Ginseng 'Reduces Cancer Fatigue'
A US team at Rochester's Mayo Clinic found daily doses improved energy levels
and emotional well-being, in a study of 282 patients. They say that as studies
show over half of cancer patients experience crippling fatigue, adding ginseng
to cancer therapies is worth exploring. Cancer experts urged caution until more
work was carried out. The work was presented to the American Society of Clinical
Cancer fatigue is the most common
side effect of cancer treatment and, according to Cancer Research UK, affects
up to 90% of cancer patients. Many people with cancer say it is the most disruptive
side-effect of all, rendering them so tired they are unable to perform everyday
tasks. Ginseng has already been hailed as a remedy against colds and diabetes.
Scientists believe it works by acting as an "adaptogen" - a substance that helps
the body overcome stress effects. Since cancer patients can face high levels of
stress, both physical and psychological, the Mayo team decided to test whether
ginseng would be of benefit.
They enrolled 282 cancer patients and divided
them at random into four groups - a control group, who received their normal cancer
treatment and a dummy drug, plus three treatment groups who received one of three
daily doses of ginseng (750mg, 1,000mg or 2,000mg) alongside their usual therapy.
After eight weeks, they surveyed the patients.
group given the dummy drug reported no improvement, but the patients who had been
taking the ginseng reported improvements in overall energy levels and experienced
less fatigue-affected activity.
The ginseng groups said they felt better
mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. The improvements appeared to
be dose related, with those on the highest dose reporting the greatest gains.
But the scientists stressed it would be premature to recommend ginseng supplements
to cancer patients.
Lead researcher Dr Debra Barton explained: "Whilst
the results were promising, we have more research to conduct." Her team now plans
to look at what dose is most appropriate. Dr Barton said there were many different
formulations of ginseng available on the market and that all might not work identically.
Josephine Querido, of Cancer Research UK, said: "It's too early to say
whether using ginseng will help reduce tiredness in people with cancer. Further
work may shed more light on this. "Of the evidence currently available, exercise
and support seem to be most effective at tackling tiredness in cancer patients."
She added: "If you're considering using complementary therapies, such as herbal
supplements, you should always discuss this with your GP."
Broadcasting Corporation June 2007
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