American ginseng may reduce cancer-related fatigue

August 3, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

CM NEWS – American ginseng, a traditional medicinal herb long used as a tonic and a booster to the immune system, has been proven to improve fatigue in cancer patients, a pilot ginseng study finds.

The study was done by North Central Cancer Treatment Group researchers, based at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The results of their scientifically rigorous pilot study, the first to evaluate the Wisconsin species of American ginseng, or hua qi shen (???), as a possible therapy for cancer-related fatigue, were presented June 3 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Read more

70% breast cancer patients use alternative medicine

July 24, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

CM NEWS – Younger women with higher anxiety level about cancer are more likely to try complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), a study says. Findings say about 70% of breast cancer patients or survivors choose CAM and the most popular CAM is herbs. Read more

How does ginseng kill cancer cells?

June 21, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

CM NEWS – Ginseng, a herbal medicine used extensively for centuries in oriental medicine including Chinese, Korean and Japanese as a general tonic to promote longevity can be effective in combating cancer, diabetes, stress, fatigues and oxidants. These effects of ginseng are mainly attributed to a group of compounds called ginsenosides, which recent studies indicate that they might act in a similar way as steroid hormones. Read more

Vitamin D ‘substantially’ reduce cancer risk, major study says

June 8, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

InspireHealth release – Vancouver-based InspireHealth – Canada’s leader in integrated cancer care and prevention – today announced that a newly-released U.S. study, which provides evidence that Vitamin D substantially reduces the risk of cancer development, is the most important cancer prevention study ever published.

The study released today by researchers from Creighton University in Nebraska is a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial – the highest standard in medical research, and is being published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“The study shows that in women over 55, Vitamin D supplementation may be able to reduce cancer incidence by 60 per cent. That’s a staggering finding,” said Dr. Hal Gunn, M.D., Co-Founder and CEO of InspireHealth. “Translated into numbers, more than 35,000 Canadian women could be saved from getting cancer each year. If Vitamin D is helpful for younger women and men as well – which seems likely based on other evidence – the numbers are even greater. This is remarkable for something as simple as Vitamin D supplementation.”

Physicians at InspireHealth, aware of the growing body of research supporting the use of Vitamin D in recent years, have been prescribing Vitamin D for cancer prevention and treatment for the last 10 years since InspireHealth’s founding in 1997. “Over the last 15 years, there has been a growing body of research showing that Vitamin D plays a very important role in the prevention of cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, lung, stomach, bladder, pancreas, uterus and ovary,” said Dr. Gunn. “This new study proves that link, and demonstrates that Vitamin D supplementation may provide a simple means to prevent the majority of cancer cases.”

“In short, this study clearly indicates for the first time, we may have a simple and effective means to prevent the majority of cancer cases, and put an end to the cancer epidemic that has plagued the western world for the last century,” said Dr. Gunn. “The Vitamin D study is a landmark study in cancer prevention.”

The researchers, who were originally studying the effects of Vitamin D and calcium on osteoporosis, found that this combination (vitamin D 1,000 IU per day and calcium 1400-1500 mg per day) substantially reduced the incidence of cancer (by 60 per cent) during the four-year period of the study. Researchers found that Vitamin D provided even greater protection when used longer term – a 77 per cent reduction in cancer incidence after one year of Vitamin D use.

Assuming Vitamin D has a similar benefit in all age groups and both genders, this may mean that up to 15,000 cases of cancer in BC alone could be prevented each year, and 123,000 cases in Canada, by simply ensuring that all Canadians take Vitamin D supplements on an ongoing basis.

Baseline and treatment-induced Vitamin D levels were found to be strong predictors of cancer risk in this study, providing further evidence of the value of Vitamin D in cancer prevention.

“It is important that all physicians and Canadians are aware of the results of this study and adequately supplement with Vitamin D”, said Dr. Gunn. “Vitamin D has many other health benefits besides cancer prevention and is important in the promotion and maintenance of optimal health and immune system function.”

“An important challenge in incorporating health-related research into medical practice is that much of this health-related research – such as Vitamin D supplementation, nutrition and exercise – gets ‘lost’ in the medical literature. At InspireHealth, we have created a Research Information System – the first of its kind in the world – that tracks world-wide research on integrative approaches to cancer prevention and treatment, enabling physicians and patients from around the world to access this research free-of-charge simply by logging on to our website at,” Dr. Gunn added.

InspireHealth, Canada’s leader in integrative cancer prevention and treatment, was founded to help people with cancer explore the many ways they can support their own health before, during and after cancer treatment. InspireHealth is a non-profit society funded by the Lotte and John Hecht Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Provincial Government and other foundations, corporations and individuals. It has served over 4,000 patients to date and aims to increase that number to 2,000 patients annually by 2012. InspireHealth has working partnerships with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, BC/Yukon Chapter, the BC Cancer Agency, and the BC Foundation for Prostate Research.

Tongue cancer linked to gum disease

June 4, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

Ginseng, flaxseed may fight cancer, but shark cartilage worthless, studies say

June 2, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

AP – The first scientific tests of some popular alternative medicine products hint that American ginseng might lessen cancer fatigue and that flaxseed might slow the growth of prostate tumours.

But a big Canadian-U.S. study proved shark cartilage worthless against lung cancer, and doctors said people should not take it.

The research was reported Saturday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.

What is American ginseng? According to information offered by the University of Maryland Medical Centre, the American ginseng plant has leaves that grow in a circle around a straight stem. Yellowish-green umbrella-shaped flowers grow in the center and produce red berries. Wrinkles around the neck of the root tell how old the plant is. This is important because American ginseng is not ready for use until it has grown for four to six years. American ginseng is very expensive and is now being grown on farms in order to protect the wild American ginseng from over-harvesting.

