For the purpose of this review, the following databases were consulted: the PubMed Database (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov), Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (http://www.cnki.net), National Science and Technology Library (http://www.nstl.gov.cn/), Wanfang Data (http://www.wanfangdata.com.cn/) and the Web of Science Database (http://apps.webofknowledge.com/).
Results: Ginseng exhibits glucose-lowering effects in different diabetic animal models. In addition, Ginseng may prevent the development of diabetic complications, including liver, pancreas, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, nephropathy, cardiomyopathy, retinopathy, atherosclerosis and others. The main ingredients of Ginseng include ginsenosides and polysaccharides. The underlying mechanisms whereby this herb exerts antidiabetic activities may be attributed to the regulation of multiple signaling pathways, including IRS1/PI3K/AKT, LKB1/AMPK/FoxO1, AGEs/RAGE, MAPK/ERK, NF-κB, PPARδ/STAT3, cAMP/PKA/CERB and HIF-1α/VEGF, etc. The pharmacokinetic profiles of ginsenosides provide valuable information on therapeutic efficacy of Ginseng in diabetes. Although Ginseng is well-tolerated, dietary consumption of this herb should follow the doctors’ advice.
Conclusion: Ginseng may offer an alternative strategy in protection against diabetes and its complications through the regulations of the multi-targets via various signaling pathways. Efforts to understand the underlying mechanisms with strictly-controlled animal models, combined with well-designed clinical trials and pharmacokinetic evaluation, will be important subjects of the further investigations and weigh in translational value of this herb in diabetes management.