Ginseng’s Anti-aging, Anti-cancer Benefits Boosted by Fermentation

fermented red ginseng

Photo by Eugene Kim

By Case Adams, Naturopath

Several studies from the past few years have confirmed Panex ginseng’s various health benefits. Now we find these benefits can be boosted through fermentation.

Recent studies have found that fermented ginseng has numerous health benefits, including anti-aging benefits and cancer prevention.

For example, in a 2013 study from Korea’s Seoul National University, researchers gave 93 postmenopausal women with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome either fermented red ginseng – Panex ginseng – or a placebo for two weeks.

The researchers found that the fermented red ginseng group had significantly increased levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), higher levels of growth hormone, higher levels of estradiol and lower levels of HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin – indicating better glucose control). The fermented red ginseng group also exhibited signs of reduced insulin resistance.

One of the issues with ginseng treatment or supplementation has been its variable effects. For some, ginseng is extremely effective for a number of conditions, including immunity, aging issues and others. But others have found ginseng’s effectiveness to be desired.

This new research not only indicates a more therapeutic manner of ginseng dosing: It also explains the variable effects among different consumers.

Ginseng’s benefits boosted with fermentation

The latest in a a series of studies that has found this effect comes from researchers at Korea’s Dankook University. The study fermented what is commonly known as red ginseng (Panex ginseng) with a mushroom fungi species known as Phellinus linteus. The researchers found that the fermentation significantly increased the phytochemical content of the ginseng as well as its antioxidant and healing capabilities.

The research found the fermentation increased one of the main ginseng constituents, called gensenosides, by nearly 20%. More importantly, its gensenoside metabolites were more than doubled by the fermentation process.

The study also found that the overall polyphenol content of the fermented ginseng was some 37% higher than the raw root.

In follow up testing with the fermented ginseng – and compared with unfermented ginseng of the same source – the fermented ginseng was found to be absorbed significantly better through both intestinal tissue and skin tissue – meaning the ginseng’s medicinal content was more bioavailable.

The ramifications of this effect becomes more clear from another study – from Korea’s Yonsei University. In this study, researchers fermented red ginseng using the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum.

This study also found that the fermented ginseng had increased levels of ginsenoside metabolites, which increased from 4,637 micrograms per liter to 7,581 micrograms per liter after four days of fermentation.

The researchers then tested the anti-cancer properties that ginseng has been known for using the fermented and the unfermented ginseng.

The researchers found that the fermented ginseng significantly inhibited the growth of lung tumors in mice – by over 80% compared to the non-fermented tumor inhibition at 67%.

The researchers also tested the fermented ginseng extract against human blood and found it boosted immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels and IgG levels among healthy human subjects significantly more than did the non-fermented ginseng.

Fermented Ginseng inhibits Tyrosinase and Elastase

Another study – this from Korea University – fermented red ginseng using the probiotic species Lactobacillus brevis. The researchers also found that the ginsenoside metabolite content was significantly higher.

They also found the ability of the fermented ginseng to inhibit tyrosinase to be significantly greater than the unfermented ginseng.

Because tyrosinase excess can cause hyperpigmentation of the skin – resulting in sun spots and other blemishes – tyronsinase inhibition is one of the important clinical benefits of ginseng.

The researchers also found the fermented ginseng exhibited significantly greater anti-wrinkle properties. This is achieved through ginseng’s inhibition of the elastase enzyme – and enzyme that increases wrinkles.

This study also found that fermentation increased red ginseng’s antioxidant flavonoid content by over 13 times.

Another study fermented red ginseng with Bifidus bacteria and found similar results, but with its blood-sugar lowering effects.

What is Red Ginseng?

Panex ginseng grows in North America and in Asia. It can either be air dried – resulting in what is called white ginseng. Or it can be steamed at around 212 F (98-100 C) for two to three hours. This results in what is referred to as red ginseng, which has been found to have higher levels of phytochemicals than the white ginseng. Ginseng may also be steamed further at a higher temperature – at around 250 F (120 C). This is sold as sun ginseng. Panex ginseng is also sold as raw, fresh (not dried).

Panex ginseng – white, red, sun or raw – is considered an adaptogen, as it boosts the immune system along with boosting growth hormone and DHEA levels. As mentioned above, it contains several ginsenosides identified as Rh2, Rh3, Rh4, Rg3, Rg5, Rg6, Rs3, F4 – which have been shown to be higher in red ginseng than white ginseng. It also contains various other saponins, polyphenols and flavonoids.

A 2009 study showed that Panex ginseng had potent antiviral properties, as it increased CD4 T-cell counts significantly in a study of 46 HIV patients, and reduced their levels of resistant viral mutation.

A 2010 study from the Korean Institute of Cancer Chemoprevention found that men who consumed red ginseng over several years had a significantly lower risk of cancer.

REFERENCES:

Lee KJ, Lee SY, Ji GE. Diabetes-ameliorating effects of fermented red ginseng and causal effects on hormonal interactions: testing the hypothesis by multiple group path analysis. J Med Food. 2013 May;16(5):383-95. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2583.

Ryu JS, Lee HJ, Bae SH, Kim SY, Park Y, Suh HJ, Jeong YH. The bioavailability of red ginseng extract fermented by Phellinus linteus. J Ginseng Res. 2013 Mar;37(1):108-16. doi: 10.5142/jgr.2013.37.108.

Lee HS, Kim MR, Park Y, Park HJ, Chang UJ, Kim SY, Suh HJ. Fermenting red ginseng enhances its safety and efficacy as a novel skin care anti-aging ingredient: in vitro and animal study. J Med Food. 2012 Nov;15(11):1015-23. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2187.

Kim BG, Shin KS, Yoon TJ, Yu KW, Ra KS, Kim JM, Kim SY, Suh HJ. Fermentation of Korean red ginseng by Lactobacillus plantarum M-2 and its immunological activities. Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2011 Nov;165(5-6):1107-19. doi: 10.1007/s12010-011-9328-6.

Trinh HT, Han SJ, Kim SW, Lee YC, Kim DH. Bifidus fermentation increases hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic effects of red ginseng. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2007 Jul;17(7):1127-33.

Lee KJ, Lee SY, Ji GE. Diabetes-ameliorating effects of fermented red ginseng and causal effects on hormonal interactions: testing the hypothesis by multiple group path analysis. J Med Food. 2013 May;16(5):383-95. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2583.

Sung H, Jung YS, Cho YK. Beneficial effects of a combination of Korean red ginseng and highly active antiretroviral therapy in human immunodeficiency virus type 1-infected patients. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2009 Aug;16(8):1127-31. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00013-09.

Yun TK, Zheng S, Choi SY, Cai SR, Lee YS, Liu XY, Cho KJ, Park KY. Non-organ-specific preventive effect of long-term administration of Korean red ginseng extract on incidence of human cancers. J Med Food. 2010 Jun;13(3):489-94. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2009.1275.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”

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