BACKGROUND: The effect of spinal adrenergic and cholinergic receptors on the anti-nociceptive effect of intrathecal ginsenosides was determined in a rat postoperative pain model. METHODS: Catheters were placed into the intrathecal space of male Sprague-Dawley rats. Postoperative pain was evoked by an incision to the plantar surface of a hind paw. Withdrawal thresholds was used as a nociceptive parameter and was measured with a von Frey filament. After observing the effect of intrathecal ginsenosides, an alpha-1 adrenergic receptor antagonist (prazosin), an alpha-2 adrenergic receptor antagonist (yohimbine), a muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist (atropine), and a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist (mecamylamine) were given 10 min before administration of the ginsenosides to analyze the contribution of spinal adrenergic and cholinergic receptors on the antinociceptive effect of ginsenosides. RESULTS: Paw incision decreased withdrawal threshold in incised site of paw, but no change of withdrawal threshold was not seen in non-incised site. The intrathecal ginsenosides increased withdrawal threshold of the incised paw in a dose-dependent manner. Pre-treatment with both prazosin and intrathecal yohimbine antagonized the anti-nociceptive effect of the ginsenosides. However, pre-treatments with atropine or mecamylamine had any effect on the antinociceptive activity of ginsenosides. CONCLUSIONS: Intrathecal ginsenosides are effective in attenuation of postoperative pain induced in the rat model. Anti-nociceptive action of ginsenosides is partially mediated by spinal adrenergic receptors, but does not appear to be related to spinal cholinergic receptors.