Red ginseng and vitamin C increase immune cell activity and decrease lung inflammation induced by influenza A virus/H1N1 infection

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2016 Mar;68(3):406-20. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12529. Epub 2016 Feb 21.


Objectives: Because red ginseng and vitamin C have immunomodulatory function and anti-viral effect, we investigated whether red ginseng and vitamin C synergistically regulate immune cell function and suppress viral infection.

Methods: Red ginseng and vitamin C were treated to human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) or sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)-infected BCBL-1, and administrated to Gulo(-/-) mice, which are incapable of synthesizing vitamin C, with or without influenza A virus/H1N1 infection.

Key findings: Red ginseng and vitamin C increased the expression of CD25 and CD69 of PBMCs and natural killer (NK) cells. Co-treatment of them decreased cell viability and lytic gene expression in BCBL-1. In Gulo(-/-) mice, red ginseng and vitamin C increased the expression of NKp46, a natural cytotoxic receptor of NK cells and interferon (IFN)-γ production. Influenza infection decreased the survival rate, and increased inflammation and viral plaque accumulation in the lungs of vitamin C-depleted Gulo(-/-) mice, which were remarkably reduced by red ginseng and vitamin C supplementation.

Conclusions: Administration of red ginseng and vitamin C enhanced the activation of immune cells like T and NK cells, and repressed the progress of viral lytic cycle. It also reduced lung inflammation caused by viral infection, which consequently increased the survival rate.

Keywords: H1N1; influenza A virus; red ginseng; vitamin C.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / immunology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology*
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / virology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / immunology*
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Panax / immunology*
  • Pneumonia / immunology*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Ascorbic Acid