Korean Red Ginseng (KRG) is a heat-processed ginseng developed by the repeated steaming and air-drying of fresh ginseng. Compared with fresh ginseng, KRG has been shown to possess greater pharmacological activities and stability because of changes that occur in its chemical constituents during the steaming process. In addition to anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulatory activities, KRG and its purified components have also been shown to possess protective effects against microbial infections. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on the properties of KRG and its components on infections with human pathogenic viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, influenza virus, human immunodeficiency virus, human herpes virus, hepatitis virus, norovirus, rotavirus, enterovirus, and coxsackievirus. Additionally, the therapeutic potential of KRG as an antiviral and vaccine adjuvant is discussed.
Viruses are infective obligate parasites that can replicate only in the living cells of animals, plants, fungi, or bacteria. Although extremely small in size and simple in structure, viruses cause numerous diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and immunodeficiency as well as organ-specific infectious diseases including the common cold, influenza, diarrhea, hepatitis, etc. , , , .
Recent progress in the formulation of antiviral therapies and vaccines has helped to prevent, shorten the duration, or decrease the severity of viral infection , , . Most antiviral agents are designed to target viral components, but mutations in the viral genome often result in drug resistance and immune evasion, creating a major hurdle for antiviral therapies and vaccine development . In addition, the continuous emergence of new infectious agents such as the Ebola virus and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) necessitate the advancement of novel therapeutic approaches. Accordingly, great attention has recently been drawn to the development of antivirals with broad-spectrum efficacy and immunomodulators which improve host resilience by increasing host resistance to the viral infection .
Korean ginseng (the root of Panax ginseng Meyer) is one of the most popular medicinal plants used in traditional medicine in East Asian countries including Korea . Ginseng contains various pharmacologically active substances such as ginsenosides, polysaccharides, polyacetylenes, phytosterols, and essential oils, and among those, ginsenosides are considered the major bioactive compounds . Korean Red Ginseng (KRG) is a heat-processed ginseng which is prepared by the repeated process of steaming and air-drying fresh ginseng . KRG has been shown to possess enhanced pharmacological activities and stability compared with fresh ginseng because of changes in its chemical constituents such as ginsenosides Rg2, Rg3 Rh1, and Rh2, which occur during the steaming process .
Currently, numerous studies have reported the beneficial effects of KRG on diverse diseases such as cancer, immune system disorder, neuronal disease, and cardiovascular disease , , , . In addition, KRG and its purified components have also been shown to possess protective activities against microbial infections . In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the effects of KRG and its components on infections with human pathogenic viruses and discuss the therapeutic potential of KRG as an antiviral and vaccine adjuvant.
The swift emergence of new infectious viruses and drug-resistant variants has limited the availability of effective antiviral agents and vaccines. Thus, the development of broad-spectrum antivirals and immunomodulating agents that stimulate host immunity and improve host resilience is essential. Although ginseng itself can exert direct antiviral effects by inhibiting viral attachment, membrane penetration, and replication, the foremost antiviral activities of ginseng are attributed to the enhancement of host immunity. Future studies should include the identification of essential components responsible for the enhanced immunity against any viral attack.