CHICAGO -- American ginseng, a species of plant often promoted as nature's soothing balm, may decrease fatigue associated with cancer therapy, researchers reported here.
CHICAGO, June 2 -- American ginseng, a species of plant often promoted as nature's soothing balm, may decrease fatigue associated with cancer therapy, researchers reported here.
At higher doses of ginseng -- 1,000 mg per day to 2,000 mg per day -- about 25% of patients said they were less fatigued and 30% were more statisfied with their treatment, said oncologist Debra Barton, Ph,D., RN, of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.
Dr. Barton recruited 282 patients for the randomized trial, funded through the NIH's North Central Cancer Trials Group. The patients had a wide variety of cancers and were receiving either chemotherapy or radiation at baseline.
The patients were assigned to one of four groups: placebo, 750 mg of ginseng; 1,000 mg of ginseng and 2,000 mg of ginseng per day for eight weeks, she reported at the American College of Clinical Oncology meeting.
The study used a single crop of ginseng, grown in Wisconsin, which was tested to confirm a uniform concentration of ginsenosides, she said.
Noting that an estimated 90% of cancer patients reported fatigue associated with either the cancer or with cancer treatment, she said the results of her pilot study suggest that ginseng warrants further study.
Bruce Cheson, M.D, of Georgetown in Washington, who moderated a press briefing discussing complementary medical treatments, said the study "appears to show there is some advantage in taking ginseng."
"We are often asked by our patients if they can take these products," Dr. Cheson said. "We need to have studies such as this one performed so we can at least say whether the product is harmful or not."
Patients took the powdered, encapsulated food product for eight weeks and then were evaluated for vitality, physical well being, and the patients' perception of benefit of the treatment.
Among placebo patients there was a 7% improvement in the vitality subscale of the SF-36, a standardized measurement, and a 5% improvement in well being, tested with various numeric analogue questions.
With the 750-mg ginseng dose, the benefit was similar to placebo, but there was a 15% improvement in vitality and a 10% improvement in well being with the 1,000-mg dose of ginseng and a 10% improvement in vitality. At 2,000 mg, ginseng was associated with a 12% improvement in well being.
Low-dose ginseng patients and placebo patients reported about a 10% improvement in fatigue, versus 25% improvement reported by patients taking 1,000 or 2,000 mg of ginseng.
About 12% of the placebo patients said they were satisfied with treatment compared with 20% of patients on 750 mg of ginseng; and 35% of patients on the 1,000 mg and 200 mg doses of ginseng.
Dr. Barton said there was no statistically significant difference in adverse events between any dose of ginseng and placebo.