Background: Preclinical studies indicate a role of Korean red ginseng (KRG) in the modulation of vascular function; however, clinical evidence is scarce. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate the effect of KRG root on peripheral blood pressure (BP) and augmentation index (AI), an emerging method to assess cardiovascular risk beyond conventional BP measurements. Furthermore, in an attempt to elucidate which of the major components of KRG is responsible for these effects, the ginsenoside and polysaccharide fractions isolated from the same KRG root were also investigated.
Methods: The study was designed as an acute randomized, controlled, double blind, crossover trial. A total of 17 healthy fasted individuals (gender: 9 males:8 females, age: 30 +/- 9 years, body mass index: 25 +/- 3 kg/m(2), systolic BP (SBP): 110 +/- 10.1, diastolic BP (DBP): 65 +/- 7 mm Hg) received, on separate occasions, four treatments consisting of: 3 g of either placebo, KRG root, or a KRG root bioequivalent dose of ginsenoside or polysaccharide fractions. BP and AI were measured by applanation tonometry at baseline, 1, 2, and 3 h post-treatment.
Results: Compared to placebo, 3 g of KRG significantly lowered radial AI by 4.6% (P = 0.045), whereas the ginsenoside fraction comparably decreased AI by 4.8% (P = 0.057), and no effect was observed with the polysaccharides. There were no differences in BP between treatments.
Conclusion: Although preliminary, this study is the first to demonstrate that KRG may improve arterial stiffness as measured by AI. In addition, it appears that ginsenosides may be the principal pharmacologically active component of the root, rather than the polysaccharide fraction. This study supports the results seen with KRG in the preclinical studies and warrants further investigation on acute and long-term endothelial parameters.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00728143.