Vol. 13(10), pp. 213-226, 25 May, 2019
Article Number: F890F8B61044
Copyright © 2019
Author(s) retain the copyright of this article
Journal of Medicinal Plants Research
Full Length Research Paper
A review of Ginseng species in different regions as a
multipurpose herb in traditional Chinese medicine,
modern herbology and pharmacological science
Mohamad Hesam Shahrajabian1,2, Wenli Sun1,2 and Qi Cheng1,2*
1Biotechnology Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.
2Nitrogen Fixation Laboratory, Qi Institute, Building C4, No.555 Chuangye, Jiaxing 314000, Zhejiang, China.
Received 5 Jan, 2019; Accepted 30 April, 2019
Ginseng is the most famous of the Chinese herbs throughout the world, and has been one of the most
valued herb in China. Traditional Chinese medicine as an essential element of alternative and
complementary medicine, advanced over thousands of years with its own distinctive arrangement of
therapies, diagnostics theories and in Asian countries, particularly China. In most parts of the world,
especially western countries, Ginseng has been largely employed in recent decades and has become
renowned for its important function in treating and preventing so many diseases. Panax ginseng
consisted of a number of active constituents, like ginsenosides, nitrogenous substances,
carbohydrates, phytosterol, organic acids, essential oils, amino acids, peptidoglycans, it's repeated,
nitrogen-containing compounds, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other phenolic compounds.
Ginsenosides are classified into two main groups known as protopanaxadiol (PPD) and
protopanaxatriol (PPT). Pharmacological activities of ginseng extracts are effects on the central
nervous system, antipsychotic action, tranquilizing effects, protection from stress ulcers, increase of
gastrointestinal motility, anti-fatigue action, endocrinological effects, enhancement of sexual behaviour,
acceleration of metabolism, or synthesis of carbohydrates, lipids, RNA, and proteins. More clinical
studies are necessary to uncover the numerous substances and their effects in ginseng that contribute
to public health.
Key words: Ginseng, traditional Chinese medicine, herbology, pharmacological science.
The ancient Chinese have identified 11,146 medicinal
species from 383 families, and more than 400 of which
are widely used throughout the world (Drasar and
Moravcova, 2004; Soleymani and Shahrajabian, 2012;
Ogbaji et al., 2018; Shahrajabian et al., 2018; Soleymani
et al., 2018; Shahrajabian et al., 2019a, 2019b). Panax
ginseng (Giseng) is a well-known herb in traditional
Chinese medicine (TCM) (Hsu et al., 2013; Li et al.,
Panax means cure for all disease, as it combines the
*Corresponding author. E-mail: email@example.com.
Author(s) agree that this article remain permanently open access under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License 4.0 International License
214 J. Med. Plants Res.
Greek words pan meaning all and zxos meaning
medicine (Jeong et al., 2012). In TCM, food and medicine
are understood to share similar origin but with diverse
applications and uses (Chan et al., 2010). Thus, the
Chinese commonly incorporates variety of TCM herbs
into their diet to make a number of healthy food recipes
that are more appealing of better taste, improved texture,
and will most importantly improve one’s health (Guo et
al., 2008). TCM originates in ancient China with a 5000-
year history. Rooted in ancient eastern philosophies such
as Taoism, TCM focuses on a holistic view between
humans and nature. Through the observations of
universal principles within nature, TCM inquire from a
macro level into the microcosm of human physiology and
the mutual relationships between our body’s internal
workings and the external environment (Cheung et al.,
Traditional Chinese medicine is still commonly used in
China. More than half of the population regularly uses
traditional remedies, with the highest prevalence of use in
rural areas. About 5000 traditional remedies are available
in China; they account for approximately one fifth of the
entire Chinese pharmaceutical market. P. ginseng is often
described as the lord or king of herbs (Wen and Zimmer,
1996), which occupies an esteemed spot in TCM and
traditional oriental medicine in most countries (Xie et al.,
Panax quinquefolius is employed in TCM to treat cases
of deficiency connected with symptoms like irritability,
thirst, dryness of the mouth, fatigue, and respiratory tract
(Chen et al., 2004). The most important common names
of ginseng in different parts of the world are American
ginseng, sang, give finger root, redberry, tartar root,
man’s health, dwarf groundnut, root of life, garantogen,
ninsin, jinshard, garent-oquen, and little man. The name
ginseng comes from the Chinese words, Jen Sheng
stands for man herb due to the rhizome of the plant or
human-like shape of the root. The word Panax implies
cure all and refer to the traditional belief that ginseng has
healing properties for all bodily disease (Kim et al., 2018).
