In a recent study, by the Mayo Clinic, cancer patients and survivors with cancer-related fatigue felt noticeably better after taking ginseng supplements for two months. Ginseng is a slow-growing perennial plant with fleshy roots.
Of the study participants, half took 2,000 milligrams of Wisconsin ginseng daily and the other half took a placebo. After eight weeks, both groups reported their fatigue on a specialized questionnaire. The results, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that fatigue was significantly reduced in ginseng recipients compared with the placebo group, and no discernible toxicities were associated with ginseng treatment.
Research suggests that 70 to almost 100 percent of cancer patients receiving cancer treatment experience fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is more pronounced than regular tiredness and is not relieved by rest or sleep (National Comprehensive Cancer Network).
“Although fatigue is a distressing symptom, doctors seldom focus on it and patients and caregivers rarely report it,” says Katherine Anderson, ND, FABNO, National Director of Naturopathic Medicine at CTCA.
In addition to reducing fatigue, ginseng is believed to improve cognition and immune function and decrease inflammation. Anderson stresses that cancer patients should consult with a naturopathic doctor or other qualified health professional before using this herb, or any natural therapy.
When taken with certain medications, ginseng may decrease the effectiveness of the drug and increase the risk of side effects. Also, some doctors warn against using ginseng in hormone-driven cancers, such as breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
Additional supplements that may help to reduce cancer-related fatigue include: Co-enzyme Q10, L-carnitine, Omega three fatty acids, Rhodiola, B vitamins, Vitamin D and intravenous Vitamin C. A combination of physical activity and cognitive therapies, energy therapies (Yoga, QiGong), as well as low-level energy laser therapy, may help to reduce fatigue as well.
Read tips for managing cancer-related fatigue.