Methodological issues in the investigation of ginseng as an intervention for fatigue

Julie L. Elam, Janet S. Carpenter, Xiao Ou Shu, Sonia Boyapati, Janet Friedmann-Gilchrist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Although literature suggests that fatigue is commonly reported by women during and after breast cancer treatment, treatment options are limited. Although ginseng is widely used in Asian countries as a tonic to increase energy, its efficacy for treating cancer-related fatigue has not been carefully studied. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate the feasibility of a larger clinical trial to investigate the efficacy of ginseng for treating breast cancer-related fatigue. PARTICIPANTS/METHODS: Breast cancer survivors seeking treatment for fatigue were recruited to participate in an 8-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. RESULTS: A variety of practical problems were encountered in the study, including large numbers of survivors with conditions that were possible contraindications to ginseng use, inability to achieve blinding for the intervention because of strong odor from the ginseng, and measurement device failure. DISCUSSION: Evaluating ginseng for breast cancer treatment-related fatigue is a great challenge, particularly if a blinded randomized design is desired. This article provides insight into issues related to investigating complementary therapies and the importance of pilot studies for identifying methodological problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-189
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Nurse Specialist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006


  • Breast cancer
  • Complementary therapy
  • Fatigue
  • Pilot study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Leadership and Management
  • LPN and LVN

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