Till date, fourteen (14) plants, which include 12 species
and two infra specific taxa, have been grouped under the
genus Panax (Shin et al., 2015). The three main types of
commercial ginseng are the Chinese ginseng (Panax
notoginseng (Burk.). F. H.), the American ginseng (P.
quinquefolius L.), and the Korean ginseng (P. ginseng
Meyer), and have been used all over the world as herbal
medicines for thousands of years (Kim et al., 2012).
Ginseng is also part of Sasang Constitution Medicine
(SCM) and Korean Oriental Medicine (KOM) (Choi et al.
Recent researches have revealed that processing of
ginseng modifies its chemical profile and may alter its
pharmacological activities and properties (Xie et al.,
2012; Wan et al., 2015). The origin of ginseng dates back
to prehistory. In China, Shennong (Divine Peasant) also
known as Emperor Yan, the Yellow Emperor, one of the
three Emperors, the Emperor who is said to have
commenced herbal medicine about 5500 years ago, is
reported to have tasted hundreds of plants to as certain
number of medicinal herbs (Zheng, 1985). According to
Yun (2001), three hundred and sixty-five kinds of herbs
are listed and are separated into three groups based on
their toxicity level. The much better ones are non-toxic
and serve to strengthen vibrant energy, and can be taken
on a regular basis.
GINSENG TAXONOMY, PLANTATION AND
DIFFERENT SPECIES IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE
This is a perennial plant with fleshy roots, grows slowly,
and identifies with the Panax genus in the Araliaceae
family. It is grown in cooler climatic regions of the
Northern Hemisphere, majorly in eastern Siberia, Korea,
and northern China (Komatsu et al., 2005; Chhotaram et
al., 2010; Park et al., 2012; Kim and Yang, 2018).
Ginseng faces an array of stressful conditions, including
biotic attack by bacteria, fungi, and nematodes. Fungi are
the main causative agents of ginseng root rot disease,
among which Cylindrocarpon destructans is the most
culpable pathogen, other important pathogens include
Alternaria panax (spotting disease, Botrytis cinerea
(blight), Rhizoctonia solani (damping off), and Pythium
species (root rot) (Kim et al., 2019).
Sub division= Eudicots
Ginseng is cultivated naturally between 33°N and 48°N,
which corresponds to the subarctic and temperate
climate regions in Korea (between 33°7/N and 43°1/N),
Manchuria (between 43°N and 47°N), and the Maritime
province of Siberia (Choi et al., 2007; Ryu et al., 2012).
Different environmental factors like soil and climatic such
as hydrogen ion, nutrients, microbial populations and
moisture content affect plants. Normally, precipitation,
amount of sunshine and air temperature are included
among climatic factors (Ryu et al., 2012).
The physiological characteristics of P. ginseng in
relation to air temperature have been reviewed
comprehensively in the literature (Mahfuzur and Zamir,
2005). Park (1979) studies show that ginseng does not
favour high temperature; hence it was necessary to
develop culture methods that will help avoid the result of
large increases in the air temperature of the arable land.
In deep mountains, wild ginseng is cultivated under trees
and prefers an exceedingly cold climate. The optimal
temperature ranges between 10 and 20°C during the
leafing phase and between 21 and 25°C during the
flowering and fruiting phases (Mork et al., 1981).
High temperature adversely affects ginseng by initiating
photosynthesis cessation, drying of leaves, and early
defoliation (Ohh, 1981). Besides this, root rot, leaf spot
disease, and anthracnose are also consequences that
emanates from high temperature (Mahfuzur and Zamir,
2005). In the case of a temperature above 21°C, there
will be great increase in leaf spot disease incidence (Ohh
and Park, 1980). Among the ginseng species, Korean
ginseng (P. ginseng), Chinese ginseng (P. notoginseng),
and American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) are the most
common throughout the world (Lee and Kim, 2014).
Liu et al. (2008) reported that based on the grown
environment and the cultivated method, the commercial
trade ginseng is classified into three grades of ginseng,
Cultivated Ginseng (CG), Mountain Cultivated Ginseng
(MCG), and Mountain Wild Ginseng (MWG), and CG is
cultivated artificially in forms and contributes the major
quantity of ginseng in the current market. There are two
species of ginseng in Canada, the American ginseng (P.
quinquefolius) and the Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius).
The Dwarf ginseng does not have economic value since
it does not possess any medicinal qualities. Among the
other species of ginseng, the P. ginseng is also valuable,
but cannot be cultivated in our climates.
