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Can ginseng and ginsenosides be used as a complementary therapy in cancer treatment?

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Can ginseng and ginsenosides be used as complementary therapy in cancer treatment?

Complementary therapies refer to the treatments used along with standard medical treatments. The treatments are focused on reliving the side effects caused by cancer treatment and making people feel better in mind, body or spirit to improve the quality of life. Some common types of complementary therapy include acupuncture, herbal medicines, yoga, etc.

Complementary therapy is popular among cancer patients

Most cancer patients used some complementary medicine. According to a European survey investigated the use of complementary and alternative medicines in cancer patients, among 956 patients from 14 European countries, about 35.9% of them used some form of complementary and alternative medicines, and herbal medicines and remedies were the most commonly used ones, together with vitamins or mineral, medicinal teas, spiritual therapies, and relaxation techniques.

The survey suggested that younger people, female and with higher educational level are more likely to try complementary medicines. Cancer patients using complementary and alternative therapies wanted to increase the body immunity to fight diseases, improve physical well-being or emotional well-being, and many seemed to gain benefits to some degree.

Clinical studies on the use of ginseng and ginsenosides as complementary therapy in cancer treatment

Prototype ginsenosides vs Rare ginsenosidesGinseng is a well-known health-promoting herb that is popular among people in many countries. Scientists found that ginseng and its bioactive constituents, ginsenosides show stronger anticancer activities in lab tests, and some clinical studies were conducted to investigate the therapeutic effects of ginseng and ginsenosides used as complementary therapy in cancer treatment.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, USA, investigated the associations of ginseng use as a complementary therapy with survival and the quality of life of breast cancer patients. 1455 Chinese women with breast cancer involved in the study and were followed up for six years. The participants also received regular cancer treatment such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The study found that women who had already been using ginseng were less likely to die of breast cancer;  Ginseng could help improve the quality of life of breast cancer patients, and specifically, it had the strongest effect in the emotional and social well-being.

Chinese scientists Jiang SL et al. investigated the combined therapeutic effects of fermented red ginseng on non-small cell lung cancer patients who received chemotherapy. 60 patients involved in the clinical study were divided into two groups and followed up for 60 days. The results showed that the treatment group receiving fermented red ginseng along with the chemotherapy drugs gemcitabine and cisplatin saw an improvement in fatigue, anxiety, depression, and quality of life.  Meanwhile, the chemotherapy toxicity was reduced.

Although these studies indicated the benefits of using ginseng as a complementary therapy in cancer treatment, the evidence is still limited and further research is warranted.

ASCO holds that ginseng could be selectively offered to individual patients with breast cancer to help with treatment-related fatigue

The American Society of Clinical Oncology(ASCO) on June 11, 2018, endorsed the guidelines issued by the Society for Integrative Oncology for a handful of evidenced-based complementary therapies to help breast cancer patients deal with the side effects of standard breast cancer treatment. The guidelines were compiled by an expert panel who reviewed randomized controlled trials and finally endorsed by ASCO.

The guidelines concluded that ginseng could be “selectively offered” to individual patients with breast cancer to help with treatment-related fatigue. ASCO also advised patients to seek guidance from their health care team before using ginseng or any dietary supplement.

In reality, many cancer patients in some countries have taken ginseng and ginsenosides to help improve physical performance and emotional conditions. In China, ginsenoside Rg3 has been approved as adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment.

How to choose the best ginseng and ginsenosides?

In order to know how to choose the best ginseng and ginsenosides, people should first know the relationship between ginseng, ginsenosides and metabolized rare ginsenosides.

Ginsenosides are pharmacologically bioactive constituents in ginseng. Ginseng and ginsenosides can be broken down by human gut bacteria and metabolized into rare ginsenosides. These rare metabolized ginsenosides are more bioactive and more easily used by the human body with increased bioavailability, compared to prototype ginsenosides. The well-known rare ginsenosides isolated and metabolized by scientists include Rh2, Rg3, Rk2, Rh3, aPPD and Compound K.

Only rare ginsenosides can be absorbed and utilized by the human body. Disappointingly, not everyone has the right gut bacteria that help ginseng and ginsenoside metabolized into rare ginsenosides, and about one-fourth of the population lacking in the gut bacteria can not benefit from ginseng and ginsenosides. Therefore, in order to get maximal health benefits from ginseng, rare ginsenosides metabolized through biotransformation technology are what people should choose.

When buying rare ginsenoside products to help fight cancer, customers should be more cautious to confirm whether rare ginsenosides are the main components. The best rare ginsenoside products are those with multiple highly active rare ginsenosides in high concentrations.

The products with multiple highly active ginsenosides including Rh2, Rh3Rk2 and aPPD are currently available on the Amazon. Always remember to consult with your healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

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