Cancer Making You Tired and Sluggish? Get Going with Ginseng

Cancer can take its toll on your well-being, even after you’re in remission. The disease, among other things, can affect your wellness with tiredness and fatigue, but this might not be the case if you start to take ginseng supplements. This is according to a new study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which found that cancer patients and survivors who felt tired or sluggish felt noticeably better after taking ginseng supplements for two months.


Lead author Debra Barton, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, explained, ‘Nearly all patients with cancer can suffer from fatigue at some point; either at diagnosis, during treatment and even after treatment, and (fatigue) can linger for several years. The issue with cancer-related fatigue is that it can be a profound fatigue that is not relieved by sleep or rest and that it can significantly impact the ability of people to accomplish the things they are used to doing every day.’


For the study, the researchers gave 364 participants with cancer-related fatigue either 2,000 milligrams of Wisconsin ginseng or a placebo capsule. Both groups of volunteers took their medication every day over a period of eight weeks, and reported their fatigue on a specialised questionnaire. On a 100-point scale, in which higher scores denote more energy, both groups started out with an average score of 40, but after the eight weeks was up, there was a notable difference; while the placebo group’s score improved by an average of 10 points, the ginseng group reported a 20-point score increase. According to the scale, that’s more than enough change to be noticeable in daily life.


Catherine Alfano, deputy director of the office of cancer survivor-ship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, noted, ‘Ginseng is interesting because it acts on inflammation, and we think inflammation explains cancer-related fatigue.’ However, while she believes that the clinical trial has exhibited promising results, they aren’t enough to make ginseng a doctor-recommended supplement to patients. Barton warned, ‘There may be ginseng available in the local stores that is very different from what this study used, and some that is quite similar.’

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