The World Health Organization states that overweight and obesity occur due to an abnormal accumulation of excess fat, which is a major risk factor for many health conditions. Obesity is now on the rise in today’s urban world.1
The conventional treatment with medicines for obesity is associated with certain limitations. Hence, the use of complementary and alternative medicines has increased to treat obesity globally. Ginseng has many physiological and pharmacological effects. Along with its other actions, ginseng has an antiobesity effect. This article discusses the anti-obesity action of ginseng.2
What is obesity?
Studies have linked obesity to body mass index (BMI). According to global guidelines, a person is called obese if their BMI is 30 or more, while a person is called overweight if their BMI is 25 or more. These numbers vary based on race and ethnicity. Both obesity and overweight are major risk factors for several conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.1 The adipose tissue in the body stores lipids in the form of cholesterol esters and triglycerides and is responsible for many physiological functions in the body; however, its main role is to store energy from the lipids. The deposition of the fat in the adipose tissues takes place under the skin and in the abdominal region. Any disturbance in the adipogenesis (a process in which cells in the adipose tissue are differentiated into different special cells) can result in obesity.3
How does ginseng function as an antiobesity herb?
People have been using ginseng – the ancient Chinese herb for thousands of years for strengthening holistic health. The primary ingredient in ginseng is ginsenoside, which possesses several pharmacological properties. Research studies show that the ginsenosides exert action on many metabolic processes and can reduce obesity.4 Some studies have also revealed the effect of ginseng on gut microbes in exerting the antiobesity effect.6
Although according to studies, the antiobesity effects of ginseng are complicated and not completely understood, scientists have proposed the following mechanisms through which ginseng may help with treating obesity:3,5
- Impact on food intake:Some animal studies have shown that ginsenosides act at the protein level and control the expression of some hormones that are responsible for hunger. Through such actions, ginseng can prevent energy intake and the onset of obesity.
- Effect on digestion and absorption system: According to animal studies, the inhibition of pancreatic lipase activity can increase fat excretion through faeces, thereby preventing obesity. Ginseng supplements have shown increased faecal weight and increased lipid content in the faeces by inhibiting the activity of pancreatic lipase enzyme.
- The effect on the liver: Ginseng facilitates cholesterol clearance from the body and increases bile synthesis from cholesterol. It thus reduces the levels of cholesterol in the plasma and liver.
- Effect on adipose tissue: Ginseng can reduce the size of the fat cells and fat storage. Unlike other tissues in the body, the adipocyte tissue grows throughout life and gets blood supply. Studies carried out in the animals show the effect of ginseng on reducing obesity.
While currently available data shows that ginseng may help control appetite, increase energy consumption by muscles and alter the lipid metabolism3,5, always remember to exert caution while starting something new and ask your doctor if you see unpleasant side effects.
So go ahead, say no to obesity with ginseng!!
- World Health Organization. Obesity [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 25]. Available from: https://www.who.int/topics/obesity/en/.
- Park HS, Cho JH, Kim KW, Chung WS, Song MY. Effects of Panax ginseng on obesity in animal models: a systematic review and meta-analysis; evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 May 15;2018:2719794. DOI: 10.1155/2018/2719794.
- Siraj FM, Kim YJ, Natarajan S, Jung SK, Yang DU, Yang DC. Ginseng and obesity: observations from assorted perspectives. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2014;23(4):1007-1016. DOI: 10.1007/s10068-014-0137-x.
- Hong Y, Lin Y, Si Q, Yang L, Dong W, Gu X. Ginsenoside Rb2 alleviates obesity by activation of brown fat and induction of browning of white fat. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019 Mar 15;10:153. DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2019.00153.
- Li Z, Ji GE. Ginseng and obesity. J Ginseng Res. 2018 Jan;42(1):1-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.jgr.2016.12.005.
- Song MY, Kim BS, Kim H. Influence of Panax ginseng on obesity and gut microbiota in obese middle-aged Korean women. J Ginseng Res. 2014 Apr;38(2):106-15. DOI: 10.1016/j.jgr.2013.12.004.