Virus can be defined as a microscopic parasite that can cause infective diseases in the living organisms. These organisms are simple in structure and responsible for numerous fatal diseases such as auto-immune disease, immunodeficiency, as well as organ specific infections like common cold, influenza, hepatitis, and diarrhea. Conventional medicines have utterly failed to invent any mechanism or pathway for a decisive viral treatment; however, there are a number of antiviral therapies that prevent, shorten the duration, or reduce the severity of a viral infection. Most of them are formulated to target specific viral components but mutation in viral genome often exhibits drug resistance or immune evasion, creating huge difficulty in antiviral therapies. The situation calls for greater attention towards designing antiviral therapies that can significantly prevent or arrest viral infections at an early stage.

Korean Red Ginseng as an Anti-viral Treatment

Korean red ginseng, a perennial herb with a medicinal history of more than 2000 years, has an important role to play in the race against chronic viral infections, immune system disorders, and neural and cardiovascular diseases. A number of major viral infections in human body and the benefits of Korean red ginseng extract in healing the effect of those viruses are discussed below:

Respiratory Syntactic Virus (RSV)

This virus is responsible for lower respiratory tract infection which shows mild and indiscernible symptoms such as common cold in adults and healthy children, and bronchitis and pneumonia in premature babies and infants. There exists no vaccine for the infants or premature babies at that early stage but vaccinating the mother have significant effect on the baby’s immune system. The mechanism of this viral infection is not fully known. Ginseng extracts on RSV induced cells exhibit immunomodulatory effects in an immunosuppressive environment. A recent study measures the potential effect of Korean red ginseng on RSV induced cells and viral reproduction on human epithelial cells.

Rhinovirus (HRV)

Rhinovirus is a major cause of common cold and is transmitted from person to person via contact and is responsible for upper respiratory infection. This virus is mild and self-limiting, may cause asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in elderly people and patients having a weak immune system. There is no particular cure to rhinovirus, and treatment is dependent on the alleviation of symptoms administrating non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Recent studies on mice as well as human specimen have shown that ginseng is a potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent, regular consumption of which can keep viral infections such as rhinovirus, and RSV at bay and also reduce the expression of genes that cause inflammation.

Influenza Virus

Seasonal influenza or influenza A is a common parasite which is responsible for serious respiratory disorders in human beings and is also pandemic in nature. Ginseng is widely recognized as an immune moderator and can be used as a major preventive measure against the various types of influenzas. Researchers have arrived at the apotheosis that ginseng is highly effective against influenza A. This type of infection is the prime cause behind inflammatory bronchitis, pneumonia, and viral death of infants, elderly people, and people with low immunity.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV infections are basically of two kinds: HIV-1 which is almost 95% of the total infections, whereas HIV-2 is a rare infection, especially found in West Africa, and has a lower level of mortality than the other variant. HIV treatment or highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART combines a number of drugs, mechanisms, and pathways. Studies have shown that combined with Korean red ginseng, HAART can exert an antiviral environment which delays the occurring of resistance mutation.

Herpes Virus (HSV)

A group of large DNA virus that is responsible for persistent, lytic, and recurrent/latent infections. HSV-1, a subgroup of herpes virus, is typically transmitted in childhood by contact and is also associated with encephalitis. Notoginseng ST-4, a dammarane-type saponin of Panax notoginseng, shows anti-HSV activity.

Hepatitis Virus (HAV & HBV)

Hepatitis A is a single-stranded RNA virus, whereas Hepatitis B is a double-stranded DNA virus. Liver disorder is a major health issue worldwide and occupies a staggering ninth position among the leading causes of death. Conventional treatment has so far shown limited efficacy, notorious side effects, and a whooping cost of treatment. Conventional treatment of diseases like cirrhosis, fatty liver, and chronic hepatitis has remained problematic, whereas ginseng extracts have had a huge impact on such ailments.

Norovirus

A single-stranded RNA virus causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It spreads through the faecal-oral route through contamination of water and food (especially fish and shell fish). Korean Red Ginseng lessens inflammation in human body and treats these conditions.

Rotavirus

Causes acute gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhea) in young children. Ginseng administration in the infected body improves gastrointestinal functions and prevents from further infections.

Enterovirus and Coxsackie Virus

Human Enterovirus (EV71) and Coxsackie Virus (A16) are majorly responsible for hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) in young children. Though a self-limiting and mild disease is followed by fever, rash, bumps, blisters, ulcer in mouth, buttocks, and feet, some children may develop cardiovascular, neurological, and respiratory problems. There is no established procedure of treating these viruses, but ginsenoside Rg2 exhibits anti-EV71 activity in Vero cells.

Conclusion

Korean red ginseng is a novel medicinal substance which has been used for centuries to increase natural immunity and physical abilities among Asians and Native Americans. Our immune system is a plethora of various cells and tissues with specialized functions of their own and each type responds differently to ginseng. Recent studies on mice as well as human specimen have shown that ginseng is a potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent, regular consumption of which can keep viral infections at bay and also reduce the expression of genes that cause inflammation.

Citations:

1. Park, Tae Young; Meegun Hong; Hotaik Sung; Sangyeol Kim; Ki Tae Suk. “Effect of Korean Red Ginseng in chronic liver disease.” (January 2017) - http://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/journal-of-ginseng-research

2. Kang, Soowon and Hyeyoung Min. “Ginseng, the 'Immunity Boost': The Effects of Panax ginseng on Immune System.” (October, 2012)  - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3659612/

3. Sung, Heungsup and Sang-Moo Kang et al. “Korean Red Ginseng Slows Depletion of CD4 T Cells in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1-Infected Patients.” (February 2004) - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1074393/

4. Im, Kyungtaek and Jisu Kim et al. “Ginseng, the Natural Effectual antiviral: Protective effects of Korean Red Ginseng against Viral Infection.” (September 2015) - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1226845315000846