Researchers at Sahmyook University in Korea have made a breakthrough discovery that holds tremendous potential for the management of alcohol addiction. The experts have established that Korean Red Ginseng (KRG), a traditional herbal medicine, can help alleviate the addictive effects of alcohol.
The research adds an essential piece to the puzzle of understanding the role that herbal medicine can play in treating addiction and related cognitive disorders.
Alcohol, despite being widely acknowledged for its detrimental effects, is among the most commonly consumed psychoactive substances worldwide. Regular consumption can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), a medical condition characterized by alcohol abuse, dependency, and addiction.
Alcohol use disorder can lead to profound social, cognitive, and physiological impacts, including a damaged spatial working memory – our innate ability to navigate our surroundings – and neuroinflammation, a harmful inflammatory response in the brain or spinal cord.
Korean Red Ginseng extract has emerged as a valuable herbal intervention in treating neuroinflammation, providing significant therapeutic benefits.
Although Korean Red Ginseng has long been employed in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, modern medicine is now recognizing its potential in addressing contemporary diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous research on rodents showed that Korean Red Ginseng can alleviate addiction to psychoactive agents. However, its effects on alcohol-induced addiction and cognitive impairments remained largely unexplored.
Under the leadership of Professor Mikyung Kim, the team sought to address this knowledge gap. The research, published in the Journal of Ginseng Research, focused on the effects of KRG on addictive responses to alcohol in mice.
The key findings suggested that Korean Red Ginseng might improve spatial working memory impairments and addictive responses through its anti-neuroinflammatory properties.
In an interview, Professor Kim shed light on their research motivations, “While much is talked about the healing properties of KRG against addictive drugs like cocaine and morphine, there aren’t many studies describing its effects on the addictive responses due to chronic alcoholic consumption.”
“Alcohol is a legalized psychoactive drug that is very commonly consumed. Hence, we aimed to examine whether KRG exerts a positive effect on alcohol intoxication responses and cognitive impairments arising from alcohol abuse.”
The research team embarked on a comprehensive study, employing a series of innovative tests to evaluate the impact of KRG on addiction-related responses and cognitive impairments associated with alcohol. They used specialized “conditioned place preference tests” to measure alcohol’s motivational influence and KRG’s effect on withdrawal symptoms.
Furthermore, they used the Y-maze, Barnes maze, and novel object recognition tests to analyze spatial working memory impairments following repeated exposure to KRG and alcohol.
“We observed that spatial working memory was restored in KRG-treated mice exposed to alcohol,” said Professor Kim. “Moreover, we also noted that mice treated with KRG and alcohol had reduced withdrawal symptoms. The crucial finding here is that a higher dose of KRG led to greater improvement.”
To understand the underlying mechanisms of KRG’s effects, the researchers performed molecular assays on tissue extracts from the mouse hippocampus, the brain region associated with memory and learning.
The experts found that Korean Red Ginseng suppressed the PKA-CREB signaling pathway, which is often activated during substance addiction and alcohol consumption. KRG also inhibited the secretion of inflammatory cytokines in the hippocampus, indicating its role in suppressing neuroinflammation.
Professor Kim highlighted the significance of their findings: “The improved spatial working memory of KRG-treated mice shows that KRG can improve the cognitive impairment caused by chronic alcohol use. These results suggest that KRG could be a novel therapeutic intervention for AUD treatment.”
The groundbreaking work paves the way for future research into the treatment of alcohol addiction, the enhancement of cognitive function, and the development of herbal medicines. This could be a significant step toward developing novel strategies and interventions to treat alcohol use disorder and associated cognitive impairments.
Korean Red Ginseng (KRG), scientifically known as Panax ginseng Meyer, constitutes a perennial herb native to Eastern Asia. Esteemed for its health-enhancing properties, the use of KRG dates back to several centuries within traditional Korean, Chinese, and other East Asian medicines.
Korean Red Ginseng boasts a robust, fleshy root, typically yellowish or reddish, often resembling the human body in shape. The plant has palm-like compound leaves and grows to about 60-80 cm in height. It bears greenish-yellow flowers in the summer, yielding bright red berries in late summer to early autumn.
