Cancer patients suffering from moderate to severe fatigue reported significantly less fatigue within 2 to 3 weeks of treatment with the traditional Chinese medicine herbal mixture Ren Shen Yangrong Tang (RSYRT).

The safety and efficacy of RSYRT in this Phase I/II trial were presented in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2015; doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0211).

RSYRT is a soup containing 12 herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. The soup was originally described in a classic book on traditional Chinese medicine that was published in the year 1078. The backbone components of RSYRT are ginseng (often replaced by dangshen in current traditional Chinese medicine practice) and huangqi.

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Fatigue is one of the major challenges in oncology care. According to traditional Chinese medicine, fatigue is characterized by a deficiency in Qi, a physical life force related to the energy flow of the body. RSYRT is intended to improve Qi deficiency.

Fatigue was assessed in cancer patients before and after RSYRT therapy by Yichen Xu, MD; Yanzhi Chen, MD; and Pinping Li, MD, of Peking University School of Oncology, in Beijing, China, and Xin Shelley Wang, MD, MPH, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston.

The 33 patients enrolled took RSYRT twice a day for 6 weeks. Prior to the study, all patients were experiencing fatigue for at least 4 months.

From before the RSYRT therapy to 6 weeks after the therapy, fatigue severity significantly decreased from 7.06 to 3.30 on a 0-10 scale (P<.001). The study found RSYRT alleviated fatigue in 2 to 3 weeks.

Among the 22 patients whose fatigue was severe (rated ≥ 7) before the RSYRT therapy, 11 had mild fatigue and 11 had moderate fatigue after the treatment.

The authors reported that RSYRT was safe, with no evidence of toxicity in any of the patients treated. They concluded that the open-label study may have a possible placebo effect, and so RSYRT warrants further study in randomized clinical trials.