Szymanska et al. (2013) reported that as a perennial
herb, American ginseng is native to Eastern North
American, and grows in deciduous and mixed forests in
the northeast of the United States of America and
Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. With wild
ginseng population decreasing, and P. quinquefolius a
slow-growing plant, ginseng is grown in many regions
and countries: in Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina,
and a number of other states in the USA, in Ontario and
British Columbia in Canada (Punja, 2011), and near
Lublin in plant (Kochan et al., 2008).
Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus, is the
most commonly used ginseng in the United States. While
not considered to be a true ginseng, it belongs to the
ginseng family and is native to Siberia, Korea, Japan and
China. Siberian ginseng has been shown to have many
properties comparable to those of true ginseng and some
studies indicate that it may improve physical and mental
performance. Wild ginseng is ginseng that has not been
planted and cultivated domestically, rather it is that which
grows naturally and is harvested from wherever it is
found to be growing; wild ginseng is relatively rare and
even increasingly endangered, due in large part to high
demand for the product in recent years, which has led to
the wild plants being sought out and harvested faster so
Shahrajabian et al. 215
that new ones can grow. Wild ginseng can be either
Asian or American and can be processed to be red
ginseng (Seervi et al., 2010).
Asian and American ginseng shows different properties
and medicinal values in pharmacology, even though the
major bioactive ingredients of Asian ginseng and
American ginseng are ginsenosides. In the ginseng
market, American ginseng is more expensive than Asian
ginseng (Li et al., 2010). Optimal light required for
growing Asian and American ginseng (P. ginseng Meyer
and P. quinquefolius L., respectively) is characterized as
follows: too little light, which reduces root yield; and too
much light which leads to photo inhibition of
photosynthesis, photo bleaching and leaf death;
generally, optimal light intensity for Asian ginseng ranged
from 5 to 20% (Proctor and Palmer, 2017). Brazilian
ginseng (Pfaffia glomerata (Spreng.) Pedersen,
Amaranthaceae), is a medicinal plant that is largely used
as adaptogenic herb. It commonly grows in Africa and
Americas and is highly considered both pharmaceutically
and commercially, largely due to β-ecdysone
accumulation in its roots.
Brazil remains the greatest supplier of P. glomerata in
the world. Due to the similarity in morphology of its root to
those of P. ginseng (Korean ginseng), the species came
to be known as the Brazilian ginseng (Neves et al.,
2016). In P. glomerata, different substances have been
reported: triterpenoid (glomeric acid), nortriterpenoid
(pfameric acid), ecdysterone, subrosterone, oleanolic
acid and glucopyranosiloleanolate (Shiobara et al., 1993).
Some species have different TCM natures. P. ginseng is
hot while, P. quinquefolius is cool (Schlag and McIntosh,
2013). Modern biochemical and molecular studies have
proved the TCM belief that there exist conflicting effects
between American and Asian ginsengs (Sievenpiper et
Sengupta et al. (2004) observed that Asian ginseng
roots extracts had higher Rg1:Rb1 ratios compared to
American ginseng and showed that while angiogenesis
results from Rg1 dominance, the opposite effect of
limiting growth of cancer cells is promoted by Rb1
dominance. Brazilian ginseng (P. glomerata) is a plant
native from the countries of South America, particularly of
some states of Brazil, like Sao Paulo, Parana, Mato
Grosso and Goias. Due to the similarity in their
pharmacological effects, it is employed commercially as
an alternative for Asian ginseng (Panax species). The
Brazilian ginseng roots (BGR) are traditionally used in
folk medicine as analgesic, anti-inflammatory, tonic, anti-
diabetic, aphrodisiac, and antiulcer-gastric, with several
researches describing its efficacy (Neto et al., 2005;
Vardanega et al., 2017).
The ginseng products distributed on the market can be
largely classified as fresh ginseng and its primary
processing products in its original shape, red ginseng,
and dried ginseng. In herbal market, ginseng is
commercially obtainable in fresh, red, white and other
216 J. Med. Plants Res.
Table 1. Species of Ginseng (Yun, 2001).
Panax ginseng C. A. Meyer (Korean ginseng)
Panax japonicas C. A. Meyer (Japanese ginseng)
Panax major Ting
Panax notoginseng (Burkill) F. H. Chen (Sanchi ginseng)
Panax omeiensis J. Wen
Panax quinquefolius L. (American ginseng)
Panax sinensis J. Wen
Panax stipuleanatus H. T. Tsai&K. M. Feng
Panax trifolius L. (Dwarf ginseng)
Panax wangianus Sun
Panax zingiberensis C.Y. Wu&K.M. Feng
Panax vietnamensis Ha et Grushv. (Vietnamese ginseng)
processed products (Sun et al., 2009, 2011). Zhao et al.
