May 16th, 2012 by Tori Hudson, N.D.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of red ginseng on menopausal symptoms and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in menopausal women. This randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial was carried out in a total of 72 postmenopausal women who were randomly assigned to either red ginseng or placebo for 3 months. The red ginseng product given was 3 gm per day which included 60 mg of ginsenosides. The Kupperman index and the menopause rating scale were used to assess subjective symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors were assessed with serum lipid testing, C-reactive protein and the thickness of the carotid artery intima-media. Serum estradiol levels were also testing.
After the 12 week treatment period, the Kupperman index for the red ginseng group significantly reduced from 18.93 to 13.32 compared with the placebo from 15.21 to 15.10. The Menopause Rating Scale score dropped significantly from 12.45 to 8.32 in the ginseng group compared with 10.23 to 9.26 in the placebo group. The hot flash score also reduced significantly in the red ginseng group.
Red ginseng also elicited a significant decrease in total cholesterol from 138.11 to 108.82 compared with the placebo, from 128.52 to 128.03. The drop in LDL was also significant in the red ginseng group compared to placebo but there were no significant differences between the two groups for HDL cholesterol or C-reactive protein. The estrogen levels were not considered to be affected by red ginseng. On the other hand, the carotid intima-media thickness was significantly reduced in the red ginseng group compared with the placebo group.
Commentary: This is not the first randomized, controlled trial using ginseng in menopause symptoms but it is the first double-blind randomized controlled trial to investigate the effect of red ginseng for 12 weeks on menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. In the previous trial published in 1999, there were no clear effects on hot flashes but there was an effect on quality of life. In the current study however, there was a clear effect in reducing the menopause symptoms rated on the Kupperman Index and the Menopause Rating Scale, including hot flashes. These are two of the most common research tools in evaluating menopause symptoms.
The positive results of red ginseng for hot flashes in the current study versus the negative results in the previous trial could be explained by the difference in ginseng used. Red ginseng has physiologically active components that are not present in raw white ginseng or the plain Panax ginseng. Another significant difference in the two studies is the 3gmper day of the red ginseng versus the 200 mg of ginseng in the previous study.
Young Kim S, Kyo Seo S, Mi Choi Y, et al. Effects of red ginseng supplementation on menopausal symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors in postmenopausal women: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Menopause 2012;19(4):461-466