Scientifically-Proven New Efficacies of Korean ginseng

Can even cure liver cancer and cirrhosis

Everyone who is even slightly health-conscious would know some medicinal effects of Korean ginseng. Anti-cancer, improvement of blood flow, strengthening of immunity, anti-diabetic function, treatment of menopausal disorders, improvement of fatigue and stress resistance, enhancement of stamina and skin beauty, relief from hangover, prevention of motion sickness, and improvement of the cerebral function: these efficacies of ginseng are not mentioned in the ancient books on Oriental medicine but were proven by modern science through various clinical trials over the last 50 years. To date, 6,000 papers on the efficacy of ginseng have been published. As the research continues, in the not-so-distant future, that Korean ginseng is an elixir of life, and its scientific name – panax ginseng (Panax means “panacea” in Greek) - may prove to be true.
Research on ginseng’s efficacy in treating diverse diseases has been performed, but no research has been performed on ginseng’s efficacy in treating particularly liver diseases.

Some disagree that ginseng can treat or prevent liver diseases, arguing that ginseng’s toxicity may even destroy the liver. In the 10th International Ginseng Symposium held in September 2010 and organized by Korean Society of Ginseng, with sponsorship by MFAFF, a surprising clinical-trial result was reported: Korean ginseng (red ginseng) proved to be effective in treating liver cancer and cirrhosis, not to mention general liver diseases.

Maximizing the effect of treatment together with medications.

A significant study by the team of Dr. Mossad of Egypt’s National Research Institute added to the body of research on ginseng’s efficacy in treating diseases. Dr. Mossad has published more than 110 papers in international journals, and acts as the reviewers of 20 international journals. As such, he is a world-renowned scholar. He was selected as the International Health Professional of the Year in 2007 and 2009. Currently, he is also a joint editor of five international journals.

The research team conducted a clinical trial on liver cancer patients and on patients suffering from C-type virus cirrhosis (patients with hepatitis C worsened into cirrhosis).

A group consisting of 30 male and 30 female liver cancer patients was given medication treatment along with the intake of 900mg red ginseng, and a similar group was given only medication treatment. As for the patients suffering from C-type virus cirrhosis, the same numbers of male and female patients were given medication treatment along with the intake of 600mg red ginseng, and a similar group was given only medication treatment. The session lasted for 11weeks, during which the subjects were observed. As a result, the blood virus numbers of the C-type virus cirrhosis patients who took 600mg red ginseng daily while being given medication treatment were reduced by 91.8% in the males and by 41.6% in the female, higher than in the control group, which was given only medication treatment. As for the group of liver cancer patients who took 900mg red ginseng daily while being given medication treatment, the expression amount of the liver cancer indicator (a-fetoprotein-AFP) was reduced by 47% in the males and by 71% in the females, and the levels of bilirubin, protein, and prothrombin in the blood were found to have been raised. No side effects were found in the two groups that took red ginseng, offering the possibility that red ginseng can treat cirrhosis and liver cancer. No significant change was found in the two groups that were given only medication treatment.

Dr. Mossad’s team reported: “Liver cancer is the world’s fifth major common malignant tumor. Around the world, its incidence has increased by 3~9% over the last ten years, making it a serious disease. Patients who were not cured with medication treatment alone were treated with Korean red ginseng. This clinical trial proved that Korean ginseng is very effective in treating C-type virus cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Liver cancer is the world’s fifth most frequently occurring cancer, as pointed out by Dr. Mossad, but its situation in South Korea is more serious. According to the country’s 2008 cancer statistics, liver cancer is the second major cause of death in the country, after lung cancer. A total of 15,000 patients die in South Korea every year due to liver cancer. Notably, liver, gastric, and lung cancer are the three most frequently occurring types of cancer in male, and liver cancer is the no.1 cause of mortality among 40-year-old or older males. Of the OECD member countries, South Korea is ranked first in liver cancer incidence and liver cancer mortality rate.

The liver, known as a silent organ, does not show overt symptoms of disease, particularly of cancer, making it difficult to detect the disease early. The major causes of liver cancer in South Korea include hepatitis B (70%, including cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis), hepatitis C (10%), alcoholic liver disease (10%), and fatty liver (10%). Hepatitis B has been on the decrease due to increased vaccination, and hepatitis C is mostly caused by accidents in blood transfusion and will decrease if blood safety management will be enforced.