(2015) reported that in the market, there is a huge price
variation among the different grades of ginseng; the price
trend is usually as follows: wild American ginseng (WAG)
> cultivated American ginseng (CAG) > Asian ginseng
(ASG). Dried ginseng product is not cooked but dried by
sunlight, hot wind, or other methods (Cho et al., 2014).
The white ginseng is usually prepared by air-drying, the
fresh ginseng is prepared by simple washing, the black
ginseng is generated by an intensive and long steaming
process, the stoved ginseng is prepared by a stoving
process, the frozen ginseng is produced by a freezing
process, and the red ginseng is commonly made by a
moderate steaming or heating process (Kim et al., 2000;
Wang et al., 2006) (Table 1).
BIOACTIVE PHYTOCHEMICALS OF GINSENG AND
THEIR THERAPEUTIC ROLES
P. ginseng comprises 80 to 90% organic, approximately
10% inorganic substances, including several active
constituents like ginsenosides orsaponins, nitrogenous
substances, carbohydrates, essential oils, phytosterol,
fatty acids, organic acids, amino acids, peptidoglycans,
carbohydrate, compounds containing nitrogen, vitamins,
minerals and other phenolic compounds (Attele et al.,
1999; Gillis, 1997; Xie et al., 2005; Guo et al., 2015; Lu et
al., 2017; Beccaria et al., 2018).
Lakshmi et al. (2011) mentioned that more often than
ever, medicinal plants are being used as drugs in
treatment of humans either singly or in combination. Also,
previously unknown vital chemical substances with
potential therapeutic effect can be found among
medicinal plants. It has been shown that the key active
components of P. ginseng are ginsenosides which boast
a number of beneficial effects. Ginsenosides are grouped
into two major groups known as protopanaxatriol (PPT)
and protopanaxadiol (PPD), due to the hydroxylation
pattern at C6 and sugar moieties attachment (Pengelly
and Bennett, 2011; Pace et al., 2015) (Tables 2, 3, 4 and
Patel and Rauf (2017) also mentioned antioxidant, anti-
inflammation, anti-fatigue, antidiabetic, antitumor,
immunomodulation, anti-obesity, cardioprotective,
antimicrobial, neuroprotective and aphrodisiac properties.
They have presented the potential of ginseng as a
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Ginseng
polysaccharides comprised starch-like glucan and pectin
with pectin accounting for around 20% of water-soluble
polysaccharides (Zhang et al., 2009; Sun et al., 2019).
Ginsenosides are distributed in many parts of the ginseng
plant including the root, leaf and berry (Kim et al., 2014).
Different parts of the plant contain distinct ginsenoside
profiles (Attele et al., 1999), which may exhibit different
pharmacological activities (Kim et al., 2014). Shi et al.
(2007) revealed that the leaf and root hair contain higher
ginsenoside levels than the root. Wan et al. (2015)
concluded that the contents of malonyl ginsenosides,
amino acids, and polysaccharides, based on decreasing
order, ranked as follows: fresh ginseng >frozen ginseng
>white ginseng >stoved ginseng >red ginseng >black
ginseng. They have also mentioned that processing
should be paid more attention for the quality control of
ginseng products. A lot of studies have been conducted
on the pharmacological properties of Ginseng extract
such as lipid-lowering, anti-allergic, antidiabetic, anti-
inflammatory, hypoglycaemia and anti-stress, anti-aging,
is repeated, anticarcinogenic, anti-fatigue, anti-adhesive,
antidepressive, hypocholesterolemic and hypolipidemic,
hepatoprotective activities, immune-modulatory activities,
improving working memory and perceptual systems,
stimulation and inhibition of central nervous system, and
inhibiting the growth of tumor cells, especially in female
reproductive system (Kim et al., 2013; Cho et al., 2014;
Sun et al., 2015; Uluisik and Keskin, 2016; Silvestrini et
Shahrajabian et al. 217
Table 2. Panax bioactive phytochemicals and their proven therapeutic roles (Patel
and Rauf, 2017).
P. ginseng (Chinese ginseng)
P. quinquefolius (American ginseng)
Ginsenoside (Rb, Rc, Rd, re, Rf, Rg, Rh)
Protection against diabetic retinopathy and cardiomyopathy
Neural stem cell proliferation
Attenuation of β-amyloid generation
Protection from ischemia-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis
Protection from impairment of hippocampal neurons
Attenuation of pathogen virulence factors production
Treatment of erectile dysfunction
Fatigue alleviation in multiple sclerosis
Prevention of atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis
Amelioration of high fat diet-induced obesity
Table 3. Ginsenosides classification in Panax spp. (Leung and Wong, 2010).
