A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago found that taking large amounts of ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), a root commonly used in herbal medicine, helps reduce fatigue in cancer patients.
Fatigue in people with cancer has been associated with increased levels of cytokines, molecules associated with the inflammatory process. Animal studies have shown that the active ingredients of ginseng, ginsenosides, may help reduce the cytokines related to inflammation and regulate cortisol levels.
The current study was conducted at the Mayo Clinic (USA), where researchers evaluated the effects of ginseng in 340 patients who had completed treatment or were being treated for cancer; 60% of the subjects had breast cancer.
For eight weeks one part of the group received daily of placebo and the remaining part of the group were given two grams of fresh ginseng capsules per day. All the patients recorded their level of physical fatigue or tiredness on a scale of zero to 100.
After four weeks of the study, the researchers observed no significant differences in the sense of well being between the two groups. But after eight weeks, patients who received the ginseng root showed a significant decreased level of fatigue compared with those on placebo.
Patients who received ginseng reported feeling 20% less fatigued than the placebo group, and according to the authors, there were no major side effects.
Even though the study participants did not have major side effects, you should talk with your doctor before starting any herbal medication, especially if you are being treated for cancer, as herbal supplements can adversely interact with your standard treatments.
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