Comparative effects of three species of ginseng on human peripheral blood lymphocyte proliferative responses

A. T. Borchers, Judith A Van de Water, T. P. Kenny, Carl L Keen, J. S. Stern, R. M. Hackman, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The consumption of medicinal botanicals has been increasing at an estimated rate of 15-20% per year. The fact that such botanicals are sold as food supplements makes their scientific scrutiny particularly interesting to nutritionists. Among the most popular botanicals are three species of ginseng: Korean, American and Siberian ginseng, which have all been claimed to stimulate immune responses. However, data on efficacy and safety are almost nonexistent. We determined the influence of extracts from these ginseng species on the proliferation of human lymphocytes on 20 volunteers in vitro to assess whether these effects differ between ginseng species and different brands. Lymphocyte proliferation was measured via 3H-thymidine incorporation. Two of the three ginseng species studied had significant effects on human lymphocyte proliferation in vitro. American ginseng significantly stimulated proliferation at dilutions ranging from 10-2 to 10-6 (p < 0.0001). Siberian ginseng enhanced proliferation significantly at the 10-3 and 10-4 dilutions (p = 0.0013 and p < 0.0001, respectively). However, at the highest concentration used, Siberian ginseng had a significant antiproliferative effect (p < 0.0001). Panax ginseng did not significantly alter the proliferative response. Significant differences were found between two brands of American ginseng. Three conclusions are of interest: in vitro ginseng can alter human lymphocyte proliferation; ginseng is potentially cytostatic or even cytotoxic; and the biological effects of ginseng vary with species and brand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-152
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Immunotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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