Protopanaxadiol group (PPD)
Protopanaxatriol group (PPT)
Rb1, Rb2, Rb3
F11 ocotillo saponin (P. quinquefolius only)
Rf (P. ginseng only)
al., 2017; Ardalanian and Fadaei, 2018; Zhang et al.,
2018; Balusamy et al., 2019).
Kim et al. (2011) confirmed the use of Ginseng as an
antioxidant supplement. Kim et al. (2018) also found that
P. ginseng might be a potential alternative medicine for
the prevention and treatment of natural aging-induced
osteoporosis in human. Kuo et al. (2003) reported that
glutamine and arginine were the two major free
proteinogenic amino acids in the ginseng plants and
together they constituted over 50% of all the free amino
acids detected in the root. Uluisik and Keskin (2016) P.
ginseng root powder may be useful for hepatic damage
and fibrosis associated with high cholesterol diet. These
beneficial effects of ginseng on liver enzymes is attributed
to its active components knows as ginsenosides. Lee and
Rhee (2017) reported that the potential use of ginseng in
the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory
diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and
allergic asthma. Qi et al. (2015) found that ginseng
appears to be a prospective radio-protector that can
potentially attenuate the deleterious effects of radiation
on normal human tissue, and mostly for cancer patients
going through radiotherapy which might be related to its
immunomodulation and antioxidative properties (Tables
6, 7 and 8)..
RED AND WHITE GINSENG
When fresh ginseng is skinned, and then sun-dried or hot
air-dried without application of steam, white ginseng is
obtained. White ginsengs are separated based on their
final shapes after the drying process into curved, half-
curved, and straight ginseng (Song et al., 2014). While
curved ginseng is obtained by rolling the whole length of
the ginseng root into a round shape prior to drying; and
half-curved ginseng is obtained by folding the roots
upward to condense the entire length to about half the
original length; straight ginseng is skinned and maintains
the original shape from the field.
218 J. Med. Plants Res.
Table 4. Different concepts of the Ginseng products between countries.
Health food/New resource for food
Table 5. Some pharmacological effects of ginsenosides (Pengelly and
Antidiabetic, insulin sensitizing
Inhibit proliferation of breast cancer cells
Ligand for glucocorticoid
Suppresses oxidative stress
Neuronal Ach inhibitor
Inhibits proliferation of prostate cancer cells
Activates estrogen receptor
Cytotoxic, inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation
Inhibits proliferation of prostate cancer cells
Assists memory improvement neuroprotective
The one that is not skinned before being steamed or
otherwise heated to be finally dried is red ginseng.
Korean red ginsengs are classified into Yang-sam, Chun-
sam and Ji-samon the basis of their rhizome firmness,
characteristics of body tissues, colors, proportion of main
roots to lateral roots, etc. During the steaming process,
there is gelatinization of ginseng starch, giving rise to
activation of effective ingredients and an upsurge in
saponin. Even though colors and shapes of Korean
ginsengs differ based on processing type, with minimal
variation in ingredients, in the world, their collective
efficacy and advanced properties of each remains the
Shahrajabian et al. 219
Table 6. Essential ginseng effects and their likely actions on different body systems (Radad et al., 2004).
General tonic and adaptogen
Resistance against adverse conditions (Physical, chemical and biological factors).
Restores body ,s homeostasis
Central nervous system
Neuroprotection either in vivo or in
Potentiates nerve growth factor
Antioxidative and anti-apoptotic mechanisms
Reduces lipid peroxidation
Inhibits excitotoxicity and Ca2+ over-influx into neurons
Maintains cellular ATP levels
Preserves structural integrity of neurons
Prevents astroglial swelling
Inhibits microglial respiratory burst activity and NO production by activated microglia
Increasing cognitive performance
(learning and memory)
Direct effect on hippocampal neurons
Relax vascular smooth muscle cells through NO and Ca2+ medicated mechanisms
Inhibits production of endothelin which plays a role in blood vessel constriction
Prevents platelet aggregation
Shows antagonistic action for platelet activity factor
Suppresses thrombin formation
Acceleration of wound healing
Promotes functional neovascularisation through endothelial proliferation
Inflammation and allergy
Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic
Inhibits cytokine production such as IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α
Abrogates cycooxygenase-2 gene expression
Suppresses histamine and leukotrienes release from mast cells
Stabilizes inflammatory cells such as neutronphils and lymphocytes
Enhances interferon induction, phagocytosis, natural killer cells, and B and T cells
Suppresses malignant transformation
220 J. Med. Plants Res.
Table 6. Cont.
