, Volume 91, Issue 1, pp 15-22

Ginseng root prevents learning disability and neuronal loss in gerbils with 5-minute forebrain ischemia

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Abstract

The present study was designed to investigate the possible neuroprotective activity of ginseng roots in 5-min ischemic gerbils using a step-down passive avoidance task and subsequent neuron and synapse counts in the hippocampal CA1 region. The following drugs were administered for 7 days before the induced ischemia: red ginseng powder (RGP), crude ginseng saponin (CGS), crude ginseng non-saponin (CGNS), and pure ginsenosides Rb1, Rg1 and Ro. Oral administration of RGP significantly prevented the ischemia-induced decrease in response latency, as determined by the passive avoidance test, and rescued a significant number of ischemic hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons in a dose-dependent manner. Intraperitoneal injections of CGS exhibited a similar neuroprotective effect. CGNS had a significant but less potent protective effect against impaired passive avoidance task and degeneration of hippocampal CA1 neurons. Ginsenoside Rb1 significantly prolonged the response latency of ischemic gerbils and rescued a significant number of ischemic CA1 pyramidal neurons, whereas ginisenosides Rg1 and Ro were ineffective. Postischemic treatment with RGP, CGS or ginsenoside Rb1 was ineffective. The neuroprotective activities of RGP, CGS and ginsenoside Rb1 were confirmed by electron microscopy counts of synapses in individual strata of the CA1 field of ischemic gerbils pretreated with the drugs. These findings suggest that RGP and CGS are effective in the prevention of delayed neuronal death, and that ginsenoside Rb1 is one of the neuroprotective molecules within ginseng root.

Received: 22 May 1995 / Revised, accepted: 14 August 1995