In an oral abstract presented on June 4 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, researchers provided data from a double blind, placebo-controlled study of 364 cancer patients "to support that American Ginseng reduces general and physical CRF [cancer-related fatigue] over eight weeks without side effects." Patients were given either placebo or 2 grams per day of American ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius). The study was sponsored by the Mayo Clinic-associated North Central Cancer Treatment Group, and some funding was provided to the lead researcher by the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. The research is due to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
"Phase III evaluation of American ginseng (panax quinquefolius) to improve cancer-related fatigue"
Background: Ginseng is popularly used as a treatment for fatigue, one of the most common and disabling symptoms in people diagnosed with cancer. It is termed an "adaptogen", thought to help the body combat negative effects of stress. This trial was to evaluate 2,000 mg American Ginseng versus placebo for cancer-related fatigue (CRF).
Methods: Patients with cancer undergoing or having completed curative intent treatment and experiencing fatigue, rated at least 4 on a numeric analogue fatigue scale (1-10) for ≥1 month, were eligible. Exclusion criteria included CNS lymphoma, brain malignancies, or prior use of ginseng or chronic systemic steroids. Other etiologies for fatigue, such as pain and sleep, were also excluded. Patients were randomized to receive, in a double blind manner, 2,000 mg/d of American Ginseng or placebo in BID dosing for 8 weeks. The primary endpoint was change from baseline in the general subscale of the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory (MFSI) at 4 weeks. Other MFSI subscales and the fatigue-inertia subscale of the Profile of Mood States (POMS) were also analyzed. Data were transformed to a 0-100 scale.
Results: 364 patients were enrolled from 10/2008 to 07/2011. Data at 4 and 8 weeks are provided for several fatigue endpoints in the table below; higher numbers are better. Mental, emotional and vigor subscales of the MFSI were not significantly different between arms. There were no statistically significant differences in any grade of toxicity or self reported side effects between ginseng and placebo.
Conclusions: This trial provides data to support that American Ginseng reduces general and physical CRF over 8 weeks without side effects. The treatment did not provide significant reductions in fatigue at 4 weeks and did not impact mental, emotional, and vigor dimensions of fatigue.