Korean Red Ginseng thrives in well-drained, sandy loam soils and prefers partial shade. Growers typically harvest the roots when plants are between four to six years old, as it is believed that the medicinal properties of the plant peak during this time. After harvest, roots undergo a careful cleaning process to retain their original shape and important compounds.
The transformation from raw ginseng to Red Ginseng happens during an extensive steaming and drying process. This steaming, usually carried out at temperatures of 90-100°C for 2-3 hours, imparts a reddish color to the roots and enhances their medicinal properties. Post-steaming, roots undergo sun-drying or hot air-drying, resulting in the final product known as Korean Red Ginseng.
The fame of Korean Red Ginseng stems largely from its wide-ranging medicinal properties. Its health benefits come from bioactive compounds called ginsenosides, along with other elements like polysaccharides, peptides, polyacetylenic alcohols, and fatty acids.
KRG exhibits significant antioxidant activity, potentially combating oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. These properties have made it a common ingredient in skincare products aiming to rejuvenate skin and reduce signs of aging.
It has proven immune-boosting properties, contributing to the body’s resilience against infections and diseases. Several studies indicate its potential to improve cognitive function, aiding memory, behavior, and mood.
Cardiovascular health also benefits from KRG, as it aids in blood circulation and could potentially decrease blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Furthermore, it has demonstrated possible anti-cancer properties in numerous studies, inhibiting the growth and proliferation of cancer cells.
It’s important to note that while KRG possesses substantial health benefits, excessive consumption may lead to side effects such as headaches, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal issues. As with any supplement, users should consult with a healthcare provider before adding KRG to their health routine.
In addition to its medicinal uses, Korean Red Ginseng also finds its way into culinary applications. It is used to make tea, soups, and alcoholic beverages in Korea. It also serves as a health supplement in various forms, such as powders, capsules, and extracts.
In summary, Korean Red Ginseng represents a remarkable plant species with diverse uses. From traditional medicine to modern health supplements and culinary uses, KRG continues to be a significant part of Korean culture and healthcare. Its potential health benefits, backed by scientific research, contribute to its growing popularity globally.
Alcohol addiction, also known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), is a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
The American Psychiatric Association defines Alcohol Use Disorder as a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. It is categorized into mild, moderate, and severe subtypes, corresponding to the number of diagnostic criteria met within a 12-month period.
Alcohol addiction arises from a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Genetics account for about half the risk for AUD, with certain genes influencing how alcohol’s effects are experienced, and in turn, the risk of addiction.
Environmental factors, including cultural attitudes toward drinking, family dynamics, and traumatic experiences, can significantly influence the risk. Psychological factors, such as high levels of stress, anxiety, or depressive disorders, often co-occur with heavy drinking and can contribute to the progression of AUD.
The symptoms of alcohol addiction can vary but typically involve a pattern of compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. Physical symptoms include tolerance (requiring more alcohol to feel its effects) and withdrawal symptoms (nausea, sweating, shaking, and anxiety) after the effects of alcohol wear off.
Diagnosis of alcohol addiction primarily relies on a thorough assessment by a healthcare provider. Tools like the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) or the CAGE questionnaire are commonly used to screen for, and assess, AUD. The diagnosis typically follows the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Treatment for alcohol addiction involves comprehensive care and often includes a combination of medication, counseling, and self-help groups. Medications, such as Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram, can help reduce alcohol cravings and the physical discomfort of withdrawal.
Counseling, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET), helps individuals understand and change their behaviors related to alcohol use. Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) offer peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking.
Preventing alcohol addiction involves strategies at both individual and community levels. Awareness and education about the dangers of excessive alcohol use are crucial at an early age. Policies regulating alcohol advertising, sales and serving practices, pricing, and availability can also contribute to reduced risk at a population level.
In summary, alcohol addiction is a significant public health concern with far-reaching impacts on individuals and society. Comprehensive treatment approaches and preventive measures, combined with continued research, can help address this pervasive issue. If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol addiction, seek help from a healthcare professional immediately.