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How Ginseng Works - Cancer

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Despite the existence of some scientific papers claiming that ginseng can cure or significantly retard the growth of existing cancers, ginseng will not cure cancer. However, ginseng may improve general well being in both healthy and sick people, and aid in the management of recovery from a wide range of illnesses. Studies show that ginseng may also help prevent specific cancers, and also help more directly in the management of some specific cancers (see below).

Published epidemiological studies have found an association between ginseng intake and a decreased incidence and growth of cancers. A 1995 Korean study found that people taking ginseng had a significantly decreased risk of developing cancer. The overall Odds Ratio was 0.30 (95%CI+0.48-0.68). Risk reduced with increased frequency and duration of intake, and was dose dependant. The Odds Ratio for various cancers was: lip, oral cavity & pharynx 0.47; oesophagus 0.20; stomach 0.36; colon/rectum 0.42; liver 0.48; pancreas 0.22, larynx 0.18, lung 0.55; ovary 0.15. No association was found with cancers of breast, cervix, bladder, and thyroid gland.

Japanese research in vitro and in mice found that ginsenoside metabolites not only inhibit the spread of cancer cells around the body but also induce apoptosis of the cells.

Breast cancer:

Considerable research has taken place on the effect of American ginseng on preventing, and in the management of, breast cancer. It shows considerable promise as an adjunct to existing cancer treatments, and in prevention. European research in 2006 found that American ginseng reduced mammary tumour formation in DMBA-treated mice (by around 50%), but it was less effective than osmemifene and tamoxifen.

Ginseng - cancer US studies show that although both ginseng and estradiol induced the expression of pS2 RNA in MCF-7 breast cancer cell lines, estradiol had a proliferative effect but ginseng did not have significant effect on cell proliferation. Several US studies demonstrate American ginseng's estrogen-like effect on estrogen receptors, but without the cell proliferative effect of oestrogenic drugs. Duda et al (Annals of Surgical Oncology 1996) hypothesized that because ginseng does not exhibit a proliferative effect, it may play a protective role against breast cancer. This research also found that concurrent use of American ginseng and breast cancer therapeutics resulted in a significant suppression of cell growth for most drugs evaluated (P & pharynx 0.005;). It appears that ginseng may inhibit breast cancer by inducing activation of the p21 gene.

Similar results have been obtained from in vitro and animal studies that demonstrate significant and dose dependent decreases in breast cancer cell growth. American ginseng consistently enhanced the anticancer activity of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (DOX) by 8 times, and this combination completely inhibited breast cancer cell growth in mice. There was no change in tumour size when either DOX or ginseng was given alone. With DOX alone, body weight significantly decreased, but body weight remained constant when DOX was combined with ginseng.

The antioxidant properties of American ginseng are useful in reducing some side effects of chemotherapy drugs (see antioxidant section).

In their scientific review, Abascal & Yarnell (Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 2001) state that research indicates that "we may benefit our patients by giving ginseng a greater role in our treatment of women with breast cancer or women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer".

Colon cancer:

Several scientific studies suggest a protective effect for American ginseng powder when fed to animals in intestine/colon cancer models. The authors suggested that it exerted beneficial effects by decreasing the amount of pre-cancerous lesions and inducing apoptosis in the large intestine.

Brain tumours:

Korean research published in Jan 2006 found that compound K (a ginseng saponin metabolite) inhibits the proteinase (MM-9) implicated in the invasion and vascularisation of malignant tumours. They concluded that compound K might have therapeutic potential for controlling the growth and invasiveness of brain tumours.

Please note:
Any scientific information has been assembled by Simply Ginseng from reputable peer-reviewed scientific journals. We have tried to ensure it is clear, balanced and without bias. This information should not be construed as claims for any of our products. Always consult your health care professional.Use only as directed. Always read the label.
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