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Introductory Chapter: Current Views and Modern Perspectives of Ginseng in Medicines

Written By

Christophe Hano and Jen-Tsung Chen

Published: 15 June 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.102709

From the Edited Volume

Ginseng - Modern Aspects of the Famed Traditional Medicine

Edited by Christophe Hano and Jen-Tsung Chen

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1. Introduction

Ginseng preparations have been widely utilized in many traditional medicines, notably Chinese Traditional Medicine, for approximately 5000 years because of their wide range of medicinal and pharmacological benefits [1]. Ginseng is the generic word for 18 plant species in the Genus Panax (Araliaceae), which means “all-curing” in Greek. Panax ginseng C. A. Meyer is the most commonly used ginseng in many traditional remedies. Ginseng preparations offer various health benefits, including the promotion of many important physiological functions (e.g., immunity, circulation, and cardiovascular), the prevention of neurological illnesses, the control of energy metabolism, and the maintenance of vitality and health.

The expansion of publications on ginseng, its phytochemistry, and its pharmacological uses over the last 50 years demonstrates that the development of analytical tools and the resurgence of traditional medicine since the 1970s has significantly contributed to rising interest in ginseng (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Publication numbers dealing with ginseng phytochemistry and medicinal uses over the last 50 years (1970–2022).

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2. Ginseng phytochemistry

The phytochemistry of Panax species has been studied since the mid-nineteenth century, with a particular focus on Panax ginseng (aka Asian, Chinese, or Korean ginseng) and Panax quinquefolius (aka American ginseng). The most beneficial phytochemicals identified in Panax species are ginsenosides (aka ginseng saponins, triterpene saponins). There are around 1000 ginsenosides described to date, Rb1, Rg1, Rg3, Re, Rd., and Rh1 being the most studied ginsenosides. The recent development of new high-throughput analytical instruments and procedures, such as ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS), has substantially improved our current knowledge of ginsenoside structural diversity [1, 2]. To extract ginsenosides, many extraction processes, including green and modern extraction methods, have been designed, with contents and composition varying widely according to the species, organs, growing season, and production area [3]. Because these approaches allow for the purification of specific ginsenosides, researchers are actively exploiting them to better understand the unique mechanism of ginsenoside activities.

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3. Biotechnological approaches

Traditional approaches such as pruning from natural populations or production utilizing a conventional agricultural system can be time-consuming and/or infeasible, paving the way for the development of different biotechnology technologies to improve ginsenoside yield. Thus, various technologies, such as biotechnology, bioconversion, or nanobiotechnology, have been used to overcome these limits. In particular, plant tissue culture has shown to be a useful method for the continuous production of bioactive chemicals [4, 5]. Thus, in vitro systems from various plant species, including undifferentiated cell cultures like a callus and cell suspension, as well as differentiated organ cultures like adventitious root and hairy root, have been developed for this purpose over the last decades. For industrial uses, scaling up in bioreactors has also been investigated [4]. The current understanding of ginsenoside biosynthesis and regulation allows for the development of metabolic engineering methods that include not only plant biotechnological systems but also microbial ginsenoside biosynthesis from renewable resources as an alternative strategy for achieving the ever-increasing demand for ginsenosides in recent years [6].

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4. Pharmacological development

Antifatigue, antistress, antioxidation, anti-inflammatory, antiaging, anticancer, neuroprotection, and vasorelaxation are only a few of the therapeutic effects of ginseng preparations [1]. The molecular mechanisms and medical applications of ginsenosides have sparked a lot of attention in recent years, with hundreds of studies published (Figure 1). Ginsenosides have complex actions and control numerous metabolic pathways, therefore their efficacy is difficult and needs to be further explored. Although various functional studies have been conducted to provide evidence-based research to rationalize traditional usages of ginseng preparations, additional effort is needed to increase therapeutic values using empirical datasets. However, scientists now have a greater opportunity to understand the pharmacological potential of ginseng products and derived ginsenosides, due to the fast development of molecular tools such as high-throughput technologies and integrated multi-omics [7].

References

  1. 1. Liu L, Xu FR, Wang YZ. Traditional uses, chemical diversity and biological activities of Panax L. (Araliaceae): A review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2020;263:112792
  2. 2. Yao CL, Pan HQ, Wang H, Yao S, Yang WZ, Hou JJ, et al. Global profiling combined with predicted metabolites screening for discovery of natural compounds: Characterization of ginsenosides in the leaves of Panax notoginseng as a case study. Journal of Chromatography A. 2018;1538:34-44
  3. 3. Jegal J, Jeong EJ, Yang MH. A review of the different methods applied in ginsenoside extraction from Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius roots. Natural Product Communications. 2019;14(9):1934578X19868393
  4. 4. Gantait S, Mitra M, Chen JT. Biotechnological interventions for ginsenosides production. Biomolecules. 2020;10(4):538
  5. 5. Liu KH, Lin HY, Thomas JL, Shih YP, Chen JT, Lee MH. Magnetic analogue-imprinted polymers for the extraction of ginsenosides from the Panax ginseng callus. Industrial Crops and Products. 2021;163:113291
  6. 6. Chu LL, Montecillo JAV, Bae H. Recent advances in the metabolic engineering of yeasts for ginsenoside biosynthesis. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. 2020;8:139
  7. 7. Chen JT. Advances in ginsenosides. Biomolecules. 2020;10(5):681

Written By

Christophe Hano and Jen-Tsung Chen

Published: 15 June 2022