Herbal ginseng supplements may be as effective as a common drug for treating fibromyalgia syndrome, according to new research.
People with fibromyalgia (FMS) frequently suffer from fatigue, anxiety, and depression in addition to their physical symptoms of pain. Often the first medication prescribed to FMS patients is an antidepressant aimed at improving sleep and easing depression, which could help patients better cope with chronic pain. But these medications can come with side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, dry eyes, and constipation.
A new study suggests that herbal supplements of ginseng may offer an alternative. The study compared the efficacy of Panax ginseng with a common antidepressant, amitriptyline. In a group of 38 FMS patients, researchers randomly assigned patients to take Panax ginseng, amitriptyline, or a placebo drug.
Both the ginseng and antidepressant groups showed similar improvements in terms of sleep, fatigue, and overall pain. Patients taking ginseng had reduced anxiety, less tender points, and reported significant improvements in quality of life. The only measurable difference between ginseng and amitriptyline was in anxiety, with the antidepressant group experiencing greater improvements in anxiety compared to the ginseng group.
Still these findings suggest that ginseng could potentially provide a natural alternative for easing pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia patients. Other natural methods of managing fibromyalgia pain include exercise therapy, nutrition, and chiropractic care.
Braz A, et al.. Effects of Panax ginseng extract in patients with fibromyalgia: A 12-week, randomized, doubled-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria 2013; 35(1): 21-28.