Ginseng for Fatigue
This is a really exciting report (via Medpage) from the recent ASCO meetings. Through thoughtful clinical trials, it appears that ginseng is a useful treatment for cancer-related fatigue. I am intrigued for at least two reasons: there have not been too many trials of complementary therapies (CAM), and most have shown no value for whatever the herb or treatment was (e.g. St John's wort did not help depression), and there have been virtually no treatments for fatigue. Just about everyone struggles with energy during and shortly after cancer treatment. For most of us, as time passes, and we generally feel better and exercise more and begin to reclaim our lives, the fatigue abates. There are, unfortunately, a few women for whom it is a very persistent problem. Through the years, I have known several women who literally had to remake their lives to co-exist with a permanantly diminished energy level. I knew a surgeon who had to leave her practice and several other women who had to change jobs.
The shorter term value of ginseng is likely to be useful for many people during treatment. It is mighty depressing to spend days lying around on the couch and being unable to participate in activities with family and friends. Since it is easy to sink into a bad mood during cancer treatment, this enforced isolation and general yucky feeling makes it worse. I, at least, have little imagination when feeling sick and, instead, believe that I will never feel better--this, in turn, makes the mood worse. All the advice about taking a walk can seem impossible when you can barely find the energy to think about dinner.
Here is the beginning and then a link:
ASCO: Ginseng Fights Fatigue in Cancer
By Crystal Phend, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: June 05, 2012
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
CHICAGO -- Ginseng appears to counteract the fatigue often associated with cancer, according to randomized trial results. After 8 weeks taking supplements of the ground-up root, fatigue scores among cancer patients dropped 20% compared with 10% on placebo pills (P=0.003), Debra Barton RN, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues found. Ginseng appeared as safe as placebo, at least over the short term, they reported here at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.
"This is an exciting finding because there are no or limited choices at this point" in treating cancer-related fatigue, commented Sriram Yennu MD, MS, of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.