American Ginseng Combats Cancer-Related Fatigue

A study reported this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting held in Chicago reveals the finding of Mayo Clinic researchers that high doses of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) help reduce some of the fatigue experienced by up to 90 percent of men and women with cancer.

In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Debra Barton, PhD of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and her associates administered capsules containing 2,000 milligrams American ginseng or a placebo in divided doses daily for two months to 340 patients who were undergoing or had recently completed treatment for cancer. Sixty percent of the participants were breast cancer patients and brain cancer patients were excluded. Although little improvement was seen at four weeks, those who received ginseng had less general and physical fatigue than the placebo group by the end of the study. No difference in self-reported side effects was observed between the two groups.

“After eight weeks, we saw a 20-point improvement in fatigue in cancer patients, measured on a 100-point, standardized fatigue scale,” Dr Barton remarked.

Compounds in ginseng known as ginsenosides help regulate cortisol (a hormone released during stress) and reduce cytokines involved in inflammation. Future research conducted by Dr Barton will examine the effect of ginseng on fatigue-related biomarkers.

“Cancer is a prolonged chronic stress experience and the effects can last ten years beyond diagnosis and treatment,” Dr Barton remarked. “If we can help the body be better modulated throughout treatment with the use of ginseng, we may be able to prevent severe long-term fatigue.”

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