The popular herbal treatment ginseng could be linked to the growth of breast cancer, according to an article by an Australian doctor this week, reports the Melbourne Age.
Ginseng and dong guai are part of a group of Chinese plant products often used by menopausal women who want to avoid using oestrogen to treat their symptoms. The plant products are often regarded as safer than 'natural' oestrogens which have been linked to breast cancer.
But Associate Professor John Eden, who directs the natural therapies unit at Sydney's Royal Hospital for women, said that a recent study had suggested that plant products such as ginseng could also stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.
In an article in Australian Doctor, Professor Eden said: "If something's been shown to stimulate breast cancer cells, you have to have a concern for all women."
When tested in vitro, ginseng increased the growth of a human breast cancer cell line known as MCF-7 by 27 times, according to the study in Australian Doctor cited by the newspaper. Dong guai increased their growth 16-fold.Professor Eden told the paper that dong quai had no proven therapeutic effects and was known to cause the uterus to cramp.
The Age also quoted a spokeswoman for the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, the government body set up to assess the safety of medicines and foodstuffs, who said the study was only preliminary and there was no reason to view the plant products as anything other than low-risk.