Author: Christin Sander, Health Writer
Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a natural energy booster and potent overall health tonic. Today, studies have proven ginseng's ability to combat fatigue; in particular, the often crippling fatigue associated with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Up to 90 percent of cancer patients report debilitating fatigue as a side effect of their treatment. In many cases, fatigue from cancer treatments continues for months and even years after the treatments are complete.
Fatigue in cancer patients is linked to an increase in cytokines, which affect hormones and chemicals the nerves use for communication. This disruption sets off an inflammatory response in the body that increases feelings of exhaustion. The increased production of the stress hormone cortisol also causes and prolongs fatigue.
Recent independent studies have proven ginseng to be an effective remedy for cancer-related fatigue. Researchers for Mayo Clinic studied 340 patients who were receiving cancer treatment or who had recently completed it. Each day participants in the study were given 2,000 milligrams of pure ginseng root or a placebo. At four weeks, there was minimal improvement, but by the eighth week of the study, patients taking ginseng reported significant improvement.
In another study, researchers found that cancer patients given 1,000 milligrams of ginseng twice a day saw significant improvements in fatigue within two weeks over the placebo group. It was also found that ginseng had a positive effect on nausea.
How Ginseng Fights Fatigue
Ginseng helps fight fatigue in two ways. It reduces inflammation in the body and improves and regulates cortisol levels. Ginseng contains ginsenosides, an adaptogen that helps the body recover from the effects of disease, stress and fatigue. Ginsenosides also act as natural pain relievers and have potent antioxidant properties that help boost the immune system.
Quality of life can be hard to measure. However, there are a couple of studies that suggest ginseng may enhance a general sense of overall well-being. A study of 501 men and women in Mexico City found quality of life improvements in those taking Asian ginseng. The quality of life measures included energy, personal satisfaction, well-being, sex life and quality of sleep. Another study found people taking a supplement with ginseng said they had higher quality of life than those taking the same supplement without ginseng. An improved sense of well-being could also indirectly help with feelings of exhaustion and weariness.
For those dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy, herbal remedies like ginseng can offer hope and improve daily life. Many undergoing these treatments describe the side effects as grueling, and the fatigue is often one of the most profound symptoms.
There are also other natural remedies that can help fight fatigue. Eleuthero is a natural energy tonic that supports circulation and acts as an overall systemic supporter. Like ginseng, gotu kola is also a powerful adaptogen that supports healthy energy levels and stamina.