Ginseng is a traditional herbal adaptogen that has been historically used in China and the Far East. Ginsenosides are the active component of ginseng known to exert several actions by targeting “multi-receptor systems”, both extracellular and intracellular. In humans, ginseng effects remain unclear. This study aimed to investigate whether ginseng can influence salivary androgen levels (testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)) in females. The study followed a parallel partially controlled design. Healthy women (n
= 24) were recruited and divided into two groups (A = 20–32 and B = 38–50 years). Volunteers were asked to maintain a food diary pre and post ginseng consumption and collected four salivary samples (7 a.m., 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m.) before and after ingesting 75 mg red Korean ginseng extract per day for seven days. Testosterone and DHEA were then assayed by ELISA methods. Group A’s mean daily salivary testosterone pre ginseng ingestion increased from 76.3 ± 16.6 to 98.4 ± 21.1 pg/mL post ginseng (p
< 0.01) with significant difference at all time points, and mean daily salivary DHEA increased from 1.53 ± 0.63 to 1.98 ± 0.89 ng/mL post ginseng (p
= 0.02). Group B’s mean daily salivary testosterone pre ginseng ingestion was 61.2 ± 16.9 and post ginseng 68.1 ± 11.5 pg/mL (p
= 0.132), and daily salivary DHEA increased from 0.91 ± 0.32 to 1.62 ± 0.49 ng/mL post ginseng (p
= 0.014) with significant difference at all time points. In conclusion, it appears that ginseng intake significantly increased salivary testosterone levels in the younger women group, but only slightly in the older group. However, DHEA levels in the older women showed a marked and significant increase. These results suggest a potential role for ginseng in modulating salivary androgen levels and that such effect may be more evident in older women where the levels of androgens (DHEA) start to decline. However, it has to be stressed that our results are preliminary and further properly controlled trials are justified.
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