Huntington’s, the genetic disease that erodes brain cells, affects 1 out of every 10,000 Americans.

But a recent laboratory study suggests that concentrated forms of ginseng may protect the brain from deterioration caused by Huntington’s and other degenerative diseases (Annals of Neurology, 2005, vol. 57, no. 5). Rats induced with a chemical designed to mimic Huntington’s were given a partial extract of whole ginseng, resulting in significantly less loss of motor control. Unlike whole ginseng, which contains both helpful and harmful elements, the partial extract contains only helpful ginsenosides, which act as antioxidants and neutralize substances that can damage cells and potentially lead to diseases like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Unfortunately, the only form of ginseng available to consumers now is whole root, says Janet Stringer, MD, an author of the study. Will partial ginseng extract have the same neuroprotective effects for humans? Stay tuned.