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Can Ginseng treat and prevent influenza?



Ginseng is the most commonly used name to refer to any of the 11 species of the perennial plant belonging to the Panax genus [1]. This perennial plant is known for its fleshy and full of properties roots. In fact, Ginseng polysaccharide has been known to have multiple immunomodulatory effects, promoting the production of cytotoxic cells against tumors and stimulating macrophages to produce helper types 1 and 2 (Th1 and Th2) cytokines [9], a type of small proteins that affect the behavior of other cells. 

Among the different species from Ginseng one is especially known for its use in traditional Chinese medicine, Panax ginseng, a plant that is known for thousands of years and that has already been used for more than 2,000 years not only in China but also in Korea, other countries in Asia and most recently Europe and the rest of the world. Its commercial importance has exponentially grown over the past century. Now the question is, Can ginseng treat and prevent influenza?


Family: Araliaceae

Genus: Panax

Common name: Ginseng 



Panax ginseng has been suggested to exert multiple biological and immunomodulatory effects and to enhance immune response, memory, and physical capabilities [2,3,4,5], properties and health benefits that have been exerted by this plant most probably due to the presence of a specific active constituent, a type of saponins named ginsenosides, of which over 30 have been identified in Panax ginseng [2,6].

The pharmacological effects of ginseng have been reported not only in the central nervous system but also in others as the cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems [2,7].



In spite several studies refer to the properties and health benefits of ginseng, not many refer to the ability that this plant has to treat influenza

Seasonal influenza is a serious respiratory disease that causes annual epidemics 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, as the H1N1 influenza virus, a new strain known as swine flu that emerged in 2009 and spread rapidly to more than 74 countries [11]. 

Some studies done on mice refer to the benefits of red ginseng extract and how this significantly increased survival when administered prior to infection.

At least one study referred how mice survival increased after oral administration of Panax ginseng and after infection with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus [8], a highly pathogenic influenza virus endemic in many countries and with a great potential for causing a pandemic in humans [2]. 

According to research findings by a scientist in Georgia State University's new Institute for Biomedical Sciences [11] and a study published in Nutrients, Sang-Moo Kang, associate professor at Georgia State University, red ginseng extract, a functional food that has been well known for keeping good health due to its anti-fatigue and immunomodulating activities [10], improves the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with influenza virus [11].

The immune-enhancing prowess of ginseng has been known for millennia. Red Ginseng could be better protected from the lethal infections of H5N1 influenza virus.

Data suggest that the diet with the immune-enhancing Red Ginseng could help humans to overcome the infections by H5N1 influenza virus as data suggest that the diet with the immune-enhancing Red Ginseng could help humans to overcome the infections by HP H5N1 influenza virus [2].

Other studies suggest how intranasal co-administration with inactivated influenza virus A and ginseng or Salviae extract increased the levels of influenza virus-specific antibodies and neutralizing activities and provided protective immunity [12]. 

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more info.



[1] Wikipedia article on Ginseng
[2] Red Ginseng-containing diet helps to protect mice and ferrets from the lethal infection by highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus. Park EH, Yum J, Ku KB, Kim HM, Kang YM, Kim JC, Kim JA, Kang YK, Seo SH.
[3] Singh V.K., George C.X., Singh N., Agarwal S.S., Gupta B.M. Combined treatment of mice with Panax ginseng extract and interferon inducer. Amplification of host resistance to Semliki forest virus. Planta Med. 1983;47:234–236.
[4] Singh V.K., Agarwal S.S., Gupta B.M. Immunomodulatory activity of Panax ginseng extract. Planta Med. 1984;50:462–465.
[5] Petkov V.D., Mosharrof A.H. Effects of standardized ginseng extract on learning, memory and physical capabilities. Am J Chin Med. 1987;15:19–29.
[6] Liu C.X., Xiao P.G. Recent advances on ginseng research in China. J Ethnopharmacol. 1992;36:27–38.
[7] Attele A.S., Wu J.A., Yuan C.S. Ginseng pharmacology: multiple constituents and multiple actions. Biochem Pharmacol. 1999;58:1685–1693.
[8] Protective effect of Korean red ginseng extract on the infections by H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses in mice. Yoo DG1, Kim MC, Park MK, Song JM, Quan FS, Park KM, Cho YK, Kang SM.
[9] Protective Effect of Ginseng Polysaccharides on Influenza Viral Infection Dae-Goon Yoo,1,2 Min-Chul Kim,1 Min-Kyung Park,3,4 Kyoung-Mi Park,1 Fu-Shi Quan,5 Jae-Min Song,3,6 Jae Joon Wee,7 Bao-Zhong Wang,1 Young-Keol Cho,8 Richard W. Compans,1 and Sang-Moo Kang
[10] Preventive effect of Korean red ginseng for acute respiratory illness: a randomized and double-blind clinical trial. Lee CS1, Lee JH, Oh M, Choi KM, Jeong MR, Park JD, Kwon DY, Ha KC, Park EO, Lee N, Kim SY, Choi EK, Kim MG, Chae SW.
[11] Georgia State University Article Ginseng Can Treat And Prevent Influenza And Respiratory Virus, Researcher Finds 
[12] Ginseng and Salviae herbs play a role as immune activators and modulate immune responses during influenza virus infection. Quan FS1, Compans RW, Cho YK, Kang SM.
[12] Pixibay image under Public Domain License CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).