American ginseng products are made from ginseng root and the long, thin offshoots called root hairs. The main chemical ingredients of American ginseng are ginsenosides and polysaccharide glycans (quinquefolans A, B, and C). American ginseng seems to be more relaxing than Asian ginseng, which may have stimulating effects.

American ginseng (dried) is available in water, water-and-alcohol, or alcohol liquid extracts, and in powders, capsules, and tablets. American ginseng is available with other herbs in several combination formulas.

How to take it


  • This herb is not recommended for use in children unless under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.


  • Fresh root: 1 – 2 g, once daily for up to 3 months
  • Dried root: 1/2 – 2 g, chew and swallow once daily
  • Tincture (1:5): 1 – 2 teaspoonfuls, 1 – 3 times daily
  • Fluid extract (1:1): 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoonfuls, 1 – 3 times daily
  • Standardized extract: 100 – 200 mg, 1 – 3 times daily, standardized to contain 4 – 5% ginsenosides

Reported side effects of taking ginseng include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Nosebleed
  • Breast pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

To avoid low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), even in people who do not have diabetes, you should take American ginseng with food.

People with hypertension should not take American ginseng products without specific guidance and instruction from a qualified health care provider. At the same time, people with low blood pressure as well as those with an acute illness or diabetes (because of the risk of a sudden drop in blood sugar), should use caution when taking ginseng.

The safety of taking American ginseng during pregnancy is unknown. Therefore, it is not recommended when pregnant or breastfeeding.

American ginseng should be discontinued at least 7 days prior to surgery. American ginseng can lower blood glucose levels and, therefore, create problems for patients fasting prior to surgery. In addition, American ginseng may act as a blood thinner, thereby increasing the risk of bleeding during or after the procedure.

The ginseng and flaxseed studies are small and preliminary, and specialists warned against making too much of them because the substances tested are not the same as what consumers find on store shelves.

flaxseed, prostate cancerBut the results suggest that some herbal remedies eventually may find niches for treating specific cancers, symptoms or side effects. Americans spend millions on these products, which are not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, even though no good studies confirm the benefits they tout.

“One of the most common things patients ask me is about these things they have snookered away in their purses” and medicine chests, said Dr. Bruce Cheson, a cancer specialist at Georgetown University Hospital. “They’ll come in with big bags of this stuff.”

Some “natural” remedies such as laetrile or high doses vitamin C proved not helpful and even harmful for cancer patients once they were scientifically studied, he noted. Some keep chemotherapy from working as it should.

“Just because it is a vitamin or a leafy green does not ensure it does not have some harmful effects,” Cheson said.

Herbal products vary widely in their purity and the amount and type of active ingredients. These three federally funded studies used standardized compounds so they could say with some certainty whether they have any effect.

Debra Barton, a research nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., tested powdered, four-year-old Wisconsin ginseng root, which is different from Asian ginseng and other varieties commonly sold, to treat the extreme tiredness that most people suffer from cancer or its treatment.

She randomly assigned 282 people with breast, lung, colon and other forms of cancer to take either 750, 1,000 or 2,000 milligrams of ginseng or dummy capsules daily for eight weeks. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received what.

One-fourth of those on the two highest doses said their fatigue was moderately or much better, compared with only 10 per cent of those on the low dose or dummy pills.

Results are promising, but it is too soon to recommend that people use ginseng, Barton said. A better idea is exercise, the one treatment already shown to help cancer fatigue, she said.

The flaxseed study was aimed at fighting prostate cancer, not treating a side effect. The edible seed has been used for hundreds of years in cereals and breads and is high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and in lignan, a substance that can affect hormone levels and perhaps squelch their cancer-promoting effects.

Four groups of about 40 men who were scheduled to have their prostates removed three weeks later were assigned to get either 30 grams of powdered flaxseed, a low-fat diet, both or neither until their surgery.

After the men’s prostates were removed, researchers found that tumours had been growing 30 to 40 per cent slower in the two groups taking flaxseed, based on how quickly cells were multiplying. Low-fat diets had no effect on this, said Wendy Demark-Wahnefried of Duke University Medical Center, who led the study.

“Our findings are compelling but they’re preliminary,” she cautioned.

But several doctors said flaxseed is nutritious and seems to have little downside other than a sawdust-like consistency, since it must be used ground or powdered because it has an inedible hull or coating.

Scientists plans to study flaxseed on men with prostate cancer that comes back after initial treatment, and Canadian scientists also are testing it for breast cancer, she said.

The shark cartilage study was done because Congress ordered it. Some very small early studies suggested high doses of it might extend survival of people with advanced cases of non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease.

Dr. Charles Lu of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston tested Neovastat, a shark cartilage liquid extract that the Canadian company Aeterna-Zentaris was trying to develop as a regular pharmaceutical product.

All 379 people in the study, which was done throughout Canada and the United States, were given standard chemotherapy and radiation. Half also were given shark cartilage twice a day.

After about four years there was no difference in survival, which averaged 15 months for both groups.

On the Net:
Cancer meeting:
Cancer society:
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:
Ginseng Board of Wisconsin:

Green tea protects against gallbladder cancer, bile stones

May 26, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

CM NEWSTea consumption might have been linked to reduced risks of gallbladder cancers and bile stones, although the mechanism is yet to be determined, a large study says.

In another post, green tea is reported to cut colon cancer risks by as much as 60%.

Biliary tract cancers, encompassing tumours of the gallbladder, extrahepatic bile ducts and ampulla of Vater, are rare but highly fatal malignancies. Apart from gallstones, etiologic factors for biliary tract cancer are not clearly defined. Read more

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