Mayo: Ginseng helps with cancer fatigue

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that high doses of the herb American ginseng, seen here in a ginseng-cleaning plant in Wisconsin, helps patients fight cancer-related fatigue.
AP Photo/Ramde Dinesh, file

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that high doses of the herb American ginseng helps patients fight cancer-related fatigue.

Researchers studied 364 patients from 40 community medical centers around the U.S. and Canada.

For eight weeks, patients took 2,000 milligram capsules of pure, ground American ginseng root from Wisconsin.

Half of the patients were undergoing cancer treatment and the other half had already completed treatment.

Mayo researcher Debra Barton says cancer-related fatigue can last up to five years after chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Fatigue can be associated with increased inflammation and an inability to regulate stress hormones, such as cortisol.

"Ginseng actually has a lot of research associated with it that does show in animal and laboratory models, that it can decrease inflammation and it can help regulate that cortisol," she said.

Ginseng has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a natural energy booster. After the eight-week period, researchers measured a 20-point improvement in fatigue in cancer patients, using a 100-point standardized fatigue scale, according to Barton.

Barton says the findings showed that the group getting cancer treatment benefited more from the ginseng than the group that was done with treatment.

"We know plants have a biological activity and it's a matter of taking the time and doing the research to understand what those biologic properties are and how they might be helpful," Barton said.

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