Ginseng, a well-known herbal medicine, can help treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that infects the lungs and breathing passages, according to new research.
Ginseng has been reported to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory and immune modifying abilities, researchers said.
Sang-Moo Kang, a scientist in Georgia State University investigated whether red ginseng extract has preventive effects on influenza A virus infection.
He found that red ginseng extract improves the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with influenza virus. Also, treatment with red ginseng extract reduced the expression of genes that cause inflammation.
After infection with influenza A virus, mice that were orally administered ginseng over a long time showed multiple immune modifying effects, such as stimulated antiviral production of proteins important in immune response and fewer inflammatory cells in their bronchial walls.
The study indicates the beneficial effects of red ginseng extract in preventing influenza A virus infections could result from immune modifying capabilities of ginseng.
In another study, Kang investigated whether Korean red ginseng extract has antiviral effects, or the ability to treat RSV infection.
Kang found Korean red ginseng extract improved the survival of human lung epithelial cells against RSV infection and inhibited the virus from replicating, or multiplying, in the body.
In addition, treatment with Korean red ginseng extract suppressed the expression of RSV-induced inflammatory genes and the formation of chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen, which play a role in virus-induced epithelial damage in RSV, researchers said.
Also, mice that were orally administered Korean red ginseng extract had lower viral levels after infection with RSV. The results suggest that Korean red ginseng extract has antiviral activity against RSV infection.
The findings appear in the journal Nutrients and the International Journal of Molecular Medicine.