The results of their scientifically rigorous pilot study, the first to evaluate the Wisconsin species of American ginseng as a possible therapy for cancer-related fatigue, were presented June 3 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Many cancer patients face extreme fatigue after diagnosis and during treatment. Getting more sleep or rest often does not relieve the fatigue, nor is it related to activity levels. Other than exercise, there isn't a good solution available for these patients.
"We hope that Wisconsin ginseng may offer us a much-needed treatment to improve our patients' quality of life, and we look forward to further evaluation," says Debra Barton, Ph.D. a registered nurse, Mayo Clinic cancer researcher and the study's primary investigator.
"Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most profound and distressing issues patients face," she says. This unique type of fatigue can have dozens of causes, and for patients who have completed cancer therapy, fatigue is among their foremost concerns, second only to fear of disease recurrence."
Traditional Chinese medicine and current understanding of ginseng's function both point to its characteristics as an adaptogen -- a substance that helps the body overcome the effects of environmental stress. Since cancer patients have stressors ranging from the psychological stress of diagnosis to the physiological stresses of chemotherapy and radiation, if ginseng helps, the researchers think it would be a valuable addition to currently available therapies.