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Panax Ginseng May Help Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease

Tuesday October 29, 2013

Food Consumer - A review in Journal of Ginseng Research suggests that taking Panax ginseng or Korean red ginseng extract or active compounds ginsenosides isolated from ginseng roots may help prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases and neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis, particularly the first two diseases.

Ik-Hyun Cho from College of Oriental Medicine and Institute of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea conducted the review and provided convincing evidence to indicate that Panax ginseng like Korean red ginseng can effectively treat nerodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Panax ginseng, whose useful part is its root, has been widely used as a herbal medicine or herbal supplement in Asia particularly in China, Korea and Japan. The most famous red ginseng in the world is probably Korean red ginseng. In comparison, American ginseng is relatively mild and is considered by some consumers no match for Korean red ginseng. In recent years, this herbal supplement has become popular worldwide as a natural medicine and functional food used to revitalize the body and mind, increase physical strength, slow aging and boost stigma or vigor in addition to preventing various diseases.

In addition to neurodegenerative diseases or disorders, ginseng may be used to prevent and or treat other diseases including breast cancer, diabetic kidney disease, diabetes, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and radiation-induced damage among other things.

In sum, Panax ginseng renders multiple beneficial effects possibly through "ginseng- or ginsenosides-mediated neuroprotective mechanisms mainly involve maintaining homeostasis, and anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-apoptotic, and immune-stimulatory activities," according to the review.

The review discusses possible beneficial effects of Panax ginseng and its preparations on neurodegenerative diseases and neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis.

The main active components in P. ginseng are ginsenosides and thus far more than 31 ginsenosides have been isolated and identified with their structures and functions more or less determined although much more remains to be researched.

Effect of Panax ginseng on Parkinson's disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is caused by both environmental risk factors and genetic risk factors and is characterized by the accumulation and aggregation of misfolded α-synuclein and the loss of dopaminergic neurons. It is believed that 2% of the world population aged 60 and older suffer this disease. Patients with this disease experience a range of symptoms including "tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia and postural instability, and non-motorrelated disorders including sleep disturbance, autonomic dysfunction, cognitive deficits, depression, and olfactory deficits," according to the review. There is no cure for this disease.

Ginseng extracts and active compounds ginsenosides have been proved to be protective against neurotoxicity in both in vitro and in vivo models of Parkinson's disease. The bioactive ingredients isolated from P. ginseng found effective in treating Parkinson's disease in the laboratory studies and animal models include Rg1, Re, and Rd, which can slow the progress of Parkinson' disease.

Effect of Panax ginseng on Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease, the major form of dementia in elderly people affecting in most cases people aged 65 or older, is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by senile plaque deposition with amyloid beta (A beta)involved in and neuronal loss. An estimated 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease, which eventually completely disable and kill patients. At this time, no treatment or drugs can prevent or stop the progression of the disease.

Ginseng extracts to fight Alzheimer’s disease
Studies have shown that taking 9.0 grams of Korean red ginseng powder or 4.5 grams of Korean white ginseng powder for as short as 12 weeks significantly improved the Alzheimer's disease assessment scores and the mini-mental state examination scores, and the clinical rating of dementia.

Animal studies indicate that oral administration of ginseng saponins in a dose of 100 to 200 mg/kg/day for six months significantly prevented memory loss. The protective effect was attributed to decreased oxidative stress and up-regulated plasticity related proteins. P. ginseng extracts provide neuroprotection through different mechanisms, according to the review.

The bioactive compounds isolated from P. ginseng extracts that have proved effective at slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease include Rb1, Rg1, Rg2, Rg3, Re and Rh2. Studies show that a 3-month Rg1 supplementation improved learning and memory outcomes in mice. Rg2 can protect against memory impairment. Rh2 attenuates Aβ-induced toxicity. All the actives can help slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Another recently identified compound is gintonin, which has been found a useful alternative medicine for Alzheimer's disease prevention or treatment.

Huntington’s disease
Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary progressive neurological disorder that is characterized by the involuntary abnormal movements, psychiatric disturbance, and cognitive deficit. No drug can help curb the progression of the disease.

Effect of ginseng total saponins of Huntington’s disease
Ginseng total saponins, the major bioactive components of P. ginseng possess protective effects against neurotoxicity as in vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated.

The review author cited previous studies as concluding that "Rb1, Rc, and Rg5 offer a potential therapeutic choice for the treatment of HD (Huntington’s disease) and possibly other neurodegenerative disorders."

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and motor neuron disease, is a disorder of the motor nervous system caused by the degenerated upper and lower neurons and characterized by "rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy and fasciculations, spasticity, dysarthria, dysphagia, and respiratory compromise," as the review explains.

The author concludes that efficacy of crude ginseng powder from P. quinquefolium, saponins from P. japonicus and ginsenosides in treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis remains unclear.

Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) or disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata, is an inflammatory disorder that is caused by damage to the insulating covers of neurons in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting the communications in parts of the nervous system. This disruption can result in physical, mental, and psychiatric symptoms. It is unknown what cause the damage to the cell covers. But both environmental and genetic factors may cause multiple sclerosis (MS). There is no cure for this disorder.

Symptoms of MS include "physical (visions, balance problems and dizziness, fatigue, bladder problems, and stiffness and/or spasms), sensory, memory, cognitive, emotional, and sexual problems," according to the review.

Ginsan extracts
Animal studies hint that an acidic polysaccharide of Panax ginseng was able to ameliorate experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal model for human multiple sclerosis. The review author and colleagues confirmed that pretreatment of Panax ginseng extract can delay the onset of clinical symptoms and improve the severity of this animal disease that is similar to human MS. A human trial to test supplementation with 100, 200, and 400 mg per day of American ginseng in 56 patients suffering MS and fatigue for six weeks found American ginseng does not help fatigue in MS patients although no serious adverse events were observed in the study group. It should be noted that not all ginseng products are the same. It is considered by some consumers that American ginseng has a weaker potency than Korean red ginseng. In any case, this trial does not indicate that Korean red ginseng has no beneficial effect against MS and related fatigue.

In summary, Panax ginseng has many bioactive phytochemicals - mainly ginsenosides that can help protect against neurodegenerative diseases or disorders and Panax ginseng or ginsenosides preparations may potentially be used as drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease although the mechanisms are not fully understood.

(29 Oct. 2013). Food Consumer. Panax Ginseng Helps Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease. www.foodconsumer.org.