Nutritional supplements like Ginseng have many health benefits and are being widely used by cancer patients and those at-genetic-risk of cancer. But, is it safe to take Ginseng supplements for all types of cancer and without considering any ongoing treatments and other lifestyle conditions? A common belief but only a myth is that anything natural can only benefit me or do no harm. As one example, the use of grapefruit with certain medications is not recommended. Another example, the use of spinach with some blood thinning medications can cause adverse interactions and should be avoided. For cancer, nutrition which includes the food and natural supplements has been shown to influence outcomes. Hence a frequently asked question by cancer patients to dieticians and doctors is “What Should I eat and What Should I Avoid?”.
Taking nutritional Ginseng supplements can benefit NRAS +ve Melanoma patients on Binimetinib cancer treatment. But avoid Ginseng supplements if on Paclitaxel treatment for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Similarly, taking the nutritional supplement Ginseng can benefit healthy individuals who are at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of the gene CDKN1B. But avoid taking nutritional supplement Ginseng when at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene PALB2.
The takeaway being – your individual context will influence your decision if nutritional supplement Ginseng is safe or not. And also that this decision needs to be constantly revisited as conditions change. Conditions like cancer type, current ongoing treatments and supplements, age, gender, weight, height, lifestyle and any genetic mutations identified matter. So a legitimate question for you to ask for any recommendation of food and natural supplement is how it is related to your individual context.
Nutritional supplements – vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics, and other specialty categories are increasing. Supplements are high concentrations of active ingredients which are also found in different foods. The difference being foods contain more than one active ingredient at lower diffused concentrations. Remember that each of these ingredients has its own science and biological mechanism at the molecular level – hence choose the right combination of supplements like Ginseng based on individual context and conditions.
So the question is should you take supplement Ginseng? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene PALB2? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene CDKN1B? Should you take it when diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma? Should you take Ginseng supplement when diagnosed with NRAS +ve Melanoma? Should you take it when on Paclitaxel treatment? Should you continue taking it if you change your treatment from Paclitaxel to Binimetinib? So a general explanation like – it is natural or it increases immunity may not be acceptable and sufficient for choosing Ginseng.
Cancer remains an unsolved problem statement. The improved availability of personalized treatments and monitoring of cancer via blood and saliva have been significant factors to improve outcomes. The earlier the intervention – the better the influence on outcome. Genetic testing has the potential to assess cancer risk and susceptibility early. But besides regular monitoring in most cases there are no therapeutic intervention options available. After diagnosis with cancer such as Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma or NRAS +ve Melanoma, the treatments get personalized to tumor genomics and factors like staging of disease, age and gender. During cancer remission (after treatment cycle is complete) – monitoring is used for assessment of any relapse and accordingly decide next steps. A large majority of cancer patients and those at-risk do take nutritional supplements like Ginseng.
So the question is that are all genetic mutation risks and types of cancers to be considered as one when deciding the use of Ginseng? Are the biochemical pathway implications of genetic risk for cancer due to mutation of gene PALB2 the same as due to mutation of gene CDKN1B? Are the implications of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma same as NRAS +ve Melanoma?
Ginseng – A Nutritional Supplement
Ginseng is a plant which has been widely used as herbal medicine in Asia and North America. It is considered to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The two most popular varieties of ginseng are:
- Asian/Korean ginseng or Panax ginseng
- American ginseng or Panax quinquefolius
Traditionally, ginseng has been used for a wide range of health conditions, in spite of lack of clear evidence on its effectiveness in many of these conditions. Some of the purported uses/potential health benefits of ginseng include:
- May help in improving cognitive function
- May help improve erectile function
- May help improve blood sugar levels
Also, the intake of ginseng supplements can result in side-effects like sleeplessness, headaches and digestive problems.
Ginseng supplements contain many active ingredients including Casticin, Gomisin A, Gomisin N, Ginsenoside Rg3, Ginsenoside Rb2, Ginsenoside Rb1, Ginsenoside Rh2, Ginsenoside Rg5, Ginsenoside Rd, Ginsenoside Rg1, Ginsenoside Re and Papaverine at different concentration levels. The molecular pathways which are regulated by Ginseng include Carbohydrate Metabolism, RAS-RAF Signaling, DNA Repair, Growth Factor Signaling and Adherens junction. These cellular pathways directly or indirectly regulate specific cancer molecular endpoints like growth, spread and death. Because of this biological regulation – for cancer nutrition, the right choice of supplements like Ginseng individually or in combination is an important decision to be made. When making decisions on the use of supplement Ginseng for cancer – do consider all these factors and explanations. Because just as true for cancer treatments – Ginseng use cannot be a one-size-fits-all decision for all types of cancers.
