A majority of potential radioprotective synthetic compounds have demonstrated limited clinical application owing to their inherent toxicity, and thus, the seeking of naturally occurring herbal products, such as ginseng, for their radioprotective capability has become an attractive alternative.
In general, ginseng refers to the roots of the species of the genus Panax.
As a medicinal herb, ginseng has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine for its wide spectrum of medicinal effects, such as tonic, immunomodulatory, antimutagenic, adaptogenic and antiaging activities.
Many of its medicinal effects are attributed to the triterpene glycosides known as ginsenosides (saponins).
Results indicate that the water-soluble extract of whole ginseng appears to give a better protection against radiation-induced DNA damage than does the isolated ginsenoside fractions.
Since free radicals play an important role in radiation-induced damage, the underlying radioprotective mechanism of ginseng could be linked, either directly or indirectly, to its antioxidative capability by the scavenging free radicals responsible for DNA damage.
In addition, ginseng's radioprotective potential may also be related to its immunomodulating capabilities.
Ginseng is a natural product with worldwide distribution, and in addition to its antitumor properties, ginseng appears to be a promising radioprotector for therapeutic or preventive protocols capable of attenuating the deleterious effects of radiation on human normal tissue, especially for cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.