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September 21, 2021
Most of us associate ginseng with its health benefits, and it wasn’t until Korean beauty became so popular that ginseng in skincare started to gain attention. Is it just a gimmick though, or does it provide actual skin benefits?
There are a total of 13 species of ginseng that grow widely in Asia, North America and Europe. What we usually see on the market, is three different species of Panax ginseng from Korean, Chinese and America that are classified into four categories - fresh (less than 4-year-old and required minimal processing), white (4-6-year-old, peeled and dried), red (6-year-old, steamed and dried for 3 times), and black (6-year-old, steamed and dried for 9 times). Almost all medical products are derived from ginseng after 4 to 6 years of cultivation, but unlike oils that are best left unrefined, the more processed the ginseng is, the more benefits it actually provides.
Approximately 200 substances have been isolated from Korean ginseng, and 100 substances from American ginseng thus far, including ginsenosides, alkaloids, phenolics, phytosterol, carbohydrates, polypeptides, ginseng oils, amino acids, nitrogenous substances, vitamins, minerals, and certain enzymes. So far, scientists have been able to isolate over 100 types of Ginsenosides from the Panax ginseng.
All these substances together are found to be effective against fatigue, hyperglycemia, obesity, cancer, and possess anti-oxidant, anti-inflammation and anti-aging properties that can benefit both the body internally, as well as the skin.
Genetics, environmental stress, oxidative stress, hormonal alterations and metabolism, all lead to accumulative transformations in skin constitution, function and appearance, resulting in visible signs of aging, as the reduction in fibroblasts in the extracellular matrix results in general atrophy, whilst decreased levels of collagen and elastin results in wrinkles and sagging, and stimulated melanogenesis leads to pigmentation.
So, is ginseng just a gimmick though? Actually no, clinical studies have proven that ginseng does prevent skin aging in a number of ways.
Ginseng helps with wrinkles on several fronts. Firstly, it protects against UV-induced skin damages, aka photoaging, thus preventing collagen and elastin breakdown. Secondly, its antioxidant contents prevent free radicals and other environmental aggressors from inducing oxidative stress, which also breakdown collagen and elastin, resulting in the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Thirdly, it boosts circulation of even the smallest blood vessels within the skin, thus facilitating collagen production.
In addition, various clinical studies in vitro and in vivo studies have also shown ginseng to demonstrate anti-wrinkle effects by promoting cell proliferation, collagen synthesis and the stimulation of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), signaling pathways that perform a significant role in regulating collagen synthesis and the production of collagen type I and III to maintain younger looking skin, in human dermal fibroblasts.
The result, is a smoother, firmer, more elastic complexion with less wrinkles.
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As the adaptability of the immune system declines with age, it is less able to respond properly to invasion of foreign matters like bacteria and irritants. Ginseng have been proven in various clinical trials to stimulate innate immune function, enhance bacterial and viral clearance while inhibiting pro-inflammatory response in many ways, such as inhibiting cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor alfa (TNF-α) and interlukin-8 (IL-8) within keratinocytes in dermal fibroblasts, suppressing inflammation by reducing plasma creatine kinase activity (CK) and interlukin-4, -6 and -10 (IL-4, -6 and -10) levels, down-regulating inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 (markers of inflammation), as well as induction of apoptosis of inflammatory cells via the p53 pathway.
In fact, numerous literatures have shown ginseng, in particular Korean red ginseng, significant improve inflammatory skin issues like eczema, contact dermatitis, sensitivity, and acne.
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Ginseng can target pigmentation, melasma and dull skin via numerous fronts, proven by numerous clinical studies.
First of all, when there is inflammation in the skin, which can be caused by UV damage, acne, picking and irritating the skin, free radicals, harsh cleansers, and hormonal fluctuations (from pregnancy or taking contraceptive pills, for example), a signal is sent to the melanocytes as part of an immune response. The melanocytes then overproduce the brown melanin pigment, resulting in visible hyperpigmentation on the skin. As ginseng can greatly improve inflammatory conditions, melanocytes activity is thus reduced.
Secondly, UV radiation can stimulate keratinocytes to induce the production and release of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), an inducer of melanogenesis. Ginseng has been shown to block the resulting increased melanocyte proliferation, thereby decreasing the overall and concentrated (in spots) darkening of the skin after immediate and accumulated UV exposure.
Thirdly, studies have shown ginseng to directly target pigmentation at the cellular level through mechanisms such as direct inhibition of key enzymes of melanogenesis like tyrosinase and dopachrome tautomerase (DCT), inhibition of transcription factors including melanocyte inducing transcription factor (MITF) and nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) as well as signaling pathways, including protein kinase A pathway and protein kinase C pathway, involved in melanogenesis, and enhancing production of antimelanogenic factor like interleukin-13 (IL-13).
The great thing about it, it works even at a low percentage——a research team has found that applying 0.05% of black ginseng extracts demonstrated twice as much improve to skin tone as compared to the subjects in the control group!
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