Choosing Ginseng Supplements for Your Cancer
The reason there is no easy way to answer the question “When should I avoid Ginseng for Cancer” is because “It Depends!”. Just like the same treatment does not work for every cancer patient, based on your individual context the Ginseng may be harmful or safe. Along with which cancer and associated genetics – the ongoing treatments, supplements, lifestyle habits, BMI and allergies are all factors deciding if Ginseng should be avoided or not and why.
1. Will Ginseng Supplements benefit Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Patients undergoing Paclitaxel Cancer treatment?
Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like NFIB and MYB leading to biochemical pathway changes in Carbohydrate Metabolism, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, Notch Signaling and Cholesterol Metabolism. A cancer treatment like Paclitaxel works through a specific pathway mechanism of action. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach which is effective. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a contrary effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be avoided. As an example, Ginseng should be avoided for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma along with treatment Paclitaxel. Ginseng impacts pathways/processes like Carbohydrate Metabolism which either promote drivers of the disease and/or nullify the treatment effect. Additionally, Ginseng contains active ingredients like Gomisin N which have CYP2C8 and CYP3A4 interactions with Paclitaxel treatment, and hence should be avoided by cancer patients undergoing this treatment. (Hyung-Ju Seo et al, Pharmaceutics., 2021; Pius S Fasinu et al, Front Oncol., 2019) Some of the factors which should be considered when choosing nutrition are type of cancer, treatments and supplements being taken currently (if any), age, gender, BMI, lifestyle and any genetic mutation information (if available).
2. Will Ginseng Supplements benefit NRAS +ve Melanoma Patients undergoing Binimetinib Cancer Treatment?
NRAS +ve Melanoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like NRAS and BRAF leading to biochemical pathway changes in RAS-RAF Signaling, Adherens junction, Angiogenesis, Extracellular Matrix Remodelling and Small Molecule Transport. A cancer treatment like Binimetinib works through specific pathway mechanisms. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a compatible effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be considered. As an example, Ginseng should be considered for NRAS +ve Melanoma along with treatment Binimetinib. Ginseng impacts pathways like RAS-RAF Signaling and Adherens junction which either obstruct drivers of the disease (NRAS +ve Melanoma) and/or improve the treatment effect.
Foods to Eat After Cancer Diagnosis!
No two cancers are the same. Go beyond the common nutrition guidelines for everyone and make personalized decisions about food and supplements with confidence.
3. Are Ginseng Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with PALB2 Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
Different companies offer panels of genes to be tested for assessing genetic risk to different cancers. These panels cover genes associated with cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, and gastrointestinal system and others. Genetic testing of these genes may confirm a diagnosis and help guide treatment and management decisions. Identification of a disease-causing variant may also guide testing and diagnosis of at-risk relatives. PALB2 is one of the genes generally available in panels for cancer risk testing.
PALB2 mutation causes biochemical pathways DNA Repair, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, Growth Factor Signaling, Estrogen Signaling and Stem Cell Signaling to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Ginseng should be avoided when the genetic panel identifies mutation of PALB2 for Breast Cancer and Kidney Cancer. Ginseng impacts pathways/processes like DNA Repair and Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and creates adverse effects with PALB2 and related conditions.
4. Are Ginseng Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with CDKN1B Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
CDKN1B is one of the genes available in panels for cancer risk testing. CDKN1B mutation causes biochemical pathways Growth Factor Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, Cell Cycle Checkpoints, FOXO Signaling and Cell Cycle to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Consider taking Ginseng supplements when the genetic panel identifies mutation in CDKN1B for Neuroendocrine Cancer. Ginseng impacts pathways like Growth Factor Signaling and PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and creates a supportive effect in those with CDKN1B and related conditions.
* Other Factors are also included like BMI, Lifestyle Habits, Treatments
The two most important things to remember are that cancer treatments and nutrition are never the same for everyone. Nutrition which includes food and nutritional supplements like Ginseng, is an effective tool which can be controlled by you, while facing cancer.
What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.
The nutrition planning for cancer from addon is not based on internet searches. It automates the decision making for you based on molecular science implemented by our scientists and software engineers. Irrespective of whether you care to understand the underlying biochemical molecular pathways or not - for nutrition planning for cancer that understanding is needed.
Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.
Personalized Nutrition for Cancer!
Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.