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Study Hall: An energy-boosting herb you should know about

Patients who took pure ginseng capsules had more energy than those who took a placebo. That's good news for the rest of us, too.

For Study Hall each week, we sort through the deluge of new medical studies and wordy white papers to bring you one that deserves your attention—in plain, healthy English.


There’s no such thing as a New Yorker who couldn’t use an energy boost, and an ancient herb may be just what you need. According to findings presented last week at a meeting for the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, cancer patients who took pure ginseng capsules had more energy than those who took a placebo.

The study: Ginseng has long been associated with increased energy levels. Since cancer patients often struggle with fatigue, researchers at the Mayo Clinic wanted to test whether ginseng could help alleviate it. They instructed 340 cancer patients, the majority of whom had breast cancer, to take one capsule per day for eight weeks. Half the patients took capsules filled with 2,000 milligrams of ground American Ginseng, while the others took placebos.

The results: The researchers monitored the fatigue levels of patients over a two month period. While the ginseng did not help patients in the first four weeks, by the end of the second month the patients taking ginseng reported a marked reduction in fatigue, compared to the patients taking the placebos.

What it means: For anyone struggling with fatigue or low energy levels (get some sleep!), ginseng shows serious promise as a natural energy booster.  —Allison Becker