Lab mice treated with ethanol displayed symptoms of depression similar to those observed in humans with severe drinking problems, also known as alcohol use disorder. However, when the mice were given doses of the ginseng extract G115 (Ginsana SA, Switzerland) these detrimental changes were reversed.
Scientists from Chulalongkorn University and Khon Kaen University in Thailand report that the effects of high doses of the ginseng extract were similar to those observed for amitriptyline, a common anti-depressant drug.
“[W]e provide the evidence of the antidepressant-like effect of ginseng extract G115 in normal and ethanol-induced depression in mice,” they wrote in Nutrients.
Commenting on the potential mechanism of action, the researchers noted that this is linked to an increase in levels of BDNF - brain-derived neurotrophic factor – in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex parts of the brain.
BDNF is essential for synaptic and neuronal plasticity in the brain, and many neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases are reported to involve an impairment of the BDNF signaling pathway. Alcohol is also known to reduce BDNF levels in the brain, and “subtle” decreases in BDNF were observed in select brain regions of alcohol-treated mice in this study, wrote the researchers.
Lab mice were divided into 12 groups, with eight mice per group: Six groups were fed a normal diet, and six were treated with ethanol to induce depression, and given nothing (control groups), amitriptyline, or increasing doses of ginseng (100, 200, 400, 800 mg/kg).
“[The] effect of ginseng extract G115 is comparable to amitriptyline, an antidepressant used as a positive control in this study,” wrote the researchers. “Moreover, the potent effect of various doses of G115 (100, 200, and 800 mg/kg) is observed as changes of immobility time and swimming time in mice receiving these doses plus ethanol were also significantly higher than those in controls.
“The dose-independent effect of G115 in this study was noticeable as G115 100 and 800 mg/kg produced higher antidepressant effects than G115 200 and 400 mg/kg […] As G115 is composed of various ginsenosides, the interaction of the compounds might lead to the increase or decrease of pharmacological responses observed in this study.”
2017, Volume 9, Issue 9, Page 931; doi:10.3390/nu9090931
“Ginseng Extract G115 Attenuates Ethanol-Induced Depression in Mice by Increasing Brain BDNF Levels”
Authors: W. Boonlert et al.