Gin and bear it: Beware of wonder-herb ginseng's side-effects

  • IANS, Kolkata
  • Updated: Jul 27, 2015 14:44 IST

If you thought ginseng is the go-to herb for all your ailments, you'd do better to take a step back and read this. Health experts have warned that if you ever think of trying out ginseng supplements, then you must also go through its possible side effects instead of blindly taking them.

According to experts, the popular Chinese herb is linked to bladder cancer.

Ginseng is usually consumed in the form of energy drinks or herbal teas and has been traditionally used to lower blood sugar, cholesterol levels, protect against stress, enhance strength and promote relaxation. Some reports also claim that it has anti-cancer properties.

"The fact that Chinese medications like ginseng cause bladder cancers is clear-cut. There are a few cases in India also related to this. The number of bladder cancer cases in China is almost double than anywhere else in the world," said urologist and andrologist J.G.Lalmalani. The Mumbai-based expert was talking on the sidelines of an international live/video operative workshop on prostate cancer in Kolkata at the R.G.Kar Medical College and Hospital.

He said it is best to "study the possible side-effects" of such herbal supplements and drinks before regular consumption. He also cautioned about paying attention to the symptoms of prostate cancer.

"If there is pain while urinating, blood in the urine, sudden weight loss and regular use of bathroom three to four times a night, you must realise something is wrong," he said.

Explaining the increase in the number of prostate cancer cases in India, Lalmalani said an ageing population and heightened detection are the factors behind the numbers. "Prostate cancer was always present. Now there is ageing population, earlier detection, awareness that prostate cancer exists. Nowadays, people don't opt for ayurveda, homeopathy, get treated and then come late," he said.

"Complementary medicine cannot deal with such major diseases... which are lethal," he said advocating the dictum of early suspicion, prompt diagnosis and a radical treatment.

Worldwide, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. India has seen a steady increase in cases concomitant with an increase in life expectancy. According to the National Cancer Registry programme by the Indian Council of Medical Research, prostate cancer is estimated to go up by 140% in the next few years.

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