Ginseng root – Panax in particular – has a long tradition of healing among ancient medicines, including Ayurveda, Kampo and Chinese Medicine. But the leaves of the Panax ginseng plant provide their own array of medicinal effects – many not found in the root.
Why? Because plants produce biochemicals in different parts of their physiology for different purposes. For example, plants produce many antibacterial biochemicals in order to prevent bacteria from gobbling up their leaves.
The roots can also produce antibacterial biochemicals. But those biochemicals will differ from those produced in the leaves because the bacteria within the soil are different than airborne bacteria.
This of course is only one example – plants produce a myriad of biochemicals to protect themselves from different invasions or diseases.
A multitude of biochemicals in Panax ginseng leaves
Case in point is Panax ginseng leaves and their essential oils. Research has now found that the essential oils of the Panax ginseng leaves contain at least 54 different biochemicals. These include several ginsenosides, beta-farnesene, phytol and many others. Medicinal biochemicals called terpenoids composed 21 percent of the essential oil.
Panax anticancer against multiple types
Researchers have tested the essential oil and many of these medicinal components against a variety of cancer cell lines. This has found that the essential oil from Panax ginseng leaves will knock out cervical cancer cells, lung cancer cells, breast cancer cells, colon cancer cells, stomach cancer cells and skin cancer cells. (The medical term for “knock out” is “cytotoxic” – which means to kill the cell.)
Furthermore, this cytotoxicity against cancer cells has been found to be dose-dependent, the gold standard for associating treatment.
Panax also antibacterial and free radical scavenger
Panax ginseng leaf has also been found to be antibiotic (antibacterial) against several types of lethal bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli.
Panax ginseng leaf and its essential oil has also been found to be a decent free radical neutralizer. While many plants and their phytochemicals provide this mechanism, this ability in Panax is notable because of the other medicinal properties of the plant.
In lab studies, the essential oil from Panax ginseng was tested with DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) and ABTS (2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid)) radical scavenging protocols. Both tests showed ginseng’s ability to neutralize free radicals.
Other research has shown that Panax ginseng leaves contain dammarane triterpenes, which have been shown to activate SIRT1 enzymes, which have been shown to modulate gene expression. More specifically, SIRT1-NAD/NADH – specifically stimulated by Panax leaves, are involved in anti-aging processes and tumor prevention.
Yet another study, from Korea’s Kyung Hee University, found that Panax ginseng leaves produce an enzyme that changes DNA called 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGR). This is produced from one of Panax’ ginsenoside phytochemicals.
Consuming Panax ginseng leaves
A traditional manner of Panax ginseng consumption – something easily followed today – is to simply eat a leaf or leaf section of the plant every day. The Panax ginseng plant can easily be grown in the garden or in a pot. Panax grows well in most mild environments given good soil and water, and will survive both indoors and out of doors.
Panax essential oils are also readily available, as are ground leaf supplements.
Jiang R, Sun L, Wang Y, Liu J, Liu X, Feng H, Zhao D. Chemical composition, and cytotoxic, antioxidant and antibacterial activities of the essential oil from ginseng leaves. Nat Prod Commun. 2014 Jun;9(6):865-8.
Yang JL, Ha TK, Dhodary B, Kim KH, Park J, Lee CH, Kim YC, Oh WK. Dammarane triterpenes as potential SIRT1 activators from the leaves of Panax ginseng. J Nat Prod. 2014 Jul 25;77(7):1615-23. doi: 10.1021/np5002303.
Kim YJ, Lee OR, Oh JY, Jang MG, Yang DC. Functional analysis of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme a reductase encoding genes in triterpene saponin-producing ginseng. Plant Physiol. 2014 May;165(1):373-87. doi: 10.1104/pp.113.222596.