AMP-activated protein kinase: An emerging target for ginseng

Abstract: The adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a key sensor of cellular energy. Once activated, it switches on catabolic pathways generating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), while switching off biosynthetic pathways consuming ATP. Pharmacological activation of AMPK by metformin holds a therapeutic potential to reverse metabolic abnormalities such as type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In addition, altered metabolism of tumor cells is widely recognized and AMPK is a potential target for cancer prevention and/or treatment. Panax ginseng is known to be useful for treatment and/or prevention of cancer and metabolic diseases including diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. In this review, we discuss the ginseng extracts and ginsenosides that activate AMPK, we clarify the various mechanisms by which they achieve this, and we discuss the evidence that shows that ginseng or ginsenosides might be useful in the treatment and/or prevention of metabolic diseases and cancer.