Antidepressant-like effects of the active acidic polysaccharide portion of ginseng in mice

J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Oct 28;132(1):65-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.07.042. Epub 2010 Jul 29.


Aim of the study: The biological of activity of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer (ginseng) is complex but some of its known effects are related to affective and anxiety disorders, including the enhancement of neuroprotection, cellular resilience and plasticity. Whereas such effects suggest that ginseng might have antidepressant activity, previous studies show incongruent results. The sources of contrasting results might be many but one possibility is the utilization of different ginseng preparations in different studies. The current study was therefore designed to examine the effects of a very specific component of ginseng extract, the acidic polysaccharide portion of the plant (WGPA), containing arabinogalactan, type-I rhamnogalacturonan (RG-I)- and homogalacturonan (HG)-rich pectins.

Materials and methods: WGPA was extracted from ginseng roots and administered orally to mice at 100 mg/kg and 200 mg/kg doses. WGPA was administered chronically, once daily for 1 week before the start of experiments and throughout the behavioral tests battery. Mice were tested for spontaneous activity, social interactions, anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus-maze (EPM) and despair-like behavior in the forced swim test (FST).

Results: WGPA had no effects on spontaneous activity or behavior in the EPM. In contrast, 100 mg/kg (but not the 200 mg/kg) WGPA significantly reduced immobility time in the FST and both doses significantly increased social interactions and decreased aggressive behaviors in mice.

Conclusion: These results suggest that chronic WGPA treatment might have antidepressant-like effects that are unrelated to generalized behavioral changes. The results are discussed in the context of the known ability of the active ingredients of ginseng to increase neuroprotection, similar to many of the current antidepressant and mood stabilizing drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Panax / chemistry*
  • Pectins / isolation & purification
  • Pectins / pharmacology*
  • Pectins / therapeutic use
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Social Behavior
  • Swimming


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Pectins