Letter to the editor

Are berries useless by-products of ginseng? Recent research on the potential health benefits of ginseng berry

Tae Kyung Hyun1[*], Keum-Il Jang2

1Department of Industrial Plant Science and Technology, College of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju 28644, Republic of Korea

2Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, College of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju 28644, Republic of Korea

EXCLI J 2017;16:Doc780


Dear Editor,

Since the ginseng root (Panax ginseng C. A. Meyer) has long been used as a valuable medicinal plant in traditional oriental medicine, current pharmaceutical studies have sought to reveal its other potential applications. These include a wide array of ameliorative effects that encompass those for anti-oxidation, anti-inflammatory, antihistamines, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, anti-tumor, enhancing immune system function, adjusting blood pressure, sexual potentiation and so on (Li and Gong, 2015[19]; Kim et al., 2016[12]; Patel and Rauf, 2017[22]; Zhang et al., 2017[27]).

When culturing ginseng, cultivators are required to choose between harvesting the seed for further plantings or removing the inflorescences to increase root development (Fiebig et al., 2005[5]), which suggests that the ginseng berry (fruit) may be considered a useless by-product of ginseng. However, phytochemical analyses determined that ginseng berries contained higher amounts of total ginsenosides than the root (Kim et al., 2009[16]). In addition, ginsenoside Re, a major constituent of the ginseng berry, exhibited multiple pharmacological activities including anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidation, neuroprotective, anti-arrhythmic and anti-ischemic effects, as well as supporting osteoblast differentiation and cardiovascular health (Chen et al., 2008[1]; Lee et al., 2012[18]; Peng et al., 2012[23]; Kim et al., 2017[10]; Huang et al., 2016[7]; Kim et al., 2017[13]). These findings indicate the potential of ginseng berries as beneficial biomaterials for the food and medical industries; however, ginseng berries have long been underappreciated.

To introduce the ginseng berry as a potential source of herbal medicine, we summarized key findings that demonstrate the pharmacological properties of ginseng berries (Table 1(Tab. 1); References in Table 1: Yang et al., 2014[26]; Kim et al., 2012[15]; Park et al., 2012[21]; Seo et al., 2015[24]; Choi et al., 2017[3]; Cho et al., 2013[2]; Choi et al., 2013[4]; Zhang et al., 2016[29]; Kim et al., 2012[9]; He et al., 2016[6]; Wang et al., 2015[25]; Zhang et al., 2015[27]; Jung et al., 2016[8]; Kim et al., 2016[11]; Kim et al., 2012[9]; Kim et al., 2017[14]; Park et al., 2015[20]; Lee et al., 2014[17]). This report also emphasizes the potential of ginseng berries to be employed in new herbal medicine, and we hope that this report will stimulate future research on the ginseng berry for its applications in the pharmaceutical industry.


Tae Kyung Hyun and Keum-Il Jang (Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, College of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju 28644, Republic of Korea; Phone: +82-43-261-2569, Fax: +82-43-271-4412, E-mail: jangki@chungbuk.ac.kr) contributed equally as corresponding authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



