Ginseng, a widely popular superfood, has long been used in traditional medicine. The health benefits of ginseng are largely attributed to compounds called ginsenosides, which are present in the roots, stems, and leaves of the plant. Ginsenosides are known to prevent inflammation, diabetes, and cancer, and can also help control blood cholesterol levels and reduce aging.
Although there are 13 known species of ginseng, Korean ginseng—which contains the highest number of ginsenosides—is not commonly found in nature. Moreover, of the two types of ginsenosides, the more effective variety—the minor ginsenosides—accounts for only 20% of the total ginsenoside content in ginseng. As a result, the supply of ginsenosides is insufficient to meet the high demand in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries. In order to improve ginsenoside production, a one-stop resource with consolidated information from previous ginsenoside studies is required, but such a resource is currently unavailable.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Ravi Gupta from Kookmin University and Dr. Sun Tae Kim from Pusan National University, Korea, embarked on a journey to address this gap. In their recent review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, they compiled a vast amount of data from a large number of ginsenoside studies across multiple fields, including botany, biochemistry, genetics, and drug research.
In addition to providing an overview of the different types and sources of ginsenosides, this review highlights several opportunities for improving ginsenoside production, both in the natural sources, as well as in synthetic biosystems. First, it discusses how major ginsenosides can be converted to the more effective minor type using chemical and enzymatic treatments as well as microbial action. Subsequently, it focuses on how treatments such as water restriction, light stress, gamma radiation, and the administration of plant hormones like jasmonic acid can enhance the ginsenoside content of ginseng.
Finally, the review provides a detailed summary of the biochemistry underlying ginsenoside synthesis in plants as well as its regulation at the gene level. “Understanding and identifying the genes and pathways involved in ginsenoside production can help us develop plants containing high levels of ginsenosides. The identified genes can also be inserted into other organisms that do not make ginsenosides to create artificial systems like ginsenoside-producing yeasts,” explains Dr. Gupta, adding that such strategies would be essential for large-scale ginsenoside production.
This review is the first of its kind to focus on ginsenosides on a wide scale. “This was a mammoth challenge, but we strongly believe that our efforts will bear fruit. Our work cements together all the research that has been conducted in the past, and we hope that in the future, scientists will capitalize on it and develop new ways to meet the global demand for ginsenosides,” according to Dr. Kim.
This work by Dr. Gupta, Dr. Kim, and their team is an important tool in further improving the industrial potential of a natural food that is a trove of nutrients necessary for healthy living. This is indeed great news for health enthusiasts the world over!
About Pusan National University
Pusan National University, located in Busan, South Korea, was founded in 1946, and is now the no. 1 national university of South Korea in research and educational competency. The multi-campus university also has other smaller campuses in Yangsan, Miryang, and Ami. The university prides itself on the principles of truth, freedom, and service, and has approximately 30,000 students, 1200 professors, and 750 faculty members. The university is composed of 14 colleges (schools) and one independent division, with 103 departments in all.
About the author
Dr. Ravi Gupta is an Assistant Professor at Kookmin University, Seoul. He obtained his Ph.D. in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry from the University of Delhi, India, and then spent more than five years working as a postdoctoral fellow and Research Professor at Pusan National University, Busan, Korea. Dr. Gupta is the author of more than 70 scientific publications and has also published several books. He is a recipient of many prestigious national and international awards, including the Ramalingaswami re-entry fellowship, Ramanujan fellowship, ITS fellowship from the Government of India, and Korea Research Fellowship from the Government of South Korea.
His work can be accessed here: https://sites.google.com/site/raviguptaproteomics/home
His ORCID ID is: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5242-9528
Dr. Sun Tae Kim is a Professor at Pusan National University, Busan, Korea, and he obtained his Ph.D. in Applied Biology from Gyeongsang National University, Jinju, Korea. His research focuses on biotic stress in rice as well as proteomics, and he has published around 108 SCI-level papers, accounting for a total of 4,375 citations and an h-Index of 37. He has received a Basic Research Laboratory grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea (March 2018 to February 2024) for studying immune receptor-mediated disease resistance in crops. Dr. Kim is also an active editorial member of international academic journals such as Frontiers in Plant Science and Plants. He has served as the Associate Dean of Research Affairs in Pusan National University and is also a part of the Research Board of the NRF of Korea.
His work can be accessed here: https://scholar.google.co.in/citations?user=fEMNG70AAAAJ&hl=en
His ORCID ID is: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9705-6868
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
METHOD OF RESEARCH
SUBJECT OF RESEARCH
Phytochemistry of ginsenosides: Recent advancements and emerging roles
ARTICLE PUBLICATION DATE
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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