Highly effective in treating alcoholic and fatty-liver disease

The real problem is the alcoholic and fatty-liver diseases. The number of people afflicted with these two disease types is steadily increasing. Notably, the number of fatty-liver patients is on the rise due to immoderate drinking and obesity. According to the Korean Association for the Study of the Liver, the number of people with fatty liver in South Korea increased from 7% 1988 to 28% in 2007, a fourfold increase over 20 years. Fatty liver, if not treated or immoderate drinking or eating continues, may worsen into alcoholic liver and cirrhosis.

In this connection, in the 10th International Ginseng Symposium, the following clinical-study result was reported: Not only can Korean ginseng improve fatty liver; it can also effectively inhibit the accumulation of liver fat, which cause fatty liver. This report drew much attention as it showed that Korean ginseng is effective in preventing fatty liver caused by a high-fat diet as well as liver damage.

Dr. Song Yong-beom’s team in the R&D Division of Korea Ginseng Corporation conducted a 12-week clinical study on a red ginseng diet in mice, where diverse diet types were administered, namely: a normal diet, a high-fat diet, a high-fat+0.5%-red-ginseng diet, and a high-fat+1.0%-red-ginseng diet. As a result, the mice on a high-fat diet accumulated fat and had increased liver weight as well as higher levels of neutral fats and cholesterol, while the mice on a red-ginseng diet distinctively showed opposite result. Dr. Song explained, “As liver fats and neutral fats cause fatty liver, we know that the-ginseng diet is effective in ameliorating fatty-liver symptoms.

Protecting against new flu and cold: Proving that Korean ginseng strengthens the body’s immunity

The food we take and the air we breathe contain germs and viruses that communicate diseases. Unsanitary foods and air pollution cannot be fundamentally prevented even by the government’s regulation efforts. Why do we not contract various diseases then? This is because our body has innate immunity. The body filters incoming foreign matter first through sneezing and vomiting, and the pathogens (bacteria) that are not filtered and that are absorbed into the body are attacked and killed by the immunocytes, thereby protecting the body. When the pathogens and immunocytes win in the war and end it, the scars will be healed, and new cells will grow. Moreover, if the body wins the attacks (antigens), it will develop immunity (antibodies), preventing it from contracting a disease. Vaccination aims to create antibodies against diseases.

Natural killer cells, leucocytes (lymphocytes), and macrophages get involved in this immunity response to attacks from pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Immunity refers to how vigorously these body elements can be activated to prevent diseases, and how quickly they can form antibodies. For people who have eaten soured food, some are not affected while others are poisoned, and for people who have inhaled the same air, some contract new flu while others are not affected. This is because people’s immunity levels differ.

Rats infected with new flu but that were vaccinated and given Korean ginseng survived 100%

The immunity increase effect of Korean ginseng, particularly red ginseng, has been proven by numerous scientists. Moreover, red ginseng’s effect of preventing avian flu has been proven domestically. This is why in 2009, when new flu hit the world aggressively, red-ginseng products were sold like hotcakes as people have heard about the immunity-increasing effect of Korean ginseng. While it was proven, however, that red ginseng boosts whole-body immunity, it was not been proven in clinical studies that red ginseng is effective in preventing new flu. In the 10th International Ginseng Symposium held in seoul in September 2010, however, a study on the effect of Korean ginseng (red ginseng) on new flu was reported.

The Study concluded that red ginseng is effective in protecting against infection with new flu, and in further increasing the efficacy of the new-flu vaccinations. The interest in these study results has risen as new flu, superbacteria, and other new infection sources are recently emerging as international issues.

Professor Kang Sang-mu of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology of Emory University College of Medicine in the U.S. used a rat infection model to study the effect of red ginseng on the new-flu-affected living-organism reaction and mortality rate, as well as on new flu vaccination. Rats to which 10mg red ginseng was administered daily, and normal rats, were infected with a high concentration of the H1N1 virus that greatly spread and was much publicized in 2009. The changes in weight and survival rate in the two groups were then compared. Of the normal rats, over 25% lost weight, and their survival rate was 66%. In particular, the survival rates proved to be higher in the rats that had been infected with a low concentration of H1N1 virus. The control group registered only a 20% survival rate while the rats that took red ginseng registered a high 80% survival rate. Te survival rate difference was 60%.

In addition, normal rats, rats that were only vaccinated against new flu, and rats that were both vaccinated and took ginseng were infected with the H1N1 virus, and their survival rates were compared. The rats that were both vaccinated and took red ginseng registered a 100% survival rate while the rats that were only vaccinated showed a 60% survival rate, showing a 40% difference.
On the other hand, the rats that took red-ginseng, when vaccinated with new flu, showed resistance not only against new flu but also against seasonal cold, proving that red ginseng can induce cross-immunity against various types of cold.

