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Phytomedicine. 2002 Jul;9(5):398-404.

Extractable polysaccharides of Panax quinquefolius L. (North American ginseng) root stimulate TNFalpha production by alveolar macrophages.

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Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada.


We have investigated the immunostimulatory activity of the medicinal plant Panax quinquefolius L. (North American ginseng). Rat alveolar macrophages were treated with different extracts from 4-year old roots, and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF) production was used as a measure of immunostimulatory activity. Aqueous extracts of P. quinquefolius root (1-100 microg/ml) were found to significantly stimulate alveolar macrophage TNF release. Both a P. quinquefolius methanol extract containing ginsenosides (but no polysaccharides), and pure ginsenoside-Rb1, the major ginsenoside present in P. quinquefolius, were found to be inactive as TNF-stimulating agents. Significant TNF-stimulating activity was found in the extractable polysaccharide fraction, which was hydrolyzed and found to contain glucose, galactose, arabinose, rhamnose, and mannose. This represents the first evidence that North American ginseng exerts cytokine-stimulating activity on macrophages.

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