Ginseng fights fatigue in cancer patients, study finds

June 4, 2012

High doses of the herb American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) over two months reduced cancer-related fatigue in patients more effectively than a placebo, a Mayo Clinic-led study found. Sixty percent of patients studied had breast cancer. The findings are being presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting.

Researchers studied 340 patients who had completed or were being treated for cancer at one of 40 community medical centers. Each day, participants received a placebo or 2,000 of administered in capsules containing pure, ground American ginseng root.

"Off-the-shelf ginseng is sometimes processed using ethanol, which can give it estrogen-like properties that may be harmful to ," says researcher Debra Barton, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

At four weeks, the pure ginseng provided only a slight improvement in fatigue symptoms. However, at eight weeks, ginseng offered cancer patients significant improvement in general exhaustion — feelings of being "pooped," "worn out," "fatigued," "sluggish," "run-down," or "tired" — compared to the placebo group.

"After eight weeks, we saw a 20-point improvement in fatigue in cancer patients, measured on a 100-point, standardized fatigue scale," Dr. Barton says. The herb had no apparent side effects, she says.

Ginseng has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a natural energy booster. Until this study, its effects had not been tested extensively against the debilitating fatigue that occurs in up to 90 percent of cancer patients. Fatigue in cancer patients has been linked to an increase in the immune system's inflammatory cytokines as well as poorly regulated levels of the stress-hormone cortisol. Ginseng's active ingredients, called ginsenosides, have been shown in animal studies to reduce cytokines related to inflammation and help regulate cortisol levels.

Dr. Barton's next study will look closely at ginseng's effects on the specific biomarkers for fatigue. "Cancer is a prolonged chronic stress experience and the effects can last 10 years beyond diagnosis and treatment," she says. "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."

Explore further: Follow-up study finds prolonged fatigue for those who had chemotherapy for breast cancer

Related Stories

Ginseng doesn't help patients with early diabetes

April 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Despite promising findings in the laboratory, nutrition researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that ginseng does not improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics who are ...

Recommended for you

Deworming pill may be effective in treating liver cancer

March 30, 2017

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a cancer associated with underlying liver disease and cirrhosis that often only becomes symptomatic when it is very advanced, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths around the world, ...

Gene research gives new insight into pancreatic cancer

March 29, 2017

One reason pancreatic cancer has a particularly low survival rate is the difficulty in getting drugs to the tumour, but new knowledge of how pancreatic cancer cells invade neighbouring cells could change that.

Study shows how BPA may affect inflammatory breast cancer

March 29, 2017

The chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, appears to aid the survival of inflammatory breast cancer cells, revealing a potential mechanism for how the disease grows, according to a study led by researchers in the Department of Surgery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.