Can Ginseng Reduce Cancer Risk?

Good Health LifestylesResearch Roundup

The Study Abstract: Ginseng consumption and risk of cancer: A meta-analysis.

BACKGROUND: The findings of currently available studies are not consistent with regard to the association between the risk of cancer and ginseng consumption. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate this association by conducting a meta-analysis of different studies.

METHODS: To systematically evaluate the effect of ginseng consumption on cancer incidence, six databases were searched, including PubMed, Ovid Technologies, Embase, The Cochrane Library, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, and Chinese VIP Information, from 1990 to 2014. Statistical analyses based on the protocol employed for a systematic review were conducted to calculate the summary relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

RESULTS: We identified nine studies, including five cohort studies, three case-control studies, and one randomized controlled trial, evaluating the association between ginseng consumption and cancer risk; these studies involved 7,436 cases and 334,544 participants. The data from the meta-analysis indicated a significant 16% lower risk of developing cancer in patients who consumed ginseng (RR = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.76-0.92), with evidence of heterogeneity (p = 0.0007, I (2) = 70%). Stratified analyses suggested that the significant heterogeneity may result from the incidence data for gastric cancer that were included in this study. Publication bias also showed the same result as the stratified analyses. In addition, subgroup analyses for four specific types of cancer (colorectal cancer, lung cancer, gastric cancer, and liver cancer) were also performed. The summary RRs for ginseng intake versus no ginseng consumption were 0.77 for lung cancer, 0.83 for gastric cancer, 0.81 for liver cancer, and 0.77 for colorectal cancer.

CONCLUSION: The findings of this meta-analysis indicated that ginseng consumption is associated with a significantly decreased risk of cancer and that the effect is not organ specific.

Source: Jin X, Che DB, Zhang ZH, Yan HM3, Jia ZY, Jia XB. J Ginseng Res. 2016 Jul;40(3):269-77.


Although the American Cancer Society reports that deaths from cancer has dropped slightly between 2007 and 2016, they also estimate that 1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States in 2019. So while there is some qualified good news, cancer is still, sadly, a common fact of life.

But what if you could reduce that risk even more? Aside from obvious lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, limiting your alcohol intake, and eating a healthy diet, a regular regimen of ginseng supplementation may push the odds in your favor.

Considered by traditional practitioners to be a panacea—literally, a “cure all”—for thousands of years, a review of ginseng consumption and cancer risk shows that millennia of accumulated wisdom is probably right.

After examining clinical studies, researchers determined that individuals who consume ginseng have an overall 16 percent reduced risk of developing cancer, regardless of type. The reason that ginseng is so adept at reducing the risk of cancer is because of compounds called ginsenosides. These natural constituents work along a number of pathways to inhibit tumor growth and kill already-established tumors. And because they use more than one mechanism of action, tumors have a tough time developing resistance.

While ginsenosides are one of the major beneficial compounds from ginseng, it’s important to seek the best from the botanical before you add it to your regimen. Common or “classic” ginsenosides can be difficult for the body to absorb. The most absorbable forms of ginsenosides are a special class called noble ginsenosides. They are present in ginseng, but in small amounts. Most often, noble ginsenosides are created in the digestive tract from common ginsenosides.

However, you can select ginseng supplements that are specially cultivated to already have high levels of noble ginsenosides. Aside from the right compounds, you also want to select ginseng that isn’t exposed to pesticides, soil-borne toxins, or processed with loads of chemicals. Be careful about the ginseng you choose, and it may help you stay healthier, happier, and reduce your risk of cancer, too.


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