Characterization of Korean Red Ginseng (Panax ginseng Meyer): History, preparation method, and chemical composition
BACKGROUND Panax ginseng Meyer is cultivated because of its medicinal effects on the immune system, blood pressure, and cancer. Major ginsenosides in fresh ginseng are converted to minor ginsenosides by structural changes such as hydrolysis and dehydration. The transformed ginsenosides are generally more bioavailable and bioactive than the primary ginsenosides. Therefore, in this study, hydrothermal processing was applied to ginseng preparation to increase the yields of the transformed ginsenosides, such as 20(S)-Rg3, Rk1, and Rg5, and enhance antioxidant activities in an effective way. METHODS Ginseng extract was hydrothermally processed using batch reactors at 100-160°C with differing reaction times. Quantitative analysis of the ginsenoside yields was performed using HPLC, and the antioxidant activity was qualitatively analyzed by evaluating 2,2'-azino-bis radical cation scavenging, 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl radical scavenging, and phenolic antioxidants. Red ginseng and sun ginseng were prepared by conventional steaming as the control group. RESULTS Unlike steaming, the hydrothermal process was performed under homogeneous conditions. Chemical reaction, heat transfer, and mass transfer are generally more efficient in homogeneous reactions. Therefore, maximum yields for the hydrothermal process were 2.5-25 times higher than those for steaming, and the antioxidant activities showed 1.6-4-fold increases for the hydrothermal process. Moreover, the reaction time was decreased from 3 h to 15-35 min using hydrothermal processing. CONCLUSION Therefore, hydrothermal processing offers significant improvements over the conventional steaming process. In particular, at temperatures over 140°C, high yields of the transformed ginsenosides and increased antioxidant activities were obtained in tens of minutes.