Red ginseng oil offers ‘novel ingredient’ promise in topical cosmetics: Review

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Red ginseng oil - extracted from the byproduct of traditional ginseng manufacturing - contains a plethora of active compounds suitable for skin and hair care applications [Getty Images]
Red ginseng oil - extracted from the byproduct of traditional ginseng manufacturing - contains a plethora of active compounds suitable for skin and hair care applications [Getty Images]

Related tags red ginseng Skin health active beauty Hair care Hair loss UV protection Skin care Korean cosmetics Extract

Oil extracted from Korean red ginseng byproduct offers promise in the development of active topicals targeting skin and hair health, alongside wider ingestible formulas, say researchers.

Writing in the Journal of Ginseng Research​, a team from the Republic of Korea conducted a review on scientific advances around red ginseng [Panax ginseng Meyer​] oil, which was obtained from red ginseng marc – the byproduct of traditional ginseng manufacturing processes, typically considered waste. The review investigated possible extraction technologies, chemical composition, health benefits, molecular mechanisms, and safety associated with this oil extract.

‘Attracting a great amount of attention’

Korean Red Ginseng already had a “long-recorded history”​ of use in folk medicine applications for restoration, healing and preventing disease in humans, the review stated. Known as an adaptogen capable of stabilising physiological functions and enhancing body strength, the researchers said ginseng was also associated with many biological properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammation, anti-cancer, anti-fatigue and anti-ageing, as well as its ability to boost the human immune system, enhance memory and improve blood circulation.

As the science, market demand and extraction knowledge continued to fast advance in the field of Korean red ginseng, they said so too had an appreciation for different aspects of the plant. Most recently, red ginseng oil had been garnering attention as a “health promoting dietary component”, ​they said, and one that could be mass-produced at low cost and developed easily into commercial products.

“Red ginseng oil extracted from Korean Red Ginseng is attracting a great amount of attention due to its potential benefits for human health,” ​they wrote.

A review focused on red ginseng oil, therefore, was especially relevant in light of this attention and “accumulating evidence”​ of the oil’s functional and pharmacological potential, the researchers said.

‘Novel’ promise via smart extraction

Benefits associated with the oil extract, they said, included cellular defence, antioxidation, anti-inflammation, anti-apoptosis, chemoprevention, hair growth promotion and skin health improvement – achieved via several different mechanisms and a variety of compounds.

Red ginseng oil extracts typically contained a high quantity of fatty acids, particularly unsaturated fatty acids, along with other lipophilic phytochemicals such as phytosterols, polyphenolic compounds, tocopherols, and polyacetylenes beneficial to human health. However, the researchers said chemical composition and overall yield and quality of the end extract depended significantly on the extraction method used – either via organic solvent extraction or supercritical fluid extraction as an alternative.

Whilst conventional solvent extraction methods were commercial and “easy to scale up”,​ they said they were also “time-consuming”​ and associated with disadvantages such as low yield, loss of valuable compounds, contamination with toxic solvent residues and formation of undesired byproduct. Supercritical fluid extraction, they said, offered an “efficient alternative”.

“Studies in our laboratory show that total unsaturated fatty acids and minor components are present at higher levels in red ginseng oil obtained by supercritical CO2 fluid extraction than in red ginseng oil extracted using conventional procedures,” ​they wrote.

If compounds in the oil remained intact, the researchers said there was great active potential.

Topical skin health and hair health promise

For cosmetics, red ginseng oil could “potentially boost the quality and appearance of skin”,​ the researchers said. Topical application, for example, could protect skin from hazards such as UV radiation because it exhibited an inhibitory effect on tyrosinase activity, responsible for melanin production. It had also been shown to improve the moisture content of skin and improve dullness.

Topical application had also been associated with improvement to hair growth in in vitro​ and in vivo​ studies, the researchers said.  Studies conducted by the team, not yet published, also indicated an increase in the proliferation of human hair dermal papilla cells after application – important contributors to hair formation, growth and cycling. “We confirmed that topical application of red ginseng oil stimulated early progression of hair follicles into the anagen phase of the hair cycle and the development of hair follicles, thereby enhancing hair regeneration in a mouse model.”

Topical use of red ginseng oil extract had also been tested against its ability to promote hair growth in human subjects with androgenic alopecia, with findings showing an increase in hair density and hair thickness in both male and female volunteers. “These data suggest that red ginseng oil is a potent therapeutic agent for dermatological formulations that prevent and treat androgenic hair loss,”​ the researchers wrote.

Future studies and wider potential

“Based on its value to nutritional and therapeutic applications, red ginseng oil is proposed as a novel ingredient for the development of various nutritional, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products,”​ the researchers said.

Looking ahead, however, they said further studies would be needed to “evaluate novel biological activities”,​ as well as understand more about the “underlying relationship between the chemical composition and bioactive functionality”​ of the oil extract.


Source: Journal of Ginseng Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jgr.2021.12.006
Title: “Red ginseng (Panax ginseng Meyer) oil: A comprehensive review of extraction technologies, chemical composition, health benefits, molecular mechanisms, and safety”
Authors: VL. Truong and WS. Jeong

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