A researcher at the Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences said on Monday that ginseng can be used to treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Researcher Sang-Moo Kang is working to develop vaccines for viral diseases and partnered with university and research institutes in South Korea to study ginseng. The herbal treatment is said to have multiple health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anticancer and immune modifying abilities.
Kang found red ginseng extract does improve the survival of human lung epithelial cells that were infected in influenza, as well as reduces inflammation.
Mice infected with influenza A given ginseng orally showed multiple immune effects, such as stimulated production of proteins used for immune response and fewer inflammatory cells in bronchial walls. Kang determined that red ginseng extract could help prevent influenza A virus infections.
Kang also studied red ginseng extract as a treatment for RSV. He found the herbal remedy continued to improve lung health and suppressed viral replication, as well as prevent inflammation and epithelial damage.
Seasonal influenza causes severe illness in three to five million people annual, leading to between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths. While influenza vaccines are administered every year, the infection spreads and evolves quickly, creating challenges in keeping up with vaccines.
RSV does not have a vaccine and is the leading cause of inflammatory bronchiolitis pneumonia in infants and some elderly adults.