BACKGROUND: The aim of the review was to assess whether ginseng can be a useful supplementation for seasonal acute upper respiratory infections (SAURIs).
METHODS: All clinical studies investigating ginseng efficacy for the treatment or prevention of SAURIs were included in the review. Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, Scopus, Cochrane Library, Google Scholar were systematically screened for relevant articles up to May 26th, 2020. The risk of bias was assessed with the Cochrane tool (RoB 2).
RESULTS: Nine articles (describing ten trials about P. ginseng or P. quinquefolius) were included in the review. Evidence globally indicated some useful activity of intervention when administered in adjunct to influenza vaccination. The results of our quantitative synthesis suggested a significant effect on SAURIs incidence (RR = 0.69 [95 % C.I. 0.52 to 0.90], p < 0.05), as well as a significant reduction of their duration if only studies with healthy individuals were included in the analysis (MD=-3.11 [95 % C.I.-5.81 to -0.40], p < 0.05). However, the risk of bias was high-to-unclear for most included trials, and publication bias couldn't be excluded.
DISCUSSION: Limitations of existing evidence don't allow to draw conclusions on the topic. Nevertheless, it is not excluded that ginseng supplementation in adjunct to influenza vaccination and standard care might be useful for SAURIs prevention and management in healthy adult subjects, but further high-quality trials are needed to support this hypothesis.
OTHER: This research was not funded. The protocol was registered in PROSPERO under the following code: CRD42020156235.