Ginseng may reduce cancer-related fatigue, but results need replicating

In collaboration with the Press Association

Ginseng, a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, may help to reduce the fatigue commonly experienced by patients undergoing treatment for cancer, according to a small preliminary study presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

Researchers at the North Central Cancer Treatment Group at Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, analysed data from 282 patients who were enrolled in a randomised trial.

The patients were split into four groups which received a placebo, 750 mg, 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg of the Wisconsin species of ginseng respectively.

The researchers found that patients receiving the placebo or the lowest dose of ginseng experienced very little improvement in fatigue, physical or psychological wellbeing.

Those who received the larger doses of ginseng reported improvements in energy levels, higher vitality levels and less fatigue, as well as an improvement in overall mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being.

However, Cancer Research UK noted that the research is still in its early stages and patients should not include complementary therapies as part of their treatment plan without seeking advice from a GP.

Josephine Querido, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, commented: "It's too early to say whether using ginseng will help reduce tiredness in people with cancer.

"Further work, currently being planned by these researchers, may shed more light on this. Of the evidence currently available, exercise and support seem to be most effective at tackling tiredness in cancer patients.

"If you're considering using complementary therapies, such as herbal supplements, you should always discuss this with your GP to make sure it doesn't interfere with your current treatment and is not harmful."