One of the most striking qualities of the Panax ginseng plant is its ability to fight cancer development in humans. While the longevity boosting effects of ginseng have been known in the East for hundreds of years, clinical research is beginning to show just how powerful this humble root truly is.
Study 1: Preventive effect of ginseng intake against various human cancers: a case-control study on 1987 pairs.
In a massive study carried out at the Laboratory of Cancer Pathology at the Korea Cancer Center Hospital, Panax ginseng was found to have a highly significant effect on the development of various forms of cancer.
It was discovered that those who had a long history of ginseng intake were significantly less likely to develop cancer, often reducing the likelihood of cancer development by 50%. For specific bodily sites, the odds of cancer development were reduced as follows: 47% for cancer of the lip, oral cavity and pharynx; 20% for esophageal cancer; 36% for stomach cancer; 42% for colorectal cancer; 48% for liver cancer; 22% for pancreatic cancer; 18% for laryngeal cancer; 55% for lung cancer; and 15% for ovarian cancer.
Regular smokers who supplemented with Panax ginseng found that their risk of developing smoking-specific varieties of cancer, such as cancer of the lung, lip, mouth, and liver, were reduced compared to smokers who did not supplement with ginseng.
The results of this observational study have massive implications in the fight against cancer. What’s more, these findings are supported by other, more tightly controlled studies that we will examine below.
Study 2: Non-organ-specific preventive effect of long-term administration of Korean red ginseng extract on incidence of human cancers.
Prompted by the growing body of evidence that Panax ginseng has strong anti-cancer properties, a research group out of the Korea Institute of Cancer Chemoprevention conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial on 643 patients suffering from chronic atrophic gastritis. Patients with chronic atrophic gastritis have a high risk of developing cancer, making them prime candidates for the study of ginseng’s cancer-preventative properties. The study participants were administered 1g of Panax ginseng extract weekly for 3 years. After the initial 3-year period, participants were observed over 8 more years to monitor the rate of cancer development.
While the cancer-preventative effects of ginseng were found not to be statistically significant in the female participants, the male participants were found to have reduced their likely of developing cancer by 2/3rd when compared to the placebo group. This does not mean that there are no anti-cancer benefits for women. When the data for both genders were combined, the study participants experienced a 50% reduction in their risk of developing cancer compared to the placebo group. Clearly, the benefits exist for both genders, but researchers were not able to claim statistical significance for the female participants.
Study 3: Beneficial effects of Korean red ginseng on lymphocyte DNA damage, antioxidant enzyme activity, and LDL oxidation in healthy participants: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
While the research has shown a clear link between ginseng supplementation and reduced cancer risk, the specific mechanisms of action must be examined A study carried out at Woosong University was designed to test the effects of Panax ginseng on antioxidant enzymes and oxidative stress markers in humans. Oxidative damage to DNA is widely known to contribute to the development of cancer, so finding ginseng’s effect on this variable would help to shed light on exactly how Panax ginseng prevents cancer development.
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was carried out on three groups of healthy adults: a placebo group who received no ginseng; a low-dose group given 3g of ginseng daily; and a high-dose group given 6g daily. After 8 weeks of ginseng administration, the researchers found that both the low-dose and high-dose groups showed higher levels of anti-oxidative markers compared to the placebo group. The researchers were able to draw the following conclusion; “Korean red ginseng supplementation may attenuate lymphocyte DNA damage and LDL oxidation by upregulating antioxidant enzyme activity.”
Study 4: Chronic treatment with Ginsenoside Rg3 induces Akt-dependent senescence in human glioma cells.
Rg3 is a Ginsenoside unique to the fermented varieties of Korean red ginseng, and has been shown to have numerous positive effects on human biology. A South Korean research group recently tested the anti-cancer properties of this compound on human glioma (tumor) cells.
This study was conducted in 2012 and was the first piece of evidence that Rg3 plays a role in the elimination of cancer cells. As more studies are released, evidence continues to show that the Ginsenosides present in Panax ginseng have strong anti-cancer properties.
Study 5: Reactive oxygen species mediated Ginsenoside Rg3- and Rh2-induced apoptosis in hepatoma cells through mitochondrial signaling pathways.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common form of liver cancer in the world today. And Like cancerous glioma cells, hepatoma cells also appear to be affected by the Ginsenosides present in Panax ginseng.
Unlike other common cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, it appears that the Ginsenosides found in Panax ginseng are capable of specifically targeting cancerous cells in the body, sparing healthy cells from unnecessary damage. This finding could be of monumental significance in the search for low side-effect cancer treatments.
Study 6: Purification, characterization and anticancer activity of a polysaccharide from Panax ginseng.
Incredibly, this study appears to demonstrate that multiple compounds found in the Panax ginseng plant have strong anti-cancer properties, potentially explaining why ginseng lowers the risk of cancer in many human organ systems.
Conclusion Universities across the globe continue to uncover exactly how Panax ginseng positively effects cancer development in humans. And while some of the mechanisms of action remain obscure, the benefits demonstrated by the above studies should inspire many to begin regular Panax ginseng supplementation.
What the Doctor Recommends
How can cancer be prevented? Many people believe that getting cancer is purely down to genes, fate or bad luck. But through scientific research, we know that our risk actually depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and things to do with our lifestyle, which we’re more able to control.
Cancer is caused by damage to our DNA, the chemical instructions that tell our cells what to do. Things we come into contact with in our environment, such as UV rays, or through our lifestyle, such as the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco, can damage our DNA. This damage can build up over time. If a cell develops too much damage to its DNA it can start to grow and multiply out of control – this is how cancer starts.