Impact on NK cell activity, and rise in antibodies

In addition, it was reported in the forementioned symposium that in a study conducted by President of Italy’s Pharmacotherapy Society and University of Milan Medical College professor Scaglione, Korean ginseng was shown through clinical trials to be effective in greatly lowering the infection with seasonal influenza, and in promoting vaccination efficacy. In this study, 227 subjects were randomly sampled from three clinical centers in Milan. One group took placeboes, and the other took ginseng to observe the incidence of influenza and ordinary cold. The subjects in the two groups were not told what medicines they took (double-blind test).

In the 12-week study, Scaglione’s team inoculated both the placebo group and the ginseng group, which took 100mg ginseng extracts daily, with influenza vaccines at the fourth week, and thereafter, for eight weeks, they evaluated and compared the subjects’ influenza infection, cold incidence, immunocyte activity, and antibody titer. As a result, in the ginseng group with 114 subjects, 15(13%) contracted influenza or ordinary cold, while in the the placebo group with 113 subject, 42(37%) did, showing a big contrast. This suggests that ginseng extracts raised the subjects’ NK cell activity and antibodies. This was confirmed in the comparison of the immunocyte activity levels and antibody titer of the experimental and placebo groups. In the group that took 100mg ginseng extracts daily and that was inoculated with influenza vaccines, the NH cell activity was doubled, and an antibody titer of 272 units was found, showing an increase of 100 units, as opposed to the group that was inoculated only with influenza vaccines.

On the other hand, ginseng extracts raise the antibiotic treatment effects against diseases caused by bacteria infection. Scaglione’s team conducted a study on 75 chronic-bronchitis patients. As a result, compared with the group that was given only antibiotic medication, the group that was given both antibiotic medication and ginseng extracts showed a faster decrease in the bacteria count, and faster recovery. As such, Professor Seo Ju-yeong of the Microbiology Laboratory of Ewha Women’s University Medical Graduate School stated, “(This study) proved that ginseng is effective in bolstering the human body’s immunity against both virus and bacterial infections, making it very meaningful.”

Is a stamina booster,  A natural Viagra

The ginseng from Mt. Jangbaek has been exhausted, and honey containers have been emptied across the nation. These are the words of the song that parodied Yeonsangun, a king during the Joseon Dynasty who enjoyed ginseng cakes, who was infamous for his self-indulgent lifestyle, and who mismanaged his state affairs. Ginseng cake, a type of honey-marinated ginseng, was eaten together with liquor or tea. Ginseng has long been recognized as a stamina booster. In particular, it was perceived as essential for boosting the male sexual stamina.

King Yeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty, who lived for 83 years, regarded ginseng as the premier health food and ate as much as 12kg of it in a year at 72. Ginseng is also known as a stamina booster in Europe. France’s leading weekly Le Nouvel Observateur revealed the efficacy of ginseng under the theme of “love portion” in its August 15, 1991 issue cover story. In this article, sexology expert Dr. Cwain Berg Emphasized, “Ginseng’s scientific name Panax means “panacea”. Ginseng not only helps recover stamina but also promotes sexual hormone secretion, making it a natural tonic.”

Promoting sexual hormone secretion and improving erectility

Male-sexual-function problems affect mainly two things: reproduction and erectility. For the reproduction problem, a growing number of males become sterile. Sterility comes from aspermia, oligozoospermia, and lack of sperm motility. These disorders lead to the birth of deformed children and are attributable to the environmental pollution caused by industrialization. Notably, 50-year-old males see their sperm function rapidly weaken. This may be a natural aging phenomenon, but such weakening varies greatly from one person to another. Another problem is male erectile dysfunction. This refers to a disorder in which the penis does not become erect enough to allow sex, or even if the penis is erected, such erection cannot be maintained for a certain time.

In a recently conducted noteworthy study on male sexual dysfunction, it was reported that red ginseng helps restore the function of the testicles, which produce sperms. This is good news for sterile patients or for couples in the menopausal stage who want to have a baby. In the 10th International Ginseng Symposium, Daejeon University Clinical Pathology Division, Konkuk University Life Science Division, and KGC reported the results of their joint study on the effect of Korean red ginseng on the recessed functions of the testicles in old white rats.

In a recently study using white rats, Konkuk University professor Kim Si-qwan et al. analyzed the blood biochemical parameters and conducted a histological observation of the seminiferous tubules inside the testicles to analyze the sperm formation process and the sperms’ motility. The results of this showed that Korean red ginseng effectively recovered the recessed function if the testicles due to aging and environmental toxic substances. Notably, various recessed sexual functions due to aging distinctively improved. Moreover, ginseng normalized the abnormally raised hormone levels and increased the male hormone contents.

