Researchers at Seoul National University have found that ginseng, formerly known to kill cancer cells, can adversely affect cardiovascular health.
Various medical institutions and patients use ginseng and its primary active ingredients, ginsenoside, for diverse purposes, including the prevention and treatment of cancer.
The team, led by Professor Chung Jin-ho at the university’s department of pharmacy, focused on Rg3, one of the ginsenosides with potent anticancer activity, as the primary substance in their study.
After an animal model experiment, the team found that ginsenoside Rg3 induced apoptosis and contractile dysfunction in vascular smooth muscle cells and disrupted actin filaments in hepatoma cell line.
The study is the second research to prove adverse effects of Rg3. In 2010, the researchers found that Rg3 destroys the function of smooth muscle cells tied to contraction and relaxation in the blood vessels, which can result in cardiovascular side effects.
“We have demonstrated that the vascular toxicity of Rg3 occurs through actin disruption and Bmf-initiated mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, the mechanism which may be shared with its anticancer effects,” the team wrote in their abstract. “Collectively, the results demonstrated that Rg3 might induce vascular toxicity as well as anti-cancer effects through disrupting actin, suggesting the potential toxicity associated with the inadvertent use of ginseng and its products.”
The results of the research were published in the online edition of Food and Chemical Toxicology.
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