Cancer Fighter

Cancer Fighter
Beyond The Breast
Ginseng's Latin name, Panax, comes from the Greek word for "panacea," and its effects are impressively diverse. "The Chi-nese consider ginseng a tonic, something that strengthens the whole body," says Efrem Korn-gold, O.M.D., a Chinese medicine practitioner in San Francisco and a Natural Health advisor. "West-ern medicine has been skeptical of ginseng, as though it's too good to be true. The skeptics should study the research."

In addition to breast cancer, ginseng may discourage a range of cancers. Researchers at the Korea Cancer Center in Seoul tracked ginseng use in 4,634 subjects for five years. Compared with those who used no ginseng, those who took it regularly had 60 percent less risk of developing any cancer. The results were published in 1998 in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Overall, there seems to be a particularly positive effect on immune function. In the journal Pharmacy Research in 1996, University of Southern California researchers noted that ginseng increases production of interferon, the body's own antiviral compound. In a related study in 2002, published in Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, Korean researchers discovered that ginseng also enhances the ability of white blood cells to manufacture pathogen-devouring cells called macrophages.

By boosting immune function, ginseng may improve the efficacy of vaccinations. According to a 1996 study in Drugs in Experimental and Clinical Research, Italian researchers gave 227 volunteers a placebo or 100 milligrams of ginseng daily. A month later, everyone received flu shots; 42 placebo takers caught the flu, but only 15 ginseng patients became sick--a highly significant difference.

Several studies also indicate that ginseng's immune-friendliness may help prevent the common (and always aggravating) cold. In 2006, University of Connecticut researchers gave 43 adults over age 65 a placebo or 400 mg of ginseng per day. For the first two months, both groups caught the same number of colds. But during months three and four, the ginseng group became sick only half as often (32 percent versus 62 percent), and their cold symptoms lasted less than half as long (six days compared to 13 days).