Males are usually greatly interested in erectility, and many men want to scientifically confirm if ginseng can boost their sexual power, erectility, and sexual satisfaction. No specific study, however, has confirmed this. The team led by Professor Choe Yeong-deok of Yonsei University Severance Hospital Urology Department conducted a study on the efficacy of ginseng from June to October 2007, targeting 73 outpatients, and concluded that red ginseng is effective in improving the male sexual function. In the study, two groups were formed, one of which took four 20mg capsules of red-ginseng extract a day while the other took placebos. The subjects were not told if they were given true ginseng or placebo. Four months later, their erectility was measured. Male erectility is based on (IIEF5+1) (International Index of Erectile Function), whose total score is 30. The scores of the red-ginseng-capsule takers rose from 17.1 to 23.2. For the placebo takers, in the other hand, their scores rose from 17.7 to 19.6. Moreover, the sexual satisfaction of the red-ginseng-capsule takers rose greatly from 6.5 to 9.7 while that of the placebo group rose from 7.2 to 8.6.

Similar to the low-dose erectile dysfunction drugs

Choe’s team reported that red ginseng offers erectile enhancement effects similar to those offered by low-dose erectile dysfunction drugs. The team found that ginseng’s active ingredient, saponin, helps recover the erectile function. According to the results of past studies using animals, the core ginseng ingredient saponin (Ginsenoside Rg3) works on the testicles, facilitating the secretion of male hormones, amplifying the blood flow to the genitals’ blood vessels, and thus enhancing erectility. According to Choe’s team, red ginseng is particularly effective for men who experience abnormally fast heartbeat when taking erectile dysfunction drugs. Some placebo effects are attributed to the subjects’ psychological makeup.

Prior to the aforementioned study, at the Congress of the European Society for Sexual Medicine held in London, UK in December 2004, the team led by Brazil’s Dr. Enrico Andrade reported a study where red ginseng was found to be effective in reversing erectile dysfunction.

In his team’s study, 60 men suffering from erectile dysfunction were divided into two groups. The experimental group took Korean ginseng three times a day for 12 weeks while the control group took placebos. The study results showed a significant difference between the groups. In the red-ginseng-taker group, little concern was indicated over the side effects of red ginseng, such as a change in the male hormone or cholesterol level. Ginseng boasts being a natural drug while chemical-ingredients-based erectile dysfunction drugs may have side effects. This is why experts argue that ginseng should be developed into a natural erectile dysfunction drug without side effects to boost the male sexual stamina fundamentally and not only temporarily. With fake erectile dysfunction drugs being rampant and the side effects of chemical-ingredients-based drugs being reported, and amid the growing number of males experiencing a fall in sexual function or erectile dysfunction due to diabetes and hypertension among other adult diseases, ginseng could be a natural Viagra.

Makes children smart and elderly people bright.

In traditional Oriental medicine, Korean ginseng is considered immensely effective in improving mental disorders and in enhancing the cerebral functions. According to China’s ancient premier book on medications, Shennong’s Classic of Materia Medica, ginseng calms people’s mind, opens their hearts, and makes them wiser. On the other hand, according to Donguibogam (Exemplars of Korean Medicine), ginseng controls people’s minds/spirits/nerves, opens their hearts, and boosts their memory. The recently compiled Korean Herbal-Medicine Encyclopedia says that ginseng revitalizes the brain’s activities and mental functions, and sharpens the eyesight, hearing, thinking, memory, and concentration. These claims of traditional Oriental medicine are being proven by modern science one after another. Specifically, ginseng improves the cholinergic system, which is related to learning and memory, as well as the metabolic functions of the brain, enhances the function of learning, improves recessed memory, and promotes the differentiation of cultured nerve calls and growth, thereby reviving the cerebral cells. This fact was proven through clinical studies conducted by a number of scientists.

Korean ginseng improves dementia twice

This efficacy of ginseng triggers talks about Korean ginseng’s effect on brain development. Patients with dementia, their family, parents who have children undergoing growth stages, and brain workers, who should use their brains optimally, are very much interested in ginseng. With the population aging, patients with dementia will more than double every 20 tears, reaching 81.1 million by 2040. The good news about Korean ginseng’s efficacy, however, has spread. Rural Development Administration (RDA), under the control of MIFAFF, announced that in a study it conducted in July, steadily taken white ginseng, among the different types of Korean ginseng, more than doubled the improvement of the cerebral cells by no less than 88%. Accordingly, RDA, together with Kyunghee University, conducted a ginseng efficacy study targeting 90 patients with mild cognitive disorders developing into recessed memory and cognition (i.e., a state between normal aging and dementia).

