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Recently Big Pharma's Tamiflu was exposed as ineffective against the flu. But researchers have discovered that natural ginseng extract may succeed where patented synthetic chemicals have failed.
Scientists from Georgia State University's Institute for Biomedical Sciences partnered with a university in South Korea for a study. They found that ginseng can help treat and prevent influenza A. They also found that ginseng may be effective to treat and prevent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. RSV affects millions of people. It's the leading cause of inflammatory bronchiolitis pneumonia and viral death in infants and in some elderly adults.[i]
The research was triggered in part by concerns with the existing influenza vaccines which need to be administered annually and provide no protection against pandemic strains and bird flu. In addition, there are no vaccines for RSV.
The researchers found that red ginseng extract improves the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with the influenza virus. They also found that it reduced the expression of genes that cause inflammation. The author believes that red ginseng extract's beneficial effects may result from its antioxidant powers and its ability to modify immune response.
A related study by the same author found Korean red ginseng extract improved the survival of human lung epithelial cells against RSV infection. It also inhibited the virus from replicating, or multiplying, in the body.
The Korean red ginseng extract also suppressed the expression of RSV-induced inflammatory genes. Animals administered the extract had lower viral levels after being infected with RSV.
Panax ginseng is one of the most commonly used herbal medicines. It has been used for centuries in Asia as well as among Native American Indians.
Ginseng has previously been reported to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory and immune modifying abilities.
Panax ginseng has also been shown to enhance the immune system by stimulating natural killer cells, T-cells, and B-cells.[ii] In addition, whole ginseng extracts and ginseng compounds inhibit oxidative stress and modulate the antioxidant defense systems.[iii]
Ginseng is available in the form of capsules and powder. You'll also see it in energy drinks and teas. The root itself can be eaten raw or chewed or added to soups or stews.
For more information on the power of ginseng, visit GreenMedInfo's ginseng research page.
[i] Jong Lee, Hye Hwang, Eun-Ju Ko, Yu-Na Lee, Young-Man Kwon, Min-Chul Kim, Sang-Moo Kang. Immunomodulatory Activity of Red Ginseng against Influenza A Virus Infection. Nutrients, 2014; 6 (2): 517 DOI: 10.3390/nu6020517
[ii] Takei, M.; Tachikawa, E.; Umeyama, A. Dendritic cells promoted by ginseng saponins drive a potent Th1 polarization. Biomark. Insights 2008, 3, 269–286.
[iii] Hong, C.E.; Lyu, S.Y. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of Korean red ginseng extract in human keratinocytes. Immune Netw. 2011, 11, 42–49.