Therapeutic Potential of Ginseng in the Management of Cardiovascular Disorders

Abstract

Although employed in Asian societies for thousands of years, the use of ginseng as an herbal medication for a variety of disorders has increased tremendously worldwide in recent years. Ginseng belongs to the genus Panax, of which there exists a variety, generally reflecting their geographic origin. North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) are two such varieties possessing a plethora of pharmacological properties, which are attributed primarily to the presence of different ginsenosides that bestow these ginsengs with distinct pharmacodynamic profiles.

The many cardiovascular benefits attributed to ginseng include cardioprotection, antihypertensive effects, and attenuation of myocardial hypertrophy and heart failure. Experimental studies have revealed a number of beneficial properties of ginseng, particularly in the area of cardiac protection, where ginseng and ginsenosides have been shown to protect the ischaemic and reperfused heart in a variety of experimental models. Emerging evidence also suggests that ginseng attenuates myocardial hypertrophy, thus blunting the remodelling and heart failure processes. However, clinical evidence of efficacy is not convincing, likely owing primarily to the paucity of well designed, randomized, controlled clinical trials. Adding to the complexity in understanding the cardiovascular effects of ginseng is the fact that each of the different ginseng varieties possesses distinct cardiovascular properties, as a result of their respective ginsenoside composition, rendering it difficult to assign a general, common cardiovascular effect to ginseng. Additional challenges include the identification of mechanisms (likely multifaceted) that account for the effects of ginseng and determining which ginsenoside(s) mediate these cardiovascular properties. These concerns notwithstanding, the potential cardiovascular benefit of ginseng is worthy of further studies in view of its possible development as a cardiovascular therapeutic agent, particularly as adjunctive therapy to existing medications.

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Acknowledgements

Studies originating from the authors’ laboratory were funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ginseng Innovation and Research Consortium (OGIRC). M. Moey is supported by OGIRC. M. Karmazyn holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Experimental Cardiology.

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Correspondence to Professor Morris Karmazyn.

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Karmazyn, M., Moey, M. & Gan, X.T. Therapeutic Potential of Ginseng in the Management of Cardiovascular Disorders. Drugs 71, 1989–2008 (2011). https://doi.org/10.2165/11594300-000000000-00000

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Keywords

  • Ginsenosides
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transitional Pore
  • Ginseng Root
  • Ginseng Extract
  • Korean Ginseng