For six months, the subjects took 3g white ginseng powder a day, and were made to undergo nerve and cognitive function examinations. The subjects’ visual learning involving drawing the given pictures and patterns, and visual recall involving drawing them 20 minutes later, from their memory, were evaluated. Eighteen picture questions were given, with a total score of 36, and each question was rated on a scale of 0.5 point, 1 point, and 2 points. The control group took placebos. Both groups were compared.

As a result, there were distinct differences in the experimental group before and after taking the power. The subjects’ visual learning improved (18.1 points from 13.2, up by 4.9) along with their visual recall (16.9 points from 12.9, up by 4.0). On the other hand, in the placebo group, the subjects’ visual learning improved (14.8 points from 12.3, up by 2.5) along with their visual recall (14.2 points from 12.7, up by 1.5). As opposed to the subjects who did not take white ginseng, the subjects who took white ginseng doubled their visual-learning ability and improved their visual-recall ability 2.7-fold. RDA researcher Kim Yeong-ok, who led this study, said, “White ginseng is useful for maintaining and improving the memory in those whose memory and cognitive function are already gradually degenerating.”

In the 10th International Ginseng Symposium, the results of an array of new studies were reported. Seoul Medical Center Neurology Department manager, Dr. Heo Jae-hyeok and Seoul National University Hospital Neurology Department professor Kim Man-ho, and clinical instructor Lee Sun-tae reported the results of a clinical study on ginseng’s clinical efficacy on Alzheimer patients’ cognitive function. They reported that ginseng’s major ingredient, ginsenoside, influenced the subjects’ cognitive functions in diverse ways. They also reported a study in which among 97 Alzheimer patients, the group of ginseng takers showed better-improved scores in Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale – Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-cog) and Mini-mental-state Examination (MMSE) compared to the group of non-ginseng takers. When the ginseng eaters stopped eating ginseng, however, their scores in these indices became lower.

In addition, to determine the efficacy of ginseng, 61 Alzheimer patients were divided into a group taking 4.5g red ginseng, a group taking 9g, and a group not taking red ginseng. As a result, the ADAS and clinical-dementia rating (CDR) of the group taking red ginseng daily for 12 weeks greatly improved. According to the researchers, however, “It is not yet certain whether ginseng is a temporary cognitive-function improver or a therapeutic drug that stops the progress of the disease, making its mechanism unclear. Thus, a long-term study is needed, targeting many patients.”

Treating children’s ADHD

On the other hand, ginseng’s efficacy in enhancing the cerebral functions, such as repairing mental-function disorders and improving concentration, is expected to treat children’s ADHD. This expectation is based on ginseng’s saponin ingredient, which is known to increase the concentrations of dopamin and norepinephrine in the cerebral cortex, helping improve concentration, cognitive function, and sensorimotor skills.

Dankook University Medical College professor Yim Myeong-ho reported in the January 2010 issue of Korean Journal of Psycho pharmacology (Vol.21, No.1) that the daily administration for eight weeks of 1800mg ginseng to a child with ADHD who had not been on medication treatment was proven to have had a significant treatment effect. The subject child was a 7-year-old boy who was diagnosed with mental disorder and ADHD via DSM-Ⅳ. His pretreatment clinical global impression changed. That is, while he scored 4, 14, and 18 points, respectively, for Corner ADHD, and DuPaul ADHD pretreatment, after two weeks of taking ginseng, the scores became 3, 6, and 9 points, respectively, and after eight weeks, 2, 5, and 3, points, showing gradual improvement. His computer-continuous-attention score was abnormally high before the treatment but fell significantly when he started to take ginseng.

According to Professor Yim, “This study concerned a short-term ginseng treatment effect for only one patient, making it difficult to assess ginseng’s ADHD treatment effect. Thus, there is a need to reconfirm ginseng’s ADHD treatment effect by targeting a large number of children with ADHD.” If the future research proves ginseng’s ADHD treatment effect, it is expected that ginseng will be used for supplementary therapy to the existing medication treatment.

On the other hand, ADHD affects one out of 10 children aged 5-12 years, and its prevalence rate is 3-8% (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry), making it an important child and adolescent mental disease. ADHD involves continuous attention deficiency, disruptive behavior, and impulse symptoms. According to Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA), the number of domestic ADHD patients more than quadrupled, from 6,198 in 2004 to 25,429 in 2008.

* Source: Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in KOREA / Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation

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