Intestinal bacterial hydrolysis is required for the appearance of compound K in rat plasma after oral administration of ginsenoside Rb1 from Panax ginseng

J Pharm Pharmacol. 1998 Oct;50(10):1155-60. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.1998.tb03327.x.


Ginsenoside Rb1 from Panax ginseng root is transformed into compound K via ginsenosides Rd and F2 by intestinal bacterial flora. Among 31 defined intestinal strains from man, only Eubacterium sp. A-44 transformed ginsenoside Rb1 into compound K via ginsenoside Rd. The ginsenoside Rb1-hydrolysing enzyme isolated from Eubacterium sp. A-44 was identical to a previously purified geniposide-hydrolysing beta-D-glucosidase. When ginsenoside Rb1 (200 mg kg-1) was administered orally to germ-free rats, neither compound K nor any other metabolite was detected in the plasma, intestinal tract or cumulative faeces 7 or 15 h after administration. Most of the ginsenoside Rb1 administered was recovered from the intestinal tract, especially the caeca, and cumulative faeces indicating poor absorption of ginsenoside Rb1. When ginsenoside Rb1 was administered orally to gnotobiote rats mono-associated with Eubacterium sp. A-44, a significant amount of compound K was detected in the plasma and considerable amounts were found in the caecal contents and cumulative faeces 7 and 15 h after administration. A small amount of ginsenoside Rb1 was detected in the caecal contents only 7 h after administration. These results indicate that orally administered ginsenoside Rb1 is poorly absorbed from the gut but that its metabolite compound K, produced by ginsenoside Rb1-hydrolysing bacteria such as Eubacterium sp. A-44 in the lower part of intestine, is absorbed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Central Nervous System Agents / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System Agents / pharmacology
  • Eubacterium / metabolism*
  • Ginsenosides
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Panax* / chemistry
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Saponins / blood*
  • Saponins / metabolism*
  • Saponins / pharmacology
  • Triterpenes / blood*


  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Ginsenosides
  • Saponins
  • Triterpenes
  • ginsenoside M1