Main content area

Sulfur fumigation reducing systemic exposure of ginsenosides and weakening immunomodulatory activity of ginseng

Ma, Bin, Kan, Winnie Lai Ting, Zhu, He, Li, Song-Lin, Lin, Ge
Journal of ethnopharmacology 2017 v.195 pp. 222-230
Panax, bacterial contamination, bioactive properties, blood serum, cyclophosphamide, cytokines, food contamination, food industry, fumigation, ginsenosides, immunomodulation, ingredients, leukocyte count, males, medicinal plants, mice, pharmacokinetics, rats, spleen, sulfur, thymus gland, traditional medicine
Ginseng (Ginseng Radix et Rhizoma) is used worldwide for its miracle tonic effects, especially for its immunomodulatory activities. Sulfur fumigation, a fast and convenient method to prevent pesticidal and bacterial contamination in the food industry, has been recently employed during post-harvest processing of ginseng. Our previous studies demonstrated that sulfur fumigation significantly altered the chemical profile of the bioactive ingredients in ginseng. However, the effects of sulfur fumigation on the pharmacokinetics and bioactivities of ginseng remain unknown.To examine the effects of sulfur fumigation on the pharmacokinetics and immunomodulatory activities of ginseng.For pharmacokinetic studies, male Sprague-Dawley rats exposed to single/multiple dosages of non-fumigated ginseng (NFG) and sulfur fumigated ginseng (SFG) were investigated using HPLC-MS/MS analysis. For bioactivity studies, male ICR mice were used to compare the immunomodulatory effects of NFG or SFG under both normal and cyclophosphamide (CY)-induced immunocompromised conditions using white blood cell counts, serum cytokine levels, and spleen and thymus weight indices.Sulfur fumigation significantly reduced the contents of the bioactive ginsenosides in ginseng, which resulted in drastically low systemic exposure of ginsenosides in SFG-treatment group compared to NFG-treatment group. This observation was consistent with the bioactivities obtained in NFG- and SFG-treatment groups. The bioactivity studies also demonstrated the immunomodulatory effects of NFG but not SFG in the CY-induced immunosuppressed mice.Sulfur fumigation significantly reduced contents of bioactive ginsenosides in ginseng, leading to dramatic decrease in the systemic exposure of these ginsenosides in the body and detrimental reduction of immunomodulatory effects of ginseng. Our results provided scientific evidences and laid a solid foundation for the needs of thorough evaluation of the significant impact of sulfur fumigation on ginseng and other medicinal herbs.