Ginseng May Combat Cancer Patient Fatigue

In a recent study, researchers found that the herb ginseng can substantially relieve cancer-related fatigue. In the study, 340 patients who were either in cancer treatment or who had recently completed cancer treatment were give either a placebo or 2,000 milligram capsules of pure, ground American ginseng.

The patients who took ginseng reported a 20-percent improvement in fatigue, which was measured on a standard 100-point scale. After 4 weeks of taking the ginseng, patients reported little improvement. However, after 8 weeks, participants reported feeling less “worn-out”, “sluggish”, and “fatigued” in comparison to participants who were given the placebo.

In a previous study sponsored by the Mayo Clinic, roughly one-quarter of cancer patients who suffered from fatigue felt moderately or much better after taking a similar dose of ginseng. In this study, only 10% of patients who took the placebo reported such results.

According to Laura Murphy, a physiology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the use of ginseng is a helpful addition to current cancer treatment symptom management knowledge, especially since ginseng is much more affordable than many prescription drugs used to treat cancer fatigue.

Murphy and the researchers are not sure why the ginseng is helpful. Says Murphy, “Essentially, when healthy people ingest ginseng, there are no notable effects. However, when an ill person takes ginseng, they tend to feel normal.

The recent ginseng study was funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and was released on June 5 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology yearly meeting in Chicago.


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