Stiff Arteries? American Ginseng Improves Vascular Function, Among Many Other Studies Benefits

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In the face of the global diabetes and hypertension epidemic, researchers are turning to natural remedies like American ginseng to improve vascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Type 2 diabetes and hypertension are two chronic conditions that often coexist, significantly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Arterial stiffness, a hallmark of vascular aging and dysfunction, is a key contributor to the development of CVD in these patients.1 While conventional medications remain the mainstay of treatment, there is growing interest in complementary and alternative medicine approaches, such as herbal remedies, to improve vascular health. One such herb is American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.), a close relative of the well-known Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng).

American Ginseng and Arterial Stiffness: A Promising Study

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Mucalo et al.2 investigated the effects of American ginseng on arterial stiffness and blood pressure in individuals with type 2 diabetes and concomitant hypertension. The study included 64 participants who were randomly assigned to receive either 3g of American ginseng extract or placebo daily for 12 weeks, in addition to their usual anti-diabetic and antihypertensive therapy.

The researchers measured arterial stiffness using the augmentation index (AI), a non-invasive measure of arterial wave reflection and a predictor of cardiovascular risk.3 They also assessed blood pressure at baseline and after the 12-week intervention period.

The results were promising. Compared to placebo, the group receiving American ginseng experienced a significant 5.3% reduction in radial AI (P=0.041) and an 11.7% reduction in systolic blood pressure (P<0.001) after 12 weeks.2 These findings suggest that American ginseng may have a beneficial effect on vascular function and blood pressure control in individuals with type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Mechanisms of Action

The exact mechanisms by which American ginseng improves arterial stiffness and blood pressure are not fully understood, but several hypotheses have been proposed. The active compounds in American ginseng, known as ginsenosides, particularly the protopanaxadiol (PPD) and protopanaxatriol (PPT) types, may stimulate the production of nitric oxide (NO), a potent vasodilator.4 By increasing NO availability, American ginseng may help improve endothelial function and reduce arterial stiffness.

Additionally, ginsenosides have been shown to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,5 which may contribute to their protective effects on the vascular system. Oxidative stress and inflammation are key drivers of endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffening, and by mitigating these processes, American ginseng may help preserve vascular health.

Further Research and Clinical Implications

While the study by Mucalo et al.2 provides valuable insights into the potential of American ginseng as an adjunct therapy for vascular health in diabetes and hypertension, further research is needed to confirm these findings and elucidate the long-term effects on cardiovascular outcomes. Larger, multi-center trials with longer follow-up periods will be crucial in establishing the safety and efficacy of American ginseng in this patient population.

Moreover, it is essential to investigate the optimal dosage and formulation of American ginseng for vascular health benefits, as well as potential interactions with conventional medications. As with any herbal remedy, patients should consult their healthcare providers before incorporating American ginseng into their treatment regimens.

Beyond Vascular Health: The Multifaceted Benefits of American Ginseng

The therapeutic potential of American ginseng extends far beyond its effects on arterial stiffness and blood pressure. The research compiled in the GreenMedInfo database highlights the diverse health benefits of this remarkable herb, including:

1. Anticancer properties: American ginseng has shown promise in inhibiting the growth and proliferation of various cancer cell lines, including breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer.6-8 Its antiproliferative effects are mediated by the induction of apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, and modulation of key signaling pathways involved in cancer development9.

2. Neuroprotection and cognitive enhancement: Animal studies have demonstrated the neuroprotective effects of American ginseng in models of neurodegeneration,10 while human studies have shown improvements in working memory and cognitive function.11,12

3. Immunomodulation and infectious diseases: American ginseng polysaccharides have been shown to stimulate the immune system13 and reduce the risk and duration of respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold and influenza.14 Additionally, American ginseng has demonstrated antiviral properties against HIV15 and may help alleviate the oxidative stress associated with antiviral medications.16

4. Radioprotection: American ginseng has shown radioprotective effects, shielding human lymphocytes from radiation-induced oxidative stress17 and genotoxicity.18

These findings underscore the remarkable therapeutic versatility of American ginseng and its potential to address a wide range of health conditions beyond vascular health.

Conclusion

American ginseng emerges as a promising natural remedy for improving vascular health in individuals with type 2 diabetes and hypertension. By reducing arterial stiffness and blood pressure, this herb may help mitigate the risk of cardiovascular complications in this high-risk population. However, further research is needed to fully establish its safety and efficacy in long-term use and to optimize its integration with conventional therapies.

Moreover, the multifaceted health benefits of American ginseng, spanning from anticancer and neuroprotective effects to immunomodulation and radioprotection, highlight the immense therapeutic potential of this herb. As research continues to unravel the mechanisms underlying these diverse health benefits, American ginseng may become an increasingly valuable tool in the integrative medicine approach to health and wellness.


References

1. Laurent, Stéphane, John Cockcroft, Luc Van Bortel, Pierre Boutouyrie, Cristina Giannattasio, Daniel Hayoz, Bruno Pannier, et al. "Expert Consensus Document on Arterial Stiffness: Methodological Issues and Clinical Applications." European Heart Journal 27, no. 21 (November 2006): 2588-2605. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehl254.

2. Mucalo, Iva, Elena Jovanovski, Dario Rahelić, Velimir Božikov, Zeljko Romić, and Vladimir Vuksan. "Effect of American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius L.) on Arterial Stiffness in Subjects with Type-2 Diabetes and Concomitant Hypertension." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 150, no. 1 (October 2013): 148-53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2013.08.015.

