Researchers at Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences say ginseng may help treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

According to Sang-Moo Kang, lead researcher with the study, ginseng has been reported to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modifying abilities. Based on these theories, Kang worked with colleagues at Georgia State and in South Korea to investigate whether red ginseng extract has preventive effects on influenza A and RSV.

Results of the study, which were published in Nutrients, reveal that after infection with influenza A virus, mice that were orally administered ginseng over a long period of time showed multiple immune modifying effects, such as stimulated antiviral production of proteins important in immune response. The mice also displayed fewer inflammatory cells in their bronchial walls.

Kang also investigated whether Korean red ginseng extract has antiviral effects, or the ability to treat RSV infection.

Study results revealed that the extract improved the survival of human lung epithelial cells against RSV infection and inhibited the virus from replicating in the body. What’s more, treatment with Korean red ginseng extract suppressed the expression of RSV-induced inflammatory genes and the formation of chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen, which play a role in virus-induced epithelial damage in RSV.

Kang notes that mice that were orally administered Korean red ginseng extract had lower viral levels after infection with RSV. These results suggest that Korean red ginseng extract has antiviral activity against RSV infection, he added.