Ginseng Paradox Explained

Study finds it both promotes, limits blood vessel growth

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FRIDAY, Sept. 10, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- An international study is the first to explain how ginseng can both promote the growth of blood vessels and also limit blood vessel growth.

These dual effects can be important. Encouraging blood vessel growth can help wound healing. Preventing blood vessel growth can help kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply.

Researchers from the United States, Hong Kong, England, and the Netherlands analyzed the chemicals in four varieties of ginseng -- American, Chinese, Korean, and Sanqi -- and found that each has different proportions of two key ingredients.

Further research revealed that a preponderance of one of the key ingredients encouraged blood vessel growth while more of the other key ingredient stymied blood vessel growth.

The research team also found the way ginseng extracts are processed can alter their composition.

"This is a very clear-cut example of why we need regulations standardizing herbal therapies through compositional analysis," lead researcher Ram Sasisekharan, a professor of biological engineering at MIT, said in a prepared statement.

With these study results, "we can now rationally isolate the components to focus on a specific effect, such as promoting blood-vessel formation," Sasisekharan said.

This research could also help in the development of new medicines patterned after ginseng's key components.

The study appears in the Sept. 7 issue of Circulation.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about herbal health products.

SOURCE: MIT, news release, Sept. 7, 2004

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