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Ginseng: energy for fighting cancer:

Where do I get my ideas for articles?
This one started with an old friend named Jon who I've known since high school.
I visited Jon several months ago. Jon who after all these years is still a bachelor starts out each day with a protein and fruit smoothie to which he adds a small vial of Korean ginseng. He buys this ginseng by the case at an oriental grocery store. The tiny vials are ever so cute. I've seen them sold by the piece at health food stores.

Ginseng derives its Latin name, Panax quinquefolia from the Greek word Panakos meaning panacea. Though proported to have many uses in various older texts, the most common these days seems to be, 'to get more energy.' Ginseng acts as a gentle pick me up, a way to increase stamina, a smoother acting, longer lasting cup of coffee. Native to both China and North America it likes shady forests with rich moist mulch. Not Colorado, unfortunately. It was for the extra shot of energy that Jon has turned into a ginseng addict.

Could ginseng help cancer patients recovering from treatment? Their most common complaint is fatigue. There are several other herbs suggested for this post chemo/radiation exhaustion. Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus sentioccous and no relation to Panax ginseng) reduces the drop in white blood cell counts after radiation. Ashwaganda apparently has the same effect. Yet ginseng's reputation as an energy tonic surpasses all others. So in the past I have suggested ginseng to cancer patients figuring it might help them feel better but not realizing how useful it actually was. Inspired bymy friend Jon, I finally got around to searching through the ginseng literature and was I surprised: ginseng has been researched in depth in the last few years for its effect on cancer and is an ideal adjunct to therapy.

It turns out that ginseng effects all aspects of the cancer cycle. It slows the tumor promoting activity of topical carcinogens,[1] slows the growth of cancer tumors,[2] reduces proliferation,[3] and stimulates apoptosis.[4]

Apoptosis is the magic word in cancer treatment. Apoptosis is when a cell commits suicide. Cancer cells should do this but for various reasons forget to. Various plant extracts are able to restore this ability.[5] Stimulating apoptosis is the mechanism by which many of the natural cancer therapies apparently work. When combined with certain chemotherapies, ginseng extracts have a synergistic effect, increasing the cancer cell kill rate.[6]

Yet at the same time they help attack cancer cells, ginseng extracts protect healthy cells from injury due to drugs[7] and radiation.[8] Ginseng extracts don't just make people feel better, they, "...have potent tumor therapeutic activity. "[9] More than you can say about a cup of coffee.

I started out by telling you about how my friend Jon starts out his day with a smoothie that he adds ginseng to. Though I'm supposed to be the one who gives advice about herbs, Jon's new girlfriend is young enough that I had to stop and pay close attention to what this old buddy was doing.

Jon's Breakfast Smoothie
5 frozen strawberries
1 cup orange juice
half a banana
scoop of soy protein
1000 mg ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)
1 teaspoon Green powder (dried wheat and other grass juices)
5 ml vial of Korean ginseng extract

[Full abstracts of the journal articles I cite in these stories can be found on our website. Go to the “hot topics” site at Denvernaturopathic.com. and pick the subject.]

ginseng article references:
1. Konoshima T, Takasaki M, Tokuda H. Anti-carcinogenic activity of the roots of Panax notoginseng.II Biol Pharm Bull 1999 Oct;22(10):1150-2
2. Nakata H, Kikuchi Y, Tode T, Hirata J, Kita T, Ishii K, Kudoh K, Nagata I, Shinomiya N. Inhibitory effects of ginsenoside Rh2 on tumor growth in nude mice bearing human ovarian cancer cells. Jpn J Cancer Res 1998 Jul;89(7):733-40
3. Oh M, Choi YH, Choi S, Chung H, Kim K, Kim SI, Kim DK, Kim ND Anti-proliferating effects of ginsenoside Rh2 on MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Int J Oncol 1999 May;14(5):869-75
4. Kim SE, Lee YH, Park JH, Lee SK . Ginsenoside-Rs3, a new diol-type ginseng saponin, selectivelyelevates protein levels of p53 and p21WAF1 leading to induction of apoptosis in SK-HEP-1 cells. Anticancer Res 1999 Jan-Feb;19(1A):487-91
5. Thatte U, Bagadey S, Dahanukar S. Modulation of programmed cell death by medicinal plants. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand) 2000 Feb;46(1):199-214
6. Biol Pharm Bull 1999 Oct;22(10):1150-2Nakata H, Kikuchi Y, Tode T, Hirata J, Kita T, Ishii K, Kudoh K,Nagata I, Shinomiya N. Inhibitory effects of ginsenoside Rh2 on tumor growth in nude mice bearing human ovarian cancer cells. Jpn J Cancer Res 1998 Jul;89(7):733-40
7. Kim YR, Lee SY, Shin BA, Kim KM. Panax ginseng blocks morphine-induced thymic apoptosis bylowering plasma corticosterone level. Gen Pharmacol 1999 Jun;32(6):647-52
8 . Kim SH, Jeong KS, Ryu SY, Kim T. Panax ginseng prevents apoptosis in hair follicles and accelerates recovery of hair medullary cells in irradiated mice. In Vivo 1998 Mar-Apr;12(2):219-22
9. Xiaoguang C, Hongyan L, Xiaohong L, Zhaodi F, Yan L, Lihua T, Rui H Cancer chemopreventive and therapeutic activities of redginseng. J Ethnopharmacol 1998 Feb;60(1):71-8


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