The American journal of Chinese medicine
In North America, a high proportion of pregnant women use herbal medications including North American ginseng. This medicinal plant contains high amounts of triterpene saponins (ginsenosides), which are the main bioactive compounds. It is important to assess ginseng's impact on all reproductive functions to ensure the safety of pregnant women and fetuses. In this study, we defined the concentration-responsive effects of North American alcoholic and aqueous ginseng extracts on preimplantation development in vitro and on pregnancy and post-partum development in the mouse. Two-cell mouse embryos were cultured with 5 different concentrations of whole ginseng root extracts, or ginsenosides Rb1, Rg1 and Re alone, a combinatorial ginsenoside solution and a crude polysaccharide fraction solution. Embryonic development and recovery from each treatment was assessed. To investigate the in vivo effects of ginseng extracts, female mice were gavaged with 50[Formula: see text]mg/kg/day, 500[Formula: see text]mg/kg/day or 2000[Formula: see text]mg/kg/day of either extract (treatment) or water (sham) for 2 weeks prior to mating and throughout gestation. Gestation period, litter size, pup growth and pup sex ratio were evaluated. Oral ginseng consumption did not significantly affect fertility or pregnancy in the mouse. High doses of ginseng (2000[Formula: see text]mg/kg/day) decreased maternal weight gain. Direct treatment of preimplantation embryos in vitro demonstrated that ALC and AQ extract treatment reduced development in a concentration responsive manner, while only ALC extract effects were largely reversible. Treatments with individual or combinatorial ginsenosides, or the polysaccharide fraction solution alone did not impair preimplantation development, in vitro. In conclusion, maternal oral consumption of ginseng has little negative impact on pregnancy in the mouse, however, direct exposure to ginseng extract during mouse preimplantation development in vitro is detrimental.