3. Laurent, Stéphane, John Cockcroft, Luc Van Bortel, Pierre Boutouyrie, Cristina Giannattasio, Daniel Hayoz, Bruno Pannier, et al. "Expert Consensus Document on Arterial Stiffness: Methodological Issues and Clinical Applications." European Heart Journal 27, no. 21 (November 2006): 2588-2605. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehl254.

4. Lee, Chong-Ho, and Jong-Hoon Kim. "A Review on the Medicinal Potentials of Ginseng and Ginsenosides on Cardiovascular Diseases." Journal of Ginseng Research 38, no. 3 (July 2014): 161-66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jgr.2014.03.001.

5. Kim, Jong-Hoon. "Pharmacological and Medical Applications of Panax Ginseng and Ginsenosides: A Review for Use in Cardiovascular Diseases." Journal of Ginseng Research 42, no. 3 (July 2018): 264-69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jgr.2017.10.004.

6. Peralta, Elizabeth A., Laura L. Murphy, James Minnis, Somaja Louis, and Gary L. Dunnington. "American Ginseng Inhibits Induced COX-2 and NFKB Activation in Breast Cancer Cells." Journal of Surgical Research 157, no. 2 (December 2009): 261-67. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19815237/.

7. He, Bai-Cheng, Jian-Li Gao, Xiaoji Luo, Jinyong Luo, Jikun Shen, Linyuan Wang, Qixin Zhou, et al. "Ginsenoside Rg3 Inhibits Colorectal Tumor Growth through the down-Regulation of Wnt/ß-Catenin Signaling." International Journal of Oncology 38, no. 2 (February 2011): 437-45. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21152855/.

8. He, Shan, Fangqiao Lyu, Lixia Lou, Lu Liu, Songlin Li, Johannes Jakowitsch, and Yan Ma. "Anti-Tumor Activities of Panax Quinquefolius Saponins and Potential Biomarkers in Prostate Cancer." Journal of Ginseng Research 45, no. 2 (March 2021): 273-86. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33841008/.

9. Wang, Chong-Zhi, Han H. Aung, Bin Zhang, Shi Sun, Xiao-Li Li, Hui He, Jing-Tian Xie, Tong-Chuan He, Wei Du, and Chun-Su Yuan. "Chemopreventive Effects of Heat-Processed Panax Quinquefolius Root on Human Breast Cancer Cells." Anticancer Research 28, no. 5A (October 2008): 2545-51. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19035277/.

10. Lian, Xiao-Yuan, Zhizhen Zhang, and Janet L. Stringer. "Protective Effects of Ginseng Components in a Rodent Model of Neurodegeneration." Annals of Neurology 57, no. 5 (May 2005): 642-48. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15852378/.

11. Chen, Eric Y. H., and Christy L. M. Hui. "Ginseng and Schizophrenia." Phytotherapy Research 26, no. 3 (March 2012): 467-68. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22213250/.

12. Bell, Lynne, Adrian Whyte, Cindy Duysburgh, Massimo Marzorati, Pieter Van den Abbeele, Romain Le Cozannet, Pascale Fança-Berthon, Emilie Fromentin, and Claire Williams. "A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial Investigating the Acute and Chronic Benefits of American Ginseng (Cereboost®) on Mood and Cognition in Healthy Young Adults." European Journal of Nutrition 61, no. 1 (February 2022): 413-28. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34396468/.

13. Ghosh, Rajarshi, Daniel L. Bryant, Brock A. Arivett, Shannon A. Smith, Elliot Altman, Paul C. Kline, and Anthony L. Farone. "Immunostimulatory Polysaccharide Fraction from North American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius)." Current Research in Food Science 3 (November 2020): 207-16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32914137/.

14. McElhaney, Janet E., Vinti Goel, Benjamin Toane, Johnathan Hooten, and Jacqueline J. Shan. "Efficacy of COLD-fX in the Prevention of Respiratory Symptoms in Community-Dwelling Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo Controlled Trial." The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 12, no. 2 (March 2006): 153-57. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16566675/.

15. Lee, Lawrence S., Stephen D. Wise, Clark Chan, Teresa L. Parsons, Charles Flexner, and Paul S. Lietman. "Possible Differential Induction of Phase 2 Enzyme and Antioxidant Pathways by American Ginseng, Panax Quinquefolius." The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 48, no. 5 (May 2008): 599-609. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18319359/.

16. Lee, Lawrence S., Stephen D. Wise, Clark Chan, Teresa L. Parsons, Charles Flexner, and Paul S. Lietman. "Possible Differential Induction of Phase 2 Enzyme and Antioxidant Pathways by American Ginseng, Panax Quinquefolius." The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 48, no. 5 (May 2008): 599-609. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18319359/.

17. Lee, Tung-Kwang, Kevin F. O'Brien, Weidong Wang, Roberta M. Johnke, Chao Sheng, Sidi M. Benhabib, Tao Wang, and Ron R. Allison. "Radioprotective Effect of American Ginseng on Human Lymphocytes at 90 Minutes Postirradiation: A Study of 40 Cases." The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 16, no. 5 (May 2010): 561-67. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20491513/.

18. Lee, Tung-Kwang, Weidong Wang, Kevin F. O'Brien, Roberta M. Johnke, Tao Wang, Ron R. Allison, and Angelica L. Diaz. "Effect of North American Ginseng on 137Cs-Induced Micronuclei in Human Lymphocytes: A Comparison with WR-1065." Phytotherapy Research 22, no. 12 (December 2008): 1614-22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18803249/.

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