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Med Res Rev. 2018 Mar;38(2):625-654. doi: 10.1002/med.21450. Epub 2017 Jun 6.

Cellular stress response mechanisms as therapeutic targets of ginsenosides.

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College of Chinese Medicine, Southwest University, Chongqing, P.R. China.


Ginseng, one of the most widely used traditional herbal medicines and dietary supplements, has historically been recognized as a tonic herb and adaptogen that can enhance the body's tolerance to various adversities. Ginsenosides are a diverse group of steroidal saponins that comprise the major secondary metabolites of ginseng and are responsible for its multiple pharmacological effects. Emerging evidence suggests that hormetic phytochemicals produced by environmentally stressed plants can activate the moderate cellular stress response mechanisms at a subtoxic level in humans, which may enhance tolerance against severe dysfunction or disease. In this review, we initially describe the role of ginsenosides in the chemical defense of plants from the genus Panax suffering from biotic and abiotic stress. Next, we summarize the diverse evolutionarily conserved cellular stress response pathways regulated by ginsenosides and the subsequent stress tolerance against various dysfunctions or diseases. Finally, the structure-activity relationship involved in the effect of ginsenosides is also analyzed. The evidence presented in this review implicates that ginseng as "the King of all herbs" could be regarded as a well-characterized example of the critical role of cellular stress response mechanisms in understanding the health benefits provided by herbal medicines from an evolutionary and ecological perspective.


cellular stress response; ginseng; ginsenosides; herbal medicine; stress tolerance

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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