Inhibits proliferation of tumor cells
Inhibits tumor invasiveness, metastasis and angiogenesis
Enhancement of male copulatory
Relaxes corpus cavernosum smooth muscles via NO mediated processes
Increases serum testosterone levels and reduces plasma levels of prolactin hormone
Direct effects on anterior pituitary and hypothalamic dopaminergic mechanisms
Increases plasma insulin levels, the number of insulin receptors and insulin sensitivity
Table 7. Key points about Panax ginseng (Kiefer and Pantuso, 2003).
Psychologic functioning: effective; conflicting evidence
Physical performance: ineffective
Immune system: effective
Diabetes: modest effect; evidence limited
Nausea, diarrhea, euphoria, insomnia, headaches, hypertension, hypotension, mastalgia, vaginal bleeding, blood pressure abnormalities
Caution advised about concomitant use with phenelzie (Nardil), warfain (Coumadin), oral hypoglycemics, insulin, or caffeine, and about use in patients with
hypertension or bleeding
A safe, well-tolerated herbal medicine that may be used for a variety of medical conditions
Table 8. Some information of clinical literature regarding interactions.
Interaction with ginseng
P. ginseng increases the clearance of alcohol (Lee et al., 1987)
P. ginseng potentiates the effects of various drugs including anticoagulants such as warfarin (Lee et al., 2008), the antiplatelet activity of NSAIDs
such as aspirin, and pentazocine (Mitra et al., 1996)
Ginseng can reduce blood glucose levels (Reay et al., 2005; Sotaniemi et al., 1995) and therefore the use of both in combination use may lead
to additive effects.
P. ginseng should not be combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as phenelzine, as it may lead to headache, tremor and mania
(Jones and Runikis, 1987)
best (Gui and Ryu, 2014).
In TCM practice, White ginseng and red ginseng are
used for different purposes; white ginseng is used to
supply qi and promote the production fluids of body fluids
as well as enhance physical fitness and disease
resistance, while red ginseng has a warming effect and is
used for boosting yang and replenishing vital essence
(Zhang et al., 2012, 2019).
Xu et al. (2018) reported that both white and red
ginseng is the most widely used in clinical applications
because of their considerable pharmacological activity.
But, red ginseng exhibits more potential anticancer
activity than white ginseng likely because of the abundant
amount of rare ginsenosides generated from processing
such as ginsenosides Rg3 and Rh2 (Li et al., 2011; Kim
et al., 2014). It is believed that various processing
techniques modify the therapeutic effects of P. ginseng
(Keum et al., 2000). For boosting fluids, white ginseng is
better and is regarded as warmer and stronger for
supplementing Qi. It has been demonstrated that in terms
of chemical compositions, red and white ginseng are
different, hence their different biological effects (Park et
al., 2001). It has been anecdotally considered that white
ginseng, which has a low PPD/PPT ratio, increases body
temperature, whereas red ginseng, which has a high
PPD/PPT ratio, does not (Cho et al., 2017). As white
ginseng and red ginseng possess different bioactivities
and clinical purposes, discrimination of the white one and
the red one are very significant for quality control,
standardizing the processing procedures, as well as the
effective and safe usage of ginseng (Zhou et al., 2018).
Horacek et al. (2010) explained that red ginseng is
steam-cured after harvesting, thus generating a glossy
reddish-brown color, and thereafter dried. It is believed
that to modify its biochemical composition and prevent
the bioactive ingredients from possible breakdown, the
root needs to undergo steaming; hence it remains the
preferred ginseng product. After harvest, white ginseng is
peeled and dried. It is assumed that during drying,
bioactive constituents are broken down by enzymes in
the ginseng root, making white ginseng to contain fewer
bioactive components compared to red ginseng (Horacek
et al., 2010).
In the Chinese pharmacopoeia, ginsenosides Rg1, Rb,
and Re (the main components of Red ginseng and White
ginseng) are still used as chemical markers for quality
control (Zhao et al., 2019). Like Asian ginseng, white
American ginseng (WAG) is prepared by air-drying; if
fresh American ginseng is processed by steaming, from
white color to red, the steamed product is called red
American ginseng (RAG) (Wan et al., 2018).
