Korean Red Ginseng Stops Colon Cancer Cells in Their Tracks

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States for both men and women and the second leading cause of cancer death for both. Early screenings beginning at age 50 can help catch pre-cancerous polyps before they develop into tumors, but finding ways of preventing or reducing tumors is still a priority.

There are strong cases to be made for botanical extracts to do the job. Scientific studies of boswellia and a French grape seed extract (VX1) have shown remarkable abilities in either helping the body stop the development of tumors or in shrinking them and preventing their return. Another botanical, Korean red ginseng, may soon be added to the list.

In traditional Asian medical practices, Panax ginseng was known as a virtual cure-all. As an adaptagen, it helps people remain energetic and resilient in the face of stress, and as a sexual enhancer, it boosts libido and performance.

Called “red ginseng” because of the roots’ appearance after traditional steaming, this natural medicine also shows its strength in stopping the growth of colorectal cancer cells.  It does this by actually ramping up oxidative damage that only appears to affect tumor cells. This, in turn, killed the cells because they were no longer viable.

The components in ginseng responsible for these effects are called “ginsenosides”, and have been identified in research as some of the most beneficial compounds of the root. There are two classes of these compounds, one called “major” or “classic”, and the other called “rare, noble” ginsensosides. Because classic ginsenosides need to be activated into noble ginsenosides through the digestive process, it can be difficult to predict the success of a supplemental form. That’s why it is wise to look for a red ginseng that is specially grown so that the roots of the plant are already higher in the rare, noble compounds.


Jeong YA, Kim BR, Kim DY, et al. Korean Red Ginseng Extract Increases Apoptosis by Activation of the Noxa Pathway in Colorectal Cancer. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 29;11(9).

BACKGROUND: Although the anticancer activity of Korean Red Ginseng (KRG) has been known in various cancers, the mechanism of KRG-induced apoptosis is unknown in colorectal cancer (CRC). In our study, we examined whether KRG induces apoptosis in CRC cells.

METHODS: In the cell viability assay, the concentration of the appropriate KRG extracts was fixed at 2.5 mg/mL in numerous CRC cells. This fixed concentration was in other experiments, and it was confirmed that the KRG extracts induce apoptosis in CRC cells.

RESULTS: We found that KRG induced Noxa activation and apoptosis and increased endoplasmic reticulum stress via reactive oxygen species production. This indicated that KRG efficiently enhanced cell death in CRC cells.

CONCLUSION: Our results show that KRG can be used as a possible anticancer drug for patients with CRC.

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