Ginseng and obesity: observations and understanding in cultured cells, animals and humans

J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Jun;44:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.11.010. Epub 2016 Nov 23.


Ginseng, a traditional medical herb, has been reported having beneficial effects in fatigue, heart diseases, diabetes, immune function and erectile dysfunction. In recent years, increasing investigations have been conducted on ginseng in preventing and treating of obesity, one of the major worldwide escalating public health concerns. However, the effect and the relevant mechanisms behind how ginseng works as an antiobesity treatment are still controversial. In this review, we briefly discussed the chemical structures, metabolism and pharmacokinetics of ginseng and its major bioactive components ginsenosides. The major focus is on the antiobesity effects and the physiological, cellular and molecular mechanisms of ginseng and its ginsenosides in cultured cells, animal models and humans. We particularly compared the ginsenosides profiles, the antiobesity effects and the mechanisms between Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), the two major ginseng species having opposite medical effects in traditional Chinese medicine. Our unpublished data on the ginseng antiobesity in cultured cells and mice were also included. We further addressed the current problems and future directions of the ginseng antiobesity research.

Keywords: Adipocytes; Animals; Antiobesity effects; Ginseng; Ginsenosides; Humans; Mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Adipogenesis / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Ginsenosides / analysis
  • Ginsenosides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Panax / chemistry*
  • Panax / classification
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacokinetics*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Ginsenosides
  • Plant Extracts