Yin and Yang of ginseng pharmacology: ginsenosides vs gintonin

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2013 Nov;34(11):1367-73. doi: 10.1038/aps.2013.100. Epub 2013 Oct 14.

Abstract

Ginseng, the root of Panax ginseng, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a tonic herb that provides many beneficial effects. Pharmacologic studies in the last decades have shown that ginsenosides (ginseng saponins) are primarily responsible for the actions of ginseng. However, the effects of ginseng are not fully explained by ginsenosides. Recently, another class of active ingredients called gintonin was identified. Gintonin is a complex of glycosylated ginseng proteins containing lysophosphatidic acids (LPAs) that are the intracellular lipid mitogenic mediator. Gintonin specifically and potently activates the G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) for LPA. Thus, the actions of ginseng are now also linked to LPA and its GPCRs. This linkage opens new dimensions for ginseng pharmacology and LPA therapeutics. In the present review, we evaluate the pharmacology of ginseng with the traditional viewpoint of Yin and Yang components. Furthermore, we will compare ginsenoside and gintonin based on the modern view of molecular pharmacology in terms of ion channels and GPCRs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ginsenosides / isolation & purification
  • Ginsenosides / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Lysophospholipids / isolation & purification
  • Lysophospholipids / pharmacology
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Panax / chemistry*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism

Substances

  • Ginsenosides
  • Lysophospholipids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled