Key gut microbes may enhance bioavailability of ginseng, study suggests

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

© vovashevchuk / Getty Images
© vovashevchuk / Getty Images

Related tags microbiome Gut health Probiotics Ginseng

A new review observes the importance of key microbial species in the transformation of ginseng into its metabolites, which are responsible for a range of health benefits resulting from significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Specifically, Bifidobacterium ​was found to be the most important bacterial species responsible for its biotransformation, suggesting its therapeutic potential as a probiotic to enhance the bioavailability of ginseng.

The Chinese researchers noted that, in turn, ginseng was able to enhance microbial diversity within the gut, whilst downregulating harmful species associated with inflammation.

Ginseng and health

Ginseng is a highly popular traditional medicinal herb, possessing an array of pharmacological effects​ such as antioxidation, anti-inflammation, anti-apoptosis, and anti-allergic. Studies​ have also suggested its potential to prevent multiple health conditions including diabetes, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s.

Many ingredients have been isolated from ginseng, with the most studied​ including ginsenosides; a type of triterpene saponin only found in ginseng. Following oral ingestion, it has been noted​ that the bioavailability of such ginsenosides is low due to low membrane permeability and low solubility.

Thus, there has been an increased interest in enhancing the bioavailability of ginseng. It is known​ that the gut microbiota may play a key role in transforming ginseng into its metabolites, which are known to exhibit enhanced therapeutical properties.

Yet, the interactions between ginseng and the microbiota are complex, with a lack of research investigating the interactions. The present literature review sought to summarise the effects of ginseng and ginsenosides on the gut microbiota composition, whilst investigating their therapeutic potentials.


It was reported that through microbiota composition regulation, ginseng exhibited significant anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that long-term consumption resulted in a significantly increased intestinal diversity with the upregulation of Bifidobacterium spp., Allobaculum spp., Lactobacillus spp​.

It was also found to downregulate harmful bacteria, including Helicobacter ​and Lachnospiraceae, ​which have been associated with inflammation.

The researchers observed that the intestinal microbiota is responsible for the production of vital intestinal enzymes to promote the biotransformation of an array of saponins.

During this process, the Bacteroides ​and Lactobacillus ​are the key genera noted to be involved. Specifically, the bacterial species of Bifidobacterium, Eubacterium, Clostridium, Lactobacillus​ were found to be the most important for enabling for their transformation. Thus, it is predicted that such species may enhance the bioavailability of ginseng.


The researchers summarise that the gut microbiota may significantly influence the therapeutic effects of ginseng and its constituents, suggesting the potential for the consumption of probiotics containing key beneficial species such as Bifidobacterium ​to promote this.

Summarising the role of the gut microbes, the researchers explain: “After oral administration, most primary ginsenosides (such as Rb1, Rd, and Rg1) are converted to deglycosylated metabolites (such as CK, Rh1, and F1) by gut microbiota, and these secondary ginsenosides possess stronger pharmacological properties than their parent ginsenosides. Intestinal microbiota can produce some special intestinal enzymes to promote the hydrolyzing of glycosidic linkage and biotransformation of various saponins.”

Yet, the researchers stress the need for further research to investigate the relationship between the microbiota and ginseng at a molecular level, to further understand the underlying mechanisms of action behind the observed effects.




Source: Frontiers in Nutrition

“The interaction between ginseng and gut microbiota”

Linxian Zhao, Mingxiu Sui, Tongbo Zhang, and Kai Zhang

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