Red ginseng, as an effective herbal medicine, has been traditionally and empirically used for the treatment of neuronal diseases. Many studies suggest that red ginseng and its ingredients protect the brain and spinal cord from neural injuries such as ischemia, trauma, and neurodegeneration. This review focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying the neuroprotective effects of red ginseng and its ingredients. Ginsenoside Rb1 and other ginsenosides are regarded as the active ingredients of red ginseng; the anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidative actions of ginsenosides, together with a series of bioactive molecules relevant to the above actions, appear to account for the neuroprotective effects in vivo and/or in vitro. Moreover, in this review, the possibility is raised that more effective or stable neuroprotective derivatives based on the chemical structures of ginsenosides could be developed. Although further studies, including clinical trials, are necessary to confirm the pharmacological properties of red ginseng and its ingredients, red ginseng and its ingredients could be promising candidate drugs for the treatment of neural injuries.
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