Antioxidant effect of Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) was investigated in rats. Long-term administration of ginseng water extract protected the activity of liver cytosotic SOD, catalase and glutathione peroxidase from being significantly decreased with advancing age (p<0.05). It was more effective toward glutathione peroxidase than other antioxidant enzymes. However, the level of sulfhydryl compounds and its related enzymes such as glutathione reductase and glutathione-5-transferase was not significantly changed by the administration of ginseng. Liver microsomal formation of reactive oxygen species such as superoxide and hydrogen peroxide did not show a significant difference between two groups although it was slightly decreased with age, but lipid peroxidizability of microsomal membrane induced by a prooxidant was slightly lower in ginseng-treated rats. Interestingly, antioxidant capacity of plasma from ginseng treated rats on autooxidation of ok-brain homogenates was much higher than that of normal ones. However, resistance of RBC membrane against oxidative stress showed a similar tendency. The content of serum TBA reactive substances lowered consistently in the rats treated with r ginseng at all corresponding age and a significant difference between two groups was found at 24 months of age (p<0.05). Ginseng extract protected lipid peroxidation in brain and liver. This protection was more effective in the stressed rats imposed by immobilization than normal ones. In conclusion, ginseng water extract protected the age related deterioration of major antioxidant enzymes, and this effect was more striking with increasing duration of treatment. This comprehensive antioxidant action of ginseng seems to be bra certain action of ginseng other than a direct antioxidant action, which might be a long term normalizing effect through the harmony of various components.
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