Results from a study funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and carried out by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN suggests that American ginseng can cut down on cancer-related fatigue compared to placebo.
The findings, which are to be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal, are being reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
In the study, researchers recruited 340 cancer patients (sixty percent of whom had breast cancer) who had finished cancer treatment or were in the process of receiving treatment. Roughly half the group received placebo while the other half received 2,000 milligrams of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), which came in capsules that contained pure, ground ginseng root.
This type of ginseng was chosen, according to the Mayo Clinic's Debra Barton, Ph.D because:
Off-the-shelf ginseng is sometimes processed using ethanol, which can give it estrogen-like properties that may be harmful to breast cancer patients.
Participants' fatigue symptoms were tested at four weeks and at eight weeks.
At four weeks, there was only a modest improvement over the placebo. On the other hand, at eight weeks, the change was rather profound. Said Dr. Barton:
After eight weeks, we saw a 20-point improvement in fatigue in cancer patients, measured on a 100-point, standardized fatigue scale.
Of course ginseng's value in traditional Chinese medicine has been as a natural energy booster, so it stands to reason that it could help these patients overcome some of the fatigue associated with cancer treatment. However, this is the first study to extensively test these effects against such fatigue.
Additionally, there were no reported side effects in the treatment arm.
Source: Mayo Clinic