Ginseng, a herb which has long been used in traditional Chinese and other Asian medicine, naturally contains anti-inflammatory effects that may be used to make immunological medications, according to a study.
Led by Allan Lau, a team of researchers from the University of Hong Kong conducted laboratory experiments and identified seven ginseng constituents, ginsenosides, which showed immune-suppressive effects.
"The anti-inflammatory role of ginseng may be due to the combined effects of these ginsenosides, targeting different levels of immunological activity, and so contributing to the diverse actions of ginseng in humans," said Lau.
Treating human immune cells with different extracts of ginseng, the researchers found that out of the nine ginsenosides they had identified, seven could selectively inhibit expression of the inflammatory gene CXCL-10.
Lau concluded: "Further studies will be needed to examine the potential beneficial effects of ginsenosides in the management of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases in humans."
Taking a unique approach, the researchers could holistically test the ginseng extract's immune effects by using sophisticated purification technologies to identify individual constituents, and define their bioactivity using genomics and bioactivity assays.
The team then reconstituted them back into a whole extract with definable individual ginsenosides for re-confirmation of effects.
Thus, the findings open up the doors towards a vigorous methodology to study medicinal herbs with state-of-the-art technologies.
The study has been published in BioMed Central's open access Journal of Translational Medicine.