Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 26th 2013 Contents B28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, July 26, 2013
Cancer patients and survivors who felt tired
or sluggish reported feeling noticeably better
after taking ginseng supplements for two
months, in a new study.
"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," said lead author Debra
Barton, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Min-
"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," Barton told
Reuters Health by e-mail.
Ginseng had shown promise for fatigue in earlier
studies as well, researchers said.
Tired cancer patients and survivors often turn
to that and other dietary supplements such as
Coenzyme Q-10, L-Carnitine and guarana, but
not all are supported by evidence.
To look more closely at the effects of ginseng,
Barton and her coauthors split 364 people with
cancer-related fatigue into two groups. People in
one group took 2,000 milligrams of Wisconsin
ginseng daily for eight weeks; those in the other
group took placebo capsules.
Participants reported their fatigue on a spe-
cialised questionnaire. Researchers then weighted
those answers on a 100-point scale, where higher
scores indicate more energy. Both groups started
with an average score around 40.
After eight weeks, the ginseng group reported
a 20-point score increase, on average, compared
to a ten-point improvement for the placebo group,
according to results published in the Journal of
the National Cancer Institute.
That s more than enough change to be notice-
able in daily life, according to the scale.
Of the 364 people enrolled at the start of the
study, 80 dropped out before the eight-week
mark. Although that s a high number, dropout
rates were similar in each group---so the results
shouldn t be affected, Barton said.
Side effects such as nausea, vomiting and anx-
iety were not any more common among people
"Ginseng is interesting because it acts on
inflammation, and we think inflammation explains
cancer-related fatigue," said Catherine Alfano,
deputy director of the office of cancer survivorship
at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda,
The results of this trial are promising, but they
aren t enough to recommend that doctors suggest
this supplement to patients, she told Reuters
A bottle of 100 capsules containing 500 mg of
Wisconsin ginseng each costs about US$10 at a
drugstore. Dietary supplements such as ginseng
are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Admin-
"There may be ginseng available in the local
stores that is very different from what this study
used, and some that is quite similar," Barton said.
"There are different types of ginseng,
different strengths (doses) and since it
is a plant, (it) has to be grown, picked,
processed and manufactured to get from
field to store."
It s difficult for people to tell what
exactly they re getting when they pur-
chase supplements, she said.
Also, it is not yet known how ginseng
may interact with drugs or with cancer
treatment itself---another reason patients
should not go out and use it to medicate
themselves just yet, said Alfano, who
wasn t involved in the new study.
More research needs to be done to
determine why ginseng seemed to have
stronger anti-fatigue properties for people
undergoing cancer treatment than after
treatment, she said.
"Cancer-related fatigue can be really
profound in some cases," she said.
"People really want answers."
There is a great deal of evidence
that a simple exercise programme,
even just regular walking, can work
against cancer-related fatigue, and
that s what Alfano said she would
most strongly recommend to
"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
---DEBRA BARTON, MAYO CLINIC
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
Ginseng supplements linked to less cancer fatigue
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