Aging is an irreversible physiological process that affects all humans. Numerous theories have been proposed to regarding the process from a Western medicine perspective; however, ancient Chinese medicine practices and theories have increasingly gained attention, particularly ginseng, a grass that has been studied for the anti-aging properties of its active constituents. This review seeks to analyze current data on ginseng and its anti-aging properties. The plant species, characteristics, and active ingredients will be introduced. The main part of this review is focused on ginseng and its active components with regards to their effects on prolonging lifespan, the regulation of multiple organ systems including cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and skin, as well as the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The molecular mechanisms of these properties elucidated via various studies are summarized as further evidence of the anti-aging effects of ginseng.
Aging is an inevitable biological process that leads to progressive structure modification and physiological dysfunction. According to Zhores Medvedev, there are more than 300 hypotheses of aging . Many theories attempt to explain the process of aging, but none seem to be comprehensive . The theory of aging can essentially be categorized into two main schools of thought as to the underlying factors: programmed factors vs. damage-related factors. Programmed factors follow a biological timetable, perhaps a continuation of the one that regulates childhood growth and development. Changes in gene expression subsequently affect the systems responsible for the responses involved in maintenance, repair and defense. Damage-related factors, on the other hand, include internal and environmental assaults to the living organism that induce cumulative damage at various levels . Both theories conclude that the aging body is unable to maintain its normal function and constitution, ultimately leading death. While humans are now living longer, we are not necessarily living healthier. Recent evidence has shown the promise of herbal medicine in protecting against aging and aging related pathologies. LW-AFC, prepared from Liuwei Dihuang decoction, a well-known Chinese herbal medicine believed to delay senescence, has been proven to be beneficial against the deterioration of memory and learning, and play a role in regulating N-glycan in Senescence-Accelerated Mouse Prone 8 Strain, a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease . Another Chinese herbal medicine, Danggui-Shaoyao-San (DSS), has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and reduce cell apoptosis in the hippocampus of free radical-mediated neurological diseases. DSS also participate in the regulation of central nervous systems by improving monoaminergic, cholinergic, dopaminergic, adrenergic, and serotonergic neurotransmission. Moreover, it can modulate cognitive dysfunction in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) . Recent studies indicate that DSS attenuate ischemia-induced brain injury in middle cerebral artery occlusion rats and facilitate focal angiogenesis and neurogenesis . Ginseng is a popular herb that has been used in Chinese Medicine for over 2000 years, with its first use records in the ancient Chinese Meteria Medica ShenNongBenCaoJing (Patron of Agriculture’s Herbal Classic). It is believed to maintain vigor and vitality, particularly with regards to strength and intelligence. Many studies have sought to discover the pharmacological effects and mechanisms of this mysterious plant. It has been proven that ginseng indeed possess properties that combat aging, diabetes, cancer, as well as immunoregulatory effects that help with wound and ulcer healing. This review will discuss pharmacological activity of ginseng associated with its anti-aging properties.
Aging is a complicated process with multiple modulations occurring at many levels, from the molecular to the cells. Ginseng, an ancient Chinese herb widely used in Eastern medicine, has been studied for its anti-aging properties., and has been shown to have beneficial effects with regards to anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation, cardiovascular regulation, neurological improvement, anti-tumor, skin protection and immune modulation. The evidence on the life-prolonging effects of ginseng remains inadequate, and further studies are recommended. Investigations integrating science and technology will be needed to further explore the effects of ginseng on the human body to fully understand its potential.