Ginseng Cancer Cure
Is it possible to “root out” cancer with ginseng?
Aritcle from Cancer Defeated: Newsletter #176 – Lee Euler, Editor
Both energy drink producers and consumers tip up their cup with ginseng. Thousands of folks sing its praises as an energy booster… stamina increaser… and stress reliever.
Some recent studies suggest that ginseng not only helps build stamina and promote mental clarity—scientific studies have also shown it may provide some serious anti-cancer protection, too! Let’s take a look. . .
Ginseng has been a superstar of Chinese medical treatments for thousands of years. Asian healers used ginseng root to treat digestive and respiratory ailments. They also found it useful for addressing nervous disorders, diabetes and fatigue.
Native Americans were also known to use this versatile herb to cure constipation, dry coughs and fevers. Seeing that it’s highly prized in traditional and folk medicine, Western scientists have been taking a closer look at ginseng for its potential medicinal benefits, including possible anticancer properties.
Scientists say ginseng battles cancer
in four important ways…
A team of researchers from the UK, Hong Kong and China published a review of ginseng studies in the Chinese Medicine journal1.
In it they reveal that compounds calledginsenosides are the plant’s secret weapon for fighting cancer.
The studies seem to indicate these compounds might act in a similar way to steroid hormones. The scientists identified four ways ginsenosides may shut down cancer cells:
- Arrest uncontrolled growth—ginsenosides have been shown to halt growth of tumor cells in the liver, lungs and prostate, as well as leukuemia cells.
- Cause cell death—the study authors said several substances found in ginsenosides cause apoptosis (normal self-destruction) of lung, ovarian and prostate cancer cells. Natural cell death also occurred with cancer cells in nerve tissue (neuroblastoma).
- Halt invasive spreading—cancer cells can break away from a tumor, move into blood vessels and circulate through the bloodstream. From there, these wandering cells can invade and grow in normal body tissues. But scientists observed that ginsenosides stopped the invasiveness of some endometrial cancer cells.
- Stunt growth of new blood vessels—the growth of new blood vessels from existing ones is called angiogenesis. This proliferation of blood vessels is the essential way cancer feeds itself. The report from the journal Chinese Medicine said a number of studies have shown that ginsenosides inhibited angiogenesis in different animal models. Without excess blood vessels to nourish cancer cells, they are less likely to grow unchecked.
These scientists concluded that each of these four mechanisms may play a role in the way ginseng destroys cancer cells in your body.
Mainstream medicine says the jury’s still out…
but ginseng studies show real promise!
The American Cancer Society (ACS) opinion is that “available scientific evidence does not support claims that ginseng is effective in preventing or treating cancer in humans.”2 But the group acknowledged that laboratory studies do seem to suggest that some ginseng compounds may have anticancer properties.
One such research study was funded by the Linus Pauling Institute to investigate whether ginsenosides’ resemblance to steroids would make them more effective against hormonally regulated cancers, such as breast cancer.
Researchers tested crude and purified ginsenoside extracts from American ginseng plants on breast cancer cells from a patient with metastatic breast cancer.
Investigators David E. Williams, Ph.D., professor of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, and Sharon K. Krueger, Ph.D., a research associate with the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, evaluated the anticancer effect of different ginseng compounds by adding them to the media used to grow the breast cancer cells. (You can think of “media” as the soil researchers use to grow an organism like cancer cells in a laboratory dish.)
The team reported that the “PQe” ginsenoside fraction “not only inhibited proliferation of the cancer cells at all doses but actually caused significant tumor cell death when administered at high doses.”3
The researchers plan to conduct further tests to discover why that particular ginsenoside fraction was more successful than others at wiping out breast cancer cells.
This study is not an isolated case of successful cancer treatment with ginseng compounds. The ACS even gives a slight nod to several Korean case-control studies whose results suggest that people who took ginseng extract seemed to have a lower overall cancer risk.
And they even mention a recent Chinese study suggesting that women with breast cancer who used ginseng before their diagnosis survived longer—and reported a better quality of life—than those who did not.
This is a good place to mention that all ginseng is not alike. Botanists have identified 12 species of ginseng, but most of the research has focused on three:
- Panax ginseng(Korean ginseng) — cultivated in China, Korea, Japan, Russia, and the U.S.
- Panax quinquefolium(American ginseng) — grown in southern Canada and the U.S.
- Panax notoginseng— cultivated in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces in China
The first two types are the ones most commonly available to U.S. consumers as herbal extracts or as dry ground root.
Ginseng is generally considered safe to use—although for some folks, higher doses may cause headaches, increased heart rate, nausea and restlessness. I would be on the lookout for insomnia or other sleep disturbances, or just a general feeling of being hyper.
The ACS recommends more clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of ginseng on human cancers. Other groups recognize this need and are even willing to fork over the cash to get it done!
For example, in 2008 the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine awarded $6 million over five years to the University of Chicago Medical Center to study the anti-cancer properties of American ginseng.
In the meantime, ginseng supplements are readily available through many nutritional supplements companies.
So whether or not you choose to explore ginseng as a potential cancer killer—you might just consider taking it to give your brain and body an extra kick!
Based on the evidence I’ve seen, I can’t say ginseng is a first-line cancer treatement, but it’s worth doing along with other harmless natural treatments. The beauty of treatments like these is you can combine quite a number of them at the same time.