With a late-season flu outbreak reported in many states, Georgia State University researchers say they have identified a potentially potent new weapon against the virus: Ginseng.
In a study published in the journal Nutrients and the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, the GSU scientists report that red ginseng extract — long used in Asian herbal medicine — can help treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which infects the lungs and breathing passages.
Lead researcher Sang-Moo Kang found that the extract improves the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with influenza A virus and blocks the actions of genes that cause inflammation.
The findings, based on studies of mice fed ginseng over a long time, found it also boosts the immune system and the production of antiviral proteins that are key to the body's defense mechanisms.
Kang's primary research focuses on designing and developing effective vaccines against viral diseases such as influenza virus and RSV. The work adds to past research showing ginseng has anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and immune modifying abilities.
Seasonal influenza causes three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, there are no vaccines available for RSV, which affects millions and is the leading cause of inflammatory bronchiolitis pneumonia and viral death in infants and in some elderly adults.
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