Is Ginseng an Alternative Medicine for Cancer Patients?

By: Scott Meyers

Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. In the west it has been used to increase energy and boost the immune system. Ginseng is made from the roots of several plant species including Asian and American ginseng. Modern medicine has found it difficult to discover the results of using ginseng. Studies are inconclusive and may be because of the wide variety of quality of the ginseng products. Chinese have touted the benefits of ginseng for various ailments and continue to use this herb regularly.

In a recent study from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, 1455 Chinese women treated for breast cancer were followed for six years. They found that women who had already been using ginseng were less likely to die of breast cancer. Those women who started taking ginseng after their cancer diagnosis reported they were able to be more active and they had a better emotional health during treatment. The women who were taking ginseng were using an American ginseng product or white ginseng root that was unprocessed. They also received regular cancer treatment such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Although the benefits of ginseng have been difficult to prove, the 1065 women who survived breast cancer, sixty-three percent used ginseng after their diagnosis. It is difficult to assess if ginseng was responsible for these remarkable numbers because it is impossible to separate the effects of ginseng from other alternative medicines that some of the women used. Laboratory studies do show the ingredients of ginseng do slow down tumor cell growth.

Women who have breast cancer should talk to their doctor about any benefits that ginseng would give them. You should always consult your health care professional before adding any alternative medicine to your breast cancer treatment. The herb may also have side effect or could interact with other medications your doctor has prescribed. It is not recommended that you use ginseng instead of conventional cancer treatments. The findings of increased survival rate still need to be proved in more clinical studies.

Those who have benefited from ginseng as an addition to their cancer therapy strongly suggest that further clinical trials should be done. These studies will find out if ginseng used with conventional breast cancer treatment will increase the survival rate of breast cancer patients.

Ginseng does have an effect on the patient's sense of well being, giving them a more positive attitude and a feeling of good emotional health. If you are already taking ginseng, it may be a benefit for you to continue to take the herb. If you are not taking it, consult with your doctor to see if it will benefit you. If you decide to take ginseng as a supplement to your cancer treatment, be sure your doctor is aware of all medications you are on. It may cause drug interactions that can do more harm than good from using ginseng. As with any new medicine or alternative treatment, always get all the information you can about new products or methods of treatments.

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