Ginseng


Also known as: Asian ginseng, ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, Panax ginseng, American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius.

Potential uses: The two varieties of ginseng, Asian and American, are claimed to boost the immune system and promote a sense of well-being and stamina. There are also claims that ginseng can control blood glucose and blood pressure levels and relieve menopausal symptoms, depression, and anxiety. It’s possible that ginseng can alleviate certain side effects of cancer and its treatment, such as fatigue.

Usual dose: Although there is no standard recommended dose, a recent study of ginseng for cancer-related fatigue used daily doses ranging from 750 to 2,000 milligrams for 8 weeks. Due to potential side effects, many experts recommend using ginseng for 3 months or less. Ginseng comes in different forms; the root is dried and used to make tablets or capsules, extracts, and teas, as well as creams or other preparations for external use.

Are there any risks? Ginseng can cause side effects such as headaches, sleep problems, restlessness, a faster heart rate, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as allergic reactions. Some women may experience breast tenderness and menstrual irregularities. Ginseng may lower levels of blood sugar, so people with diabetes who are already taking medications to control blood sugar need to be extra cautious.

What does the research show? Small studies have suggested that ginseng may help alleviate cancer-related fatigue. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are conducting a clinical trial of American ginseng as a treatment for this side effect.

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