A recent article of mine discussed the possible role of Ginseng in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. In that article, I mentioned a little known compound called nuclear factor kappa-light-chain- enhancer of activated B, or NF-κB, and how it may relate to inflammation in blood vessels.
This sparked even more questions and research, and this article is to answer some ensuing inquiries, specifically, if ginseng can help with NF-κB, can it also help with other anti-inflammatory functions. Research in this area has been promising, and successful, as we’ll discuss below.
✲ Ginseng research has indicated that Ginseng has numerous and repeatable anti-inflammatory benefits.
✲ There has been no one mechanism, but all indications are that the ginsenosides in ginseng are the main contributor.
✲ Some research has indicated that cytokines are the most affected by ginseng, with promising implications in the control of infections.
✲ Scientists have even (tentatively) suggested that these anti-inflammatory properties may help in cancer treatments.
To date, some of the most interesting science being employed with ginseng involves its compounds, ginsenosides, and how they may impact the neural signaling in the human body. Most inflammation in the body is caused by our immune response to pathogens, where the cells are flooded with fluids carrying various nutrients and anti-microbial defenses.
In its most extreme case, inflammation leads to something called septic shock, which is one of the leading causes of all deaths in hospitals. Researchers looked to this most extreme form of inflammation and found that ginseng could attenuate this process. The scientists went so far as to call their results “remarkable.”
Not only were they able to see the anti-inflammatory effects of ginseng, they even isolated it to the inhibition of the NF-κB pathway mentioned earlier. By interfering with this signaling, the ginsenosides were able to stem the tide of sepsis in lab animals.
Researchers have not stopped there. Another team found that ginsenosides may influence the processes of all immunological white blood cells, from macrophages to natural killer cells. This is discussed further in my previous article regarding ginseng and the immune system. For this piece, it should be noted that the benefit extends to anti-inflammatory properties.
Looking at one of those in particular, a group publishing in the Journal of Ginseng Research found that ginsenosides commonly found in nearly all ginseng can suppress one of the key proteins that leads to inflammation, cytokines.
Lastly, a protein called AKT is known for its role in cell transcription and reproduction, and has also been suppressed in scientific trials by ginseng interaction. This protein plays a role in the overreaction of the body to infection, creating inflamed cells and over-growth of other cells. This uncontrolled cell growth goes by another name: cancer.
At the beginning of this section I offer the proviso that anyone currently taking cancer treatment of any kind should continue the course of medicine indicated by their health care team. This research is intended to inform, not offer treatment advice.
Scientists working to build on the anti-inflammatory properties of Ginseng set about to study the possible future uses of those mechanisms in other areas. They published their results in the Journal of Nutrition, finding that ginseng may pay a pivotal role in interrupting the process in which the body goes from inflammation to cancerous growth.
Even in cases where tumors have already begun to form, these same scientists found evidence that the introduction of ginsenosides may still suppress further growth. They concluded their findings by suggesting further research.
Scientists continue to build upon the findings of other researchers. It’s one of the wonders of the field that no one needs to build from scratch. Thanks to this process of building upon each other’s findings, scientists have recently been able to expand from the known benefits of ginseng into exciting new fields.
From the observation that people see immunological benefits of ginseng, researchers have been able to look at what mechanisms are at play. From there, they’ve been able to determine that there are significant anti-inflammatory properties in ginsenosides, and that they may even have anti-cancer uses in the future.