Protective effect of Korean red ginseng extract on the infections by H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses in mice.

J Med Food. 2012 Oct;15(10):855-62.

Yoo DG, Kim MC, Park MK, Song JM, Quan FS, Park KM, Cho YK, Kang SM.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Ginseng has been used in humans for thousands of years and is known to have multiple biological and immunomodulatory effects. In this study, we investigated whether Korean red ginseng extract would have preventive and antiviral effects on influenza virus infection. Oral administration to mice of red ginseng extract prior to infection significantly increased survival after infection with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus. Daily oral treatment of vaccinated mice with red ginseng extract provided enhanced cross-protection against antigenically distinct H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses. Naive mice that were infected with virus mixed with red ginseng extract showed significantly enhanced protection, lower levels of lung viral titers and interleukin-6, but higher levels of interferon-γ compared with control mice having virus infections without red ginseng extract, indicating an antiviral effect of ginseng. In addition, ginseng extract exhibited inhibitory effects on the growth of influenza virus in vitro. This study provides evidence that intake of ginseng extract will have beneficial effects on preventing lethal infection with newly emerging influenza viruses.

PMID: 22856395

Sang-Moo Kang-1


Ginseng has been known to have various immunomodulatory functions. However, the in vivo effects of ginseng on viral infection remain largely unknown. We investigated the effects of ginseng via oral delivery on influenza infection in a mouse model since oral intake of ginseng products is the most common means of consumption in healthy individuals as a nutrient supplement. Oral administration of ginseng extract to mice conferred moderate but significant resistance to infection with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus. The protection observed by ginseng pretreatment was not strong since ginseng-treated mice showed illness symptoms as shown by weight loss. Ginseng treatment after infection showed less protective effects compared to those by ginseng intake prior to infection. Most adults who consume ginseng are not immunologically naïve and are either vaccinated or immune to influenza because of natural exposure. In this study, we found that oral administration of ginseng to vaccinated mice significantly improved cross protective efficacy against the H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses. Infection of mice with a mixture of influenza virus and ginseng extract resulted in lower levels of lung viral titers and interleukin (IL)-6 inflammatory cytokine but higher levels of interferon (IFN)-γ. Korean eed ginseng extract may have inhibitory activity against influenza virus growth in vitro, contributing to exhibiting in vivo protective effects on influenza viral infection. The results in this study suggest that Korean red ginseng extract seems to have multiple action mechanisms against infectious diseases, which might be beneficial when taken healthy individuals prior to infections. Therefore, normal consumption of Korean red ginseng extract by healthy individuals would be expected to have beneficial effects on preventing influenza virus infections.


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