A significant study conducted by Chinese scientists identified nine antitumor targets of ginsenosides, which suggests that ginsenosides can be promisingly developed into anticancer drugs.
The research team led by Professor Jin Yinghua of the School of Life Sciences at Jilin University successfully identified the antitumor targets of ginsenosides, which provides conclusive evidence for the anticancer efficacy of ginsenosides. The study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, was the first to identify the molecular target of ginsenoside Rh2 for its anticancer activity.
Ginsenosides are the main active components in the plant genus Panax. As the metabolites of prototype ginsenosides, rare ginsenosides exhibit pharmacological activities in many aspects, such as antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antifatigue and analgesic properties. However, their targets and molecular mechanisms of anticancer action are unclear, which is why the anticancer property of ginseng has not been widely recognized by the international medical community. For this reason, the application of ginsenosides in anticancer practices is limited to dietary supplements rather than drugs.
In 2014, Jin Yinghua’s research team began to conduct a systematic biological screening for the potential molecular targets of ginsenosides. After more than three years of hard work, 47 targets were discovered and 9 tumor-related targets were successfully identified through modern biological research methods. This result suggests that ginseng can be used to develop anticancer drugs.
“Only small molecular weight rare ginsenosides which are metabolized from ginsenosides by digestive enzymes and gut flora can be absorbed by human bodies. The types and numbers of human gut flora vary from person to person, leading to huge individual differences in the absorption and utilization of ginsenosides. Generally, ginseng only functions in a small population, and its efficacy is not obvious in most individuals. When overdosed, ginseng can cause some side effects like getting excessive internal heat and increasing blood pressure. For this, scientific processing techniques are required to convert ginsenosides into rare ginsenosides that are superior with high active anticancer activities,” said Prof. Jin.
Ginsenosides bring limited anticancer benefits because the high molecular weights make them extremely difficult to be absorbed by human bodies. In contrast, rare ginsenosides, which are transformed and metabolized from ginsenosides, are characterized by small molecular weights and high anticancer activities.
The study confirmed the anticancer bioactivity of ginsenosides, which is informative for those who are in doubt about the anticancer efficacy of ginsenosides.