During the steaming process, extensive conversion of
original ginsenosides in white ginseng to degradation
compounds in red ginseng was observed, leading to
different ginsenoside profiles (Sun et al., 2011). Akhter et
al. (2018) also indicated that polysaccharides are major
active component of American ginseng root which
Shahrajabian et al. 221
showing various biological activities including
anticarcinogenic, anti-aging, immunostimulatory and
antioxidant effects. Chung et al. (2014) reported that of
the two kinds of ginseng, white ginseng is air-dried, and
red ginseng is produced by steaming raw ginseng at 98
to 100°C for 2 to 3 h. Korean ginseng contains saponin,
an element of glycosides; nitrogenous compounds such
as protein, amino acid, nucleic acid and alkaloid; fat-
soluble ingredients such as fatty acid, ethereal oil,
polyacetylene, phenolic compound, phytosterol and
terpenoid; saccharides such as monose, oligosaccharide,
polysaccharide and pectin; vitamins and inorganic
substances; and many other useful ingredients. Thus,
ginseng contains an abundance of diversified chemical
elements hardly found in other medicinal herbs (Proctor
et al., 1990; Vinh et al., 2017) (Tables 9, 10 and 11).
GINSENOSIDES AND PHENOLICS OF GINSENG
Ginsenosides and phenolics in ginsengs are among the
most important health-beneficial compounds in Asian
ginseng (Chung et al., 2012). More than 25 ginsenosides
including Rb, Rg, Rc and Ro, as well as more than 10
phenolics such as ferulic, gentistic, cinnamic, syringic,
and p-hydrobenzoic acids, have been reported so far,
their amounts differ among cultivars, cultivation
conditions and processing (Shibata, 2001; Choi et al.,
2006; Fishbein et al., 2009; Chung et al., 2012).
Ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, RC, Rg2, etc., are the major
extract constituents at normal temperature (<100°C),
while less polar ginsenosides such as Rg3. Rg6, F4, Rs5,
Rs4, Rg5, and Rk1 are the unique extract constituents at
higher temperatures (>120°C) (Zhang et al., 2017). Wu et
al. (2018) also reported that ginsenosides are usually
divided into three groups: (1) the protopanaxadiol
ginsenosides (PPD), (2) the protopanaxatriol
ginsenosides (PPT), and (3) the oleanonic acid-type
saponins; five major ginsenosides, Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Re,
and Rg1, belong to the PPD and PPT types, constituting
more than 80% of all ginsenosides. Others, such as Rg3,
Rg2, F1, Rh2 and Rh4 are minor or rare ginsenosides
which were found to have special physiological activities
(Wei et al., 2011).
Some studies have demonstrated that many
ginsenosides only exist in red ginseng such as
ginsenosides-Rg3, -Rg5, -Rg6, -Rh1, -Rh2, -Rk1 -Rk3 and -
Rs3-Rs7, and fortunately, some of them have remarkable
biological activities (Zhou and Yang, 2015). Kim et al.
(1987) noted that the main ginsenosides are glycosides
that contain an aglycone with a dammarane skeleton, and
include protopanaxadiol-type saponins such as
ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, Rc, and Rd, as well as
protopanaxatriol-type saponins such as ginsenosides Re
and Rg1, constituting more than 80% of the total
ginsenosides. Black ginseng contains some new
ginsenosides (Rg3, Rg5, F4, Rg6, Rk3, Rs3, Rs4, etc.)
222 J. Med. Plants Res.
Table 9. Comparison of protein and free amino acid contents between Korean Ginseng and ginsengs of other countries.
Soluble protein (mg/g dry weight)
Thermostable protein (mg/g dry weight)
Free amino acid (mg/g dry weight)
Table 10. Comparison of typical ginsenoside composition of American ginseng (P. quinquefolius L.)
and Asian ginseng (P. ginseng C. A. Meer) (Schlag and McIntosh, 2006).
Rb1, Re, Rd
Rb1, Rg1, Rb2
PPD-group to PPT-group
Table 11. Concentration of medical ingredients (Comparison of saponin in ginsengs of various sources).
Total kinds of saponin
which are not present in white ginseng, and exhibits more
potent biological activities than white and red ginseng
(Sun et al., 2009).
Qi et al. (2011) found that ginsenosides are
dammarane-type saponins that naturally occur in many
forms. Rg1, Rb1, Rc, Rd and Re (5, 1, 2, 3 and 4) are the
major ginsenosides that commonly occur in both
American and Asian ginseng. Schlag and McIntosh
(2013) explained that the major ginsenosides are
classified by structural type as protopanaxatriol (PPT)
ginsenosides and have 20(S)-protopanaxatriol (20[S]-
dammar-24-ane-3β,12β,20-triol) glycosides or as
protopanaxadiol (PPD) ginsenosides and have 20(S)-
glycosides. Rg1 (5) and Re (4) are PPT ginsenosides,
whereas Rb1 (1), Rc (2), and Rd (3) are PPD
At room temperature, as fresh ginseng appears to be
easily degraded, it has traditionally undergone processing
into red ginseng through root steaming followed by drying
or into white ginseng through drying of the root (Lee et
al., 2015; Park et al., 2016). In Korea, red ginseng and
other several ginseng products are popularly used as
either nutritional supplements or functional foods. Recent
researches have shown that compared to fresh and white
ginseng, red ginseng has biological benefits while
inducing fewer side effects (Babiker et al., 2014; Lee et
al., 2015). Korean
Red Ginseng is known to havea number of biological
activities which include memoryenhancement, improving
the blood circulation, boosting the immune system,
antioxidant effects, positive effects on menopausal
disorder, and antifatigue effects (Babiker et al., 2014).
