Korean Red Ginseng Inhibits Articular Cartilage Degeneration

Recently, I read on a forum about these young Korean kids who are given some type of small green type pill by their mothers to help them grow taller. It is interesting that there is such stuff being sold for at least the last 30 years which supposedly would help young Asian kids grow taller.

Maybe the competitive nature of these East Asian cultures makes mothers try all sorts of rather bizarre things to help give their children any type of edge in life.

In the last two years of research, I personally have found at least 2 other different compounds which have been a part of Traditional Korean Medicine who has been believed to work in helping kids grow taller. Not only that, a group of Korean scientists filed a patent on a type of Ultrasonic-LED Combo type device which was supposed to stimulate the epiphyseal plates. It seems that South Korea, which has taken much of the older medical knowledge from Traditional Chinese Medicine, might have figured out a few natural ways to help its people end up slightly taller.

All this talk about Eastern Mysticism and the Esoteric made me wonder whether the Oriental Superpower Plant known as the Ginseng might have any type of chondrogenic or cartilage enhancing properties. After taking some time to look over PubMed, there were at least a couple of studies which validates this idea.

The active ingredient in all of the varieties of Ginseng, is this compound known as ginsenosides, which is in a category of compounds known as the saponin ,or more specifically the triterpenoid saponins. (For more information on Ginsenosides, refer here.) By last count, there is over 150 different kinds of Ginsenosides. From thousands of years of trial and error, humans found that they can orally consume the Ginseng and get the active ingredient inside the Ginseng to work. The Ginsenosides work in the stomach through acid hydrolysis and in the gastrointestinal tract by the reaction bacterial hydrolysis.

It seems that at least three of the over 150 different kinds of ginsenosides have some type of cartilage enhancing ability. I am quite sure that in the last century, multiple Asian researchers have validated the idea that whatever is in ginseng have anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is really the start of almost all types of cartilage degradation. If Inflammation is prevented, then the chances of the onset of osteoarthritis is going to be severely reduced.

In the first study, 11 different types of ginseng saponins were used. There were 2 which had some really powerful effects, ginsenosides F4 and Rg3. It is F4 which is really interesting. With increased dosage/concentration of the F4, the inhibition of the MMP-13, which is a collegenase, was increased, almost linearly in fashion. at 50 microMolars, the inhibition of not just the MMP-13, but also the p38 MAPK Pathway was also inhibited.

In the third study, it was found that the saponin was able to cause the number of chondrocytes in deficient mediums to proliferate and have the precursor stem cells to differentiate into chondrocytes{I believe that it was stating that it encourages differentiation of chondrocytes as in chondrocytes into hypertrophic chondrocytes not differentiation of stems into chondrocytes-Tyler}.

This is really interesting because for the longest time, many “grow taller pills” that were sold in places in South Korea (and maybe also China, Taiwan, Singapore, etc.) did have extracts of at least a little bit of ginseng in them. Is it really that far fetched for people to believe that the mystical ginseng plant would have some “special” ingredient that would also make them taller?

In the article “South Korea Stretches Standards for Success” published back in Dec. of 2009 in the New York Times, there was a really popular clinic called Hamsoa, which supposedly had already 50 clinics around South Korea, and they gave kids a special type of tonic which was supposed to be taken twice a day. Inside that tonic, was deer antler, ginseng, and other chemical compounds at a much lower concentration. Notice that deer antler and ginseng were mentioned.

It might be possible to use the ginseng to stimulate the activity in the growth plates of young kids, as well as even use the deer antler, but I am not sure how pronounced the stimulation would be. What can be well substantiated is that ginseng seems to help prevent cartilage degeneration and regular chondrocyte apoptosis.

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