For millennia, ginseng and some of its components have been used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including age-related memory impairment. Because of its purported effects and apparently low rate of side effects, ginseng remains one of the top selling natural product remedies in the United States. Given its potential role for improving age-related memory impairments and its common use in China for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms, we analyzed the effects of commercially available preparations of ginseng on the accumulation of the Alzheimer's amyloid beta peptide (Abeta) in a cell-based model system. In this model system, ginseng treatment resulted in a significant reduction in the levels of Abeta in the conditioned medium. We next examined the effects of several compounds isolated from ginseng and found that certain ginsenosides lowered Abeta concentration in a dose-dependent manner with ginsenoside Rg3 having an approximate IC50 of under 25 microM against Abeta42. Furthermore, we found that three of these isolated components, ginsenoside Rg1, Rg3, and RE, resulted in significant reductions in the amount of Abeta detected in the brains of animals after single oral doses of these agents. The results indicate that ginseng itself, or purified ginsenosides, may have similarly useful effects in human disease.