Saponin and nonsaponin compounds have been reported to show cytotoxic activities against various kinds of cancer cell lines in culture. The major active components are ginsenoside Rh2, a peculiar component of red ginseng, and also polyacetylenes, panaxydol, panaxynol, and panaxytriol. In addition, ace-tylpanaxydol and panaxydolchlorohydrin, showing cytotoxicity against lymph-oid leukemia L1210, have been isolated from Korean ginseng root (45). The critical early even in the cytotoxicity of panaxytriol was identified as ATP depletion resulting from a direct inhibition of mitochondrial respiration (46). Further experimental evidence suggested that polyacetylenes inhibited the synthesis of macromolecules such as DNA, RNA, and protein in L1210 cells, resulting in cytotoxicity (17).
Ginseng was found to have the ability to induce the transformation of neoplastic cells into normal cells. Ginsenoside Rh2 inhibited the growth and colony-forming ability of Morris hepatoma cells in soft agar suspension culture, and stimulated serum protein synthesis of these cells, thus converting the cell characteristics both functionally and morphologically to those resembling original normal liver cells, a process known as ''redifferentiation or reverse transformation" (47). Similarly, ginsenosides Rh1 and Rh2 have been shown to cause differentiation of F9 teratocarcinoma stem cells via binding to a steroid receptor (48). Accordingly, recent studies on therapy for various types of cancers have focused on drugs that induce differentiation of maturation-resistant cells causing the related disease. Furthermore, ginseno-side Rh2 has been found to significantly induce B16 cell differentiation and to increase melanin synthesis in B16 cells (49).
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