1. Chen LM, Zhou XM, Cao YL, Hu WX. Neuroprotection of ginsenoside Re in cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury in rats. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2008;10:439-45.
2. Cho KS, Park CW, Kim CK, Jeon HY, Kim WG, Lee SJ, et al. Effects of Korean ginseng berry extract (GB0710) on penile erection: evidence from in vitro and in vivo studies. Asian J Androl. 2013;15:503-7.
3. Choi HS, Kim S, Kim MJ, Kim M-S, Kim J, Park C-W, et al. Efficacy and safety of Panax ginseng berry extract on glycemic control: A 12-wk randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Ginseng Res. 2017;epub ahead of print. DOI:10.1016/j.jgr.2017.01.003.
4. Choi YD, Park CW, Jang J, Kim SH, Jeon HY, Kim WG, et al. Effects of Korean ginseng berry extract on sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction: a multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical study. Int J Impot Res. 2013;25:45-50.
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6. He DF, Ren YP, Liu MY. Effects of ginseng fruit saponins on serotonin system in Sprague-Dawley rats with myocardial infarction, depression, and myocardial infarction complicated with depression. Chin Med J (Engl). 2016;129:2913-9.
7. Huang GD, Zhong XF, Deng ZY, Zeng R. Proteomic analysis of ginsenoside Re attenuates hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Food Funct. 2016;7:2451-61.
8. Jung H, Bae J, Ko SK, Sohn UD. Ultrasonication processed Panax ginseng berry extract induces apoptosis through an intrinsic apoptosis pathway in HepG2 cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2016;39:855-62.
9. Kim CK, Cho DH, Lee KS, Lee DK, Park CW, Kim WG, et al. Ginseng berry extract prevents atherogenesis via anti-inflammatory action by upregulating phase II gene expression. Evid Based Complement Altern Med. 2012;2012:490301.
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11. Kim J, Cho SY, Kim SH, Cho D, Kim S, Park C-W, et al. Effects of Korean ginseng berry on skin anti-pigmentation and anti-aging via FoxO3a activation. J Ginseng Res. 2016;epub ahead of print. DOI:10.1016/j.jgr.2016.05.005.
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13. Kim JM, Park CH, Park SK, Seung TW, Kang JY, Ha JS, et al. Ginsenoside Re ameliorates brain insulin resistance and cognitive dysfunction in high fat diet-induced C57BL/6 mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2017;65:2719-29.
14. Kim MH, Lee J, Jung S, Kim JW, Shin J-H, Lee H-J. The involvement of ginseng berry extract in blood flow via regulation of blood coagulation in rats fed a high-fat diet. J Ginseng Res. 2017;41:120-6.
15. Kim ST, Kim HB, Lee KH, Choi YR, Kim HJ, Shin IS, et al. Steam-dried ginseng berry fermented with Lactobacillus plantarum controls the increase of blood glucose and body weight in type 2 obese diabetic db/db mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60:5438-45.
16. Kim YK, Yoo DS, Xu H, Park NI, Kim HH, Choi JE, et al. Ginsenoside content of berries and roots of three typical Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) cultivars. Nat Prod Commun. 2009;4:903-6.
17. Lee DI, Kim ST, Lee DH, Yu JM, Jang SK, Joo SS. Ginsenoside-free molecules from steam-dried ginseng berry promote ethanol metabolism: an alternative choice for an alcohol hangover. J Food Sci. 2014;79:C1323-30.
18. Lee KW, Jung SY, Choi SM, Yang EJ. Effects of ginsenoside Re on LPS-induced inflammatory mediators in BV2 microglial cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12:196.
19. Li K-K, Gong X-J. A review on the medicinal potential of Panax ginseng saponins in diabetes mellitus. RSC Adv. 2015;5:47353-66.
20. Park CH, Park SK, Seung TW, Jin DE, Guo T, Heo HJ. Effect of ginseng (Panax ginseng) berry EtOAc fraction on cognitive impairment in C57BL/6 mice under high-fat diet inducement. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:316527.
21. Park EY, Kim HJ, Kim YK, Park SU, Choi JE, Cha JY, et al. Increase in insulin secretion induced by Panax ginseng berry extracts contributes to the amelioration of hyperglycemia in streptozotocin induced diabetic mice. J Ginseng Res. 2012;36:153-60.
22. Patel S, Rauf A. Adaptogenic herb ginseng (Panax) as medical food: Status quo and future prospects. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;85:120-7.
23. Peng L, Sun S, Xie LH, Wicks SM, Xie JT. Ginsenoside Re: Pharmacological effects on cardiovascular system. Cardiovasc Ther. 2012;30:e183-8.
24. Seo E, Kim S, Lee SJ, Oh BC, Jun HS. Ginseng berry extract supplementation improves age-related decline of insulin signaling in mice. Nutrients. 2015;7:3038-53.
25. Wang Y, Huang M, Sun R, Pan L. Extraction, characterization of a ginseng fruits polysaccharide and its immune modulating activities in rats with Lewis lung carcinoma. Carbohydr Polym. 2015;127:215-21.
26. Yang SO, Park HR, Sohn ES, Lee SW, Kim HD, Kim YC, et al. Classification of ginseng berry (Panax ginseng C.A. MEYER) extract using 1H NMR spectroscopy and its inhibition of lipid accumulation in 3T3-L1 cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:455.
27. Zhang L, Virgous C, Si H. Ginseng and obesity: observations and understanding in cultured cells, animals and humans. J Nutr Biochem. 2017;44:1-10.
28. Zhang W, Cho SY, Xiang G, Min KJ, Yu Q, Jin JO. Ginseng berry extract promotes maturation of mouse dendritic cells. PLoS ONE. 2015;10:e0130926.
29. Zhang W, Xu L, Cho SY, Min KJ, Oda T, Zhang L, et al. Ginseng berry extract attenuates dextran sodium sulfate-induced acute and chronic colitis. Nutrients. 2016;8:199.

Table 1: Recent studies on the biological and pharmacological activities of ginseng berries

[*] Corresponding Author:

Tae Kyung Hyun, Department of Industrial Plant Science and Technology, College of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju 28644, Republic of Korea; Phone: +82-43-261-2520, Fax: +82-43-271- 0413, eMail: taekyung7708@chungbuk.ac.kr