Ginsenosides: Are Any of them Candidates for Drugs Acting on the Central Nervous System?


  • Conflict of interest: The authors have no conflict of interest.

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The last two decades have shown a marked expansion in the number of publications regarding the effects of Panax ginseng. Ginsenosides, which are unique saponins isolated from Panax ginseng, are the pharmacologically active ingredients in ginseng, responsible for its effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system. Recent studies have shown that ginsenosides regulate various types of ion channels, such as voltage-dependent and ligand-gated ion channels, in neuronal and heterologously expressed cells. Ginsenosides inhibit voltage-dependent Ca2+, K+, and Na+ channel activities in a stereospecific manner. Ginsenosides also inhibit ligand-gated ion channels such as N-methyl-d-aspartate, some subtypes of nicotinic acetylcholine, and 5-hydroxytryptamine type 3 receptors. Competition and site-directed mutagenesis experiments revealed that ginsenosides interact with ligand-binding sites or channel pore sites and inhibit open states of ion channels. This review will introduce recent findings and advances on ginsenoside-induced regulation of ion channel activities in the CNS, and will further expand the possibilities that ginsenosides may be useful and potentially therapeutic choices in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.