Panax quinquefolium, the gentler ginseng native to the Northeastern U.S., received an endorsement at this year's annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Debra Barton, of the Mayo Clinic, described how patients with fatigue and short (6 month) life expectancies were given P. quinquefolium for 8 weeks, at varying doses. The results seem to point to a marked improvement in vitality and a reduction of fatigue-like symptoms.
282 patients were given placebo, 750mg, 1000mg, or 2000mg of ginseng. The product was Wisconsin-grown American ginseng root, dried and encapsulated. All the patients in the active treatment groups reported improvement greater than placebo, with the higher doses showing greater positive response. Toxicity was absent in all treatment groups. The authors of the study seemed generally pleased with ginseng's effects and recommend additional research.
In my opinion, the doses used were still a little low. Traditionally, 3-4 grams a day are given, especially in conditions where the life force is severely challenged (as in this study's treatment group). Quality of life could be improved further not only by increasing the dose of ginseng, but also by selecting additional adaptogens and other herbs suited to the individualized constitutions of the people involved. Nevertheless, even in this one-size-fits-all approach, the life-enhancing power of this woodland plant still comes through. I am reminded of stories that talk about court physicians in China giving massive doses of prized ginseng roots to the Emperor during the last months/weeks of his life, to keep him active and alert in extremis so that the final affairs of the State could be settled.
One final note: beware, generally, of Wisconsin ginseng. It is often grown in massive industrial lots, covered with shade cloth, fed chemical fertilizers and liberally doused with fungicides. Insist on organically grown, preferably woods-grown organic, roots.