Ginseng Extract Helps Soothe Liver Damage From Fatty Liver Disease

Jim Crocker
24th January, 2024

Ginseng Extract Helps Soothe Liver Damage From Fatty Liver Disease

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Imagine the liver as a bustling airport. All day long, it's managing the traffic of substances entering and leaving the body. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH for short, is like a massive snowstorm hitting this airport. It leads to a pile-up of fat in the liver, creating an inflammation that can result in scarring, or fibrosis, and may eventually cause the liver to stop working altogether. To keep our liver-airport running smoothly, scientists have been hunting for the best snowplows and de-icers—essentially, treatments that can help. One such "snowplow" might just stem from a very old root: Panax ginseng, also known merely as ginseng, long heralded in traditional medicine for its healing properties. Deep within ginseng, there's an array of natural compounds that have the potential to calm the stormy weather inside a liver stricken by NASH. How does ginseng do this? It comes down to something called the NLRP3 inflammasome. This isn't a microscopic of inflammation insurgents as the name might suggest. Rather, it's a collection of proteins in the body that, when activated in the wrong way, can amplify inflammation and injury. In NASH, the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome can be like tossing another shovel of snow onto a drift that's already about to collapse the roof. Researchers focused on finding a particular component in ginseng that can inhibit this inflammasome. They set up an experiment where they divided ginseng into two squads—polar and non-polar factions. The difference between the two is akin to how oil and water don't mix. Some compounds in ginseng are more like oil (non-polar), and others more like water (polar). The scientists were on the lookout for which team had players most effective at keeping the NLRP3 inflammasome off the field. They discovered their MVP in the non-polar extracts, obtained using a solvent called ethyl acetate. These extracts showed promising signs of calming inflammation by reducing the secretion of a culprit molecule called IL-1β and snuffing out the activity of caspase-1—a key protein that inflammasomes use to pass on their inflammatory messages. Then came the moment of truth: identifying the single, pure compound in the ginseng extracts responsible for these effects. They pinpointed a substance named panaxydol, or PND for friends. PND proved to be an excellent player in a lot of ways—it stopped the release of inflammatory molecules, prevented inflammatory cell death known as pyroptosis, and blocked the caspase-1 protein's activation. It even managed to break up the formation of the inflammasome complex. The researchers think PND might work its magic by messing with the ATP binding motif—a crucial part of NLRP3 that actuates the inflammatory reaction. And beyond the confines of the lab, PND demonstrated its potential on the liver's snowy runways. When tested in living models, it showed beneficial effects in reducing liver inflammation and disrupting the NLRP3 inflammasome. This suggests it might help to prevent the development of NASH. In short, PND extracted from ginseng could potentially stand as the de-icer we've been needing in the fight against NASH. It seems to help clear the inflammation "snow" without harming the rest of the liver "airport." These findings are exciting because they not only uncover a natural product with the potential to ease NASH, but they also offer a promising avenue for establishing a new treatment. Down the road, this could mean a lot for individuals struggling with this liver condition. Think about it—a remedy inspired by a plant that's been rooted in traditional medicine for centuries, now getting scientific backing. What's up next? Indeed, there might be more extensive human trials on the horizon. After all, before everyone rushes out to buy ginseng supplements, we need to be sure that PND's properties work as effectively and safely in humans as they do in lab models. So, keep an eye out—the future of NASH treatment may just grow from the ground up!



Main Study

1) Panaxydol extracted from Panax ginseng inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome activation to ameliorate NASH-induced liver injury.

Published 22nd January, 2024

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