One of the most common and disabling side-effect of cancer is fatigue, generally described as an unusual or excessive whole body tiredness.
Although the exact cause of cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is not known, it is believed to be associated with either the cancer itself and/or the cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This fatigue is often described as paralyzing, comes on suddenly, significantly impairs function, unrelated to activity, unrelieved by rest or sleep, and may even continue after the cancer treatment is over.
Ginseng, an herb commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine is often referred to as an “adaptogen” because it helps the body deal with various kinds of stress. There are various types of ginseng, and the American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) derives its products from the plant’s root and root hairs and contains the active ingredients ginsenosides which is thought to be the source of its medicinal properties. American ginseng was used traditionally by Native Americans as a stimulant, as well as to treat fever, indigestion, and infertility. Recent research have suggested benefits in the treatment of type 2 DM, inhibition of tumor growth in colorectal cancer cells, improvement in cold and flu symptoms, and as an immune system booster. The herb may now be a new player in fight against cancer-related fatigue.
A new study published in the Journal of Oncology looked at the use of 2,000 mg per day of American Ginseng versus placebo (a substance containing no active ingredient) for the treatment of cancer-related fatigue. Some 364 participants enrolled in the study from October 2008 to July 2011 and information was collected at 4 weeks and 8 weeks. The findings suggest that American Ginseng reduces general and physical cancer-related fatigue over 8 weeks without side effects. The treatment did not provide significant reduction in fatigue at 4 weeks and there were no significant differences in toxicity between the treatment and placebo group. People who suffer from cancer-related fatigue should discuss with their health care provider if the addition of American ginseng would be appropriate for them.