Monday, July 26, 2010

American Ginseng: Mediocre Effects on Markers of Oxidative Stress After Downhill Run

In the West ginseng is by now almost more popular than in China, where it has been part of the traditional medicine for hundreds of years. In a recent study Hsu investigated the effect of 4 weeks American ginseng supplementation on oxidative stress following acute downhill running (Hsu. Ginseng. 2010). The results are far from earth-shattering and might save you a few bucks you might have (mis-)invested in American ginseng, otherwise:
No group differences were observed in plasma TNF-a, IL-1b, and IL-10. However, 4-wk AG supplementation resulted in a significant increase in plasma IL-4. Furthermore, serum lipid peroxidative biomarker, 8-iso-PGF2a concentration of the AG group was significantly lower than that of the PL group at immediately, and 1, 2, and 72 hr after exercise. AG group showed a less muscle soreness than that of PL group at 72 hr after exercise.
Eventually, these figures are pretty meaningless. While they might indicate that ginseng had an effect, we are way to far away from understanding the interaction of exercise induced cytocine production and exercise related health benefits (cf. debate on the use of vitamins / anti-oxidants) to draw any conclusions from a study like that. The marker "muscle soreness" on the other hand can hardly be an indicator of training success/failure - everyone who has been to a gym once in his life will know that.
Of significantly greater interest could be another study by Hsu (Hsu. Dammarane. 2010), which found a GSH sparing effect of 2 months supplementation with Dammarane saponins extracted from American ginseng in rats participating in a swimming test to exaustion:
Glutathione (GSH), a foot marker of oxidative stress was dramatically decreased after exhausted exercise in placebo group, and the same was elevated in DS treated groups even after exercise. No significant changes in oxidized GSH (GSSG) levels were reported after exercise.
Whether these encouraging results are of any significance for human athletes remains to be investigated.