Olgun et al. (2016) indicated that Korean red Ginseng
(KRG) has been extracted from the roots of P. ginseng.
KRG has beneficial effects on learning and memory
impairment. KRG has been found to be effective in
various problems that cause hearing loss such as
gentamycin toxicity, age-related hearing loss, or 3-
nitropropionic acid-induced cochlear damage. Ginseng
effectively prevents liver injury, mainly through down
regulation of oxidative stress and inflammatory response
Oh et al. (2015) reported the influence of ginseng in
enhancing cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s disease
(AD), and improves movement’s deficit in Parkinson’s
disease. Fatmawati et al. (2014) also reported that P.
ginseng might be an important herbal medicine in
preventing diabetic complications. Van Kampen et al.
(2014) discovered that ginseng extract maybe a potential
neuroprotective therapy for the treatment of Parkinson.
Choi et al. (2006) reported that Korean and Chinese
ginseng reduced systolic and diastolic BP, and red
ginseng reduced headache symptoms. American ginseng
showed antihypertensive effect on diastolic BP and
reduced headache symptom.
However, there was no statistical significance in the
between-group analysis. Lee et al. (2013) demonstrated
that ginseng effectively reduces adipose tissue and
prevents obesity in diet-induced obese mice that this
process may be mediated in part through the anti-
angiogenic actions of ginseng. Rocha et al. (2018) found
that P. ginseng is effective in the control of abdominal
pain in irritable bowel syndrome patients, analogous to
trimebutin. Wang and Ng (2004) reported that the
ribonuclease isolated from Chinese ginseng flowers; the
root ribonuclease exhibits antifungal and inhibitory
activities toward HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. Shin and
Yoon (2018) demonstrated that ginseng may be able to
prevent obesity, hyperlipidemia, and hepatic steatosis in
men with testosterone deficiency.
Gray et al. (2016) found that ginseng protects against
chromatin damage and thus maybe beneficial to
reproductive fitness. Lee and Oh (2015) revealed that
when red ginseng is administered over long periods, age-
related decline of learning and memory is ameliorated
through anti-inflammatory activity. Sharma and Goyal
(2015) also insist on potential role of P. ginseng to
become a pivotal chemo-preventive agent that can
reduce cancer in mammals. Hwang et al. (2017)
concluded that P. ginseng can prevent aging by inhibiting
wrinkle formation and increasing moisture in the human
skin. Park et al. (2017) reported that Korean Red
Ginseng has beneficial effects on chronic liver disease, a
condition encompassing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,
alcoholic liver disease, chronic viral hepatitis, and
hepatocellular carcinoma. Lee and Son (2011) found the
strong positive potential for glucose metabolism,
psychomotor function, and pulmonary disease, but not for
physical performance enhancement.
In order for Chinese medicine, and in particular, TCM, to
become more integrated into medical practice in the
West, there is a need to bridge the many conceptual and
practical differences between western medicine and
Chinese medicine. Among the ginseng species, Korean
Shahrajabian et al. 223
ginseng (P. ginseng), Chinese ginseng (P. notoginseng),
and American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) are the most
common through the world. Cultivated Ginseng (CG),
Mountain Cultivated Ginseng (MCG), and Mountain Wild
Ginseng (MWG) are three categories of ginseng. Dwarf
ginseng (P. trifolius) is another type of ginseng in Canada.
Siberian ginseng, E. senticosus is also another common
ginseng in the United States. Brazilian ginseng (P.
glomerata Spreng. Pedersen, Amaranthaceae), is a
medicinal plant largely used as adaptogenic herb.
Although, field cultivation of ginseng is occurring in Asia
and Europe, these endeavours are small in scale and
have not made any significant impact on the supply
structure of the market. This versatile medicinal plant is
the unique source of various types of chemical
compounds, which are responsible of the various
activities of the plant. As the public scenario is changing
towards the use of non-toxic plant products having
Traditional Medicinal Asian Crops, development of
modern drugs from P. ginseng should be emphasized for
the control of various diseases.
CONFLICT OF INTERESTS
The authors have not declared any conflict of interests.
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