Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) ameliorates type 1 diabetes and restores immune cell compartments

J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Nov 21;144(2):225-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.08.009. Epub 2012 Aug 19.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Historical records reveal that in traditional medicine, a disease similar to diabetes was treated with ginseng. Korean red ginseng has been considered beneficial as a dietary supplement for its anti-diabetic potential.

Aim: This study was designed to investigate the prophylactic potential of Korean red ginseng (KRG) extract (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer Radix Rubra) in a well-established mouse model of Type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Materials and methods: The prophylactic effect of KRG extract was evaluated in mice fed with KRG extract for two weeks prior to induction of diabetes by streptozotocin (STZ) administration. Glucose levels and glucose challenge test results of KRG-treated diabetic mice were compared to those of untreated diabetic mice and healthy control mice. Examination of the immune compartments in lymphoid organs and immunohistochemical staining of pancreas for islet cell morphology and insulin producing beta cells were performed.

Results: KRG extract significantly lowered blood glucose levels to an average of 250mg/dl from 350mg/dl and improved glucose challenge testing when applied as prophylaxis. Histological findings indicated that KRG extract protected against STZ-induced destruction of pancreatic tissue and restored insulin secretion. Strikingly, this effect was accompanied by restoration of lymphocytes in secondary lymphoid organs, suggesting that KRG extract facilitated immune homeostasis.

Conclusion: This is the first report to demonstrate the prophylactic function of KRG extract in ameliorating the hyperglycemia of T1D. Immune compartments of diabetic mice were found to be preserved in KRG-treated mice suggesting that Korean red ginseng may benefit T1D patients, not only for its hypoglycemic but also for its immunomodulatory effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Cell Line
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology
  • Female
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Panax*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Spleen / cytology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Plant Extracts