. J Neural Transm Suppl. 2007;(72):105-12.
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