Ginseng is a known medicinal herb that has been used as a remedy to treat many symptoms in eastern culture. The active constituents of ginseng called ginsenosides show many pharmacological properties.
Among various health benefits, the roles of ginsenosides in liver functions have been attracting researchers since it has been reported to exert promising therapeutic effects in regulating liver disorders including hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver diseases, etc.
Researchers from South Korean recently published a study in the Journal of Ginseng Research, which revealed that supplementing red ginseng (rich in ginsenosides Rg1, Rb1, and Rg3) significantly improved liver enzymes and fatigue scores to help patients with fatty liver diseases.
Fatty liver, known as hepatic steatosis, is a condition in which excess fat builds up in the liver. Fatty liver can be divided into the alcoholic fatty liver and non-alcoholic fatty liver.
The researchers of the study focused on investigating the effects of ginseng and ginsenosides on nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases.
The clinical trial recruited a total of 94 patients, and 45 participants were assigned to the ginseng-treated group and received 2000 mg/day (ginsenosides Rg1/Rb1/Rg3 4.5 mg/g), and 49 participants were in the placebo group. The trial lasted for 30 days.
The trial results showed that red ginseng effectively improved liver enzymes, shown by an increased presence of lactobacillus associated with improved the level of liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase.
Fatigue scores also showed a significant reduction in the red ginseng-treated group.
Gut microbiota contributed to this result. The disturbance in the composition of the gut microbiota is thought to be associated with hepatic inflammation. Red ginseng may fight non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases by modulating gut microbiota in the study.
The role of ginsenosides in chronic alcohol-related liver diseases was also investigated in previous studies.
In a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, ginsenoside Rk3, a kind of active ingredients in ginseng, show protection against alcohol-induced liver injury in mice.
In the study, ginsenoside Rk3 was found to reduce oxidative stress and inhibiting the expression of inflammatory cytokines and apoptotic proteins in the liver.
Another clinical study also found that ginsenosides in red ginseng extract could bring positive therapeutic effects in patients with chronic liver diseases.
Researchers found that a combination of ginsenosides and medical therapy exerted brilliant synergistic effects, compared to single-agent use.
In the clinical study involving 30 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and another 30 with liver cirrhosis, ginsenosides supplementation significantly improved liver function and reduced tumor markers in the patients.
Though these studies indicate the promising therapeutic effects of ginsenosides against liver disease, there is still a long way to go in further research and more large-cohort studies are needed to establish evidence.
With more clinical studies indicating the therapeutic effects of ginsenosides, a large number of people have been taking ginseng to help treat liver diseases.
In general, ginseng is a very safe medicinal remedy and no specific adverse side effects have been reported.
Some high-quality ginsenoside supplements are available in the market and a Canadian brand is outstanding on Amazon for it features sixteen highly active rare ginsenosides in high concentration.