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Apr 22, 2014 07:54 AM EDT

Ginseng Exhibits Anti-Viral Properties, Study

Plant Tuber Exhibits Anti-Viral and Influenza Properties, Study
(Photo : Flickr) Plant Tuber Exhibits Anti-Viral and Influenza Properties, Study

Ginseng, a plant tuber with medicinal properties is effective in treating and preventing influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) that infects the lungs and breathing passages, according to a Georgia State University study.

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According to the World Health Organization, seasonal influenza, a respiratory disease, causes about three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths. Medical experts have claimed that existing influenza vaccines need to be updated as most of them provide no defense against pandemic strains and bird flu.

For example, the H1N1 influenza virus, also known as swine flu, surfaced in 2009 and spread rapidly to more than 74 countries.

On the other hand, there are no vaccines available for RSV, which  is the major cause of inflammatory bronchiolitis pneumonia and viral death in infants and elderly adults.

For the study, the researchers analyzed red ginseng extract for positive effects on influenza A virus and RSV infection.

In the first experiment, the researchers found that red ginseng enhances the endurance of human lung epithelial cells infected with influenza virus and shortens gene expressions that cause inflammation.

Mice infected with influenza A virus were orally administered ginseng. The rodent started displaying multiple immune modifying effects like increased antiviral production of proteins vital to immune response against infection and fewer inflammatory cells in bronchial walls. In this experiment, immune modifying capabilities of ginseng could have likely played a role in preventing influenza A virus infections.

The second experiment focused on beneficial effects of Korean red ginseng extract in treating RSV infection. The researchers found that the extract increases the durability of human lung epithelial cells against RSV infection, restricts the replication and multiplication of virus in the body and controls the expression of RSV-induced inflammatory genes.

Mice orally administered Korean red ginseng extract showed lower viral levels following RSV infection. In the second experiment, Korean red ginseng exhibited its anti-viral properties.

The finding is published in the Nutrients.

Previous studies showed that red ginseng extract offers improved cross-protection against H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses; has anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties and improves the symptoms of diabetes, ulcers, depression, obesity, erectile dysfunction and hangovers among others, Examiner reports.

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