Cistanche/ginkgo blend cuts fatigue symptoms, human study finds

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - AsiaVision
©Getty Images - AsiaVision

Related tags: Ginkgo biloba, TCM, fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, botanical extracts

New research suggests a blend of two botanicals used in TCM preparations can relieve some symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

The new research was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition​.  It was the work of researchers associated with a hospital in Shanghai as well as employees of Amway division Nutrilite, which funded the study.

The new study used a product based on extracts of Cistanche (Cistanche tubulosa​) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba​).  While ginkgo is widely familiar as a dietary supplement ingredient, cistanche is somewhat more obscure for Western audiences.

Cistanche is a name of a common Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) preparation as well as the name of a genus of parasitic plants with worldwide distribution.  Cistanche tubulosa, ​the source of the TCM material, is found in the arid western regions of China where it is a parasite found on a woody bush that is a member of the amaranth genus.

The authors noted that it the preparation has been found to be of benefit in cases of mild Alzheimers syndrome.

CFS could affect as many 2.5 million Americans

Chronic fatigue syndrome is  the common name is the common name for a group of medical conditions characterized by persistent fatigue and other specific symptoms that last for a minimum of six months in adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use the term Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the condition.  According to the CDC, between 800,000 and 2.5 million Americans may suffer from the condition.  Women outnumber men 4:1 among those formally diagnosed with the condition, the CBC said.  The condition is rarely diagnosed in children or adolescents and appears to be most common among people 40-60 years of age.

Three arm study

To test the effect of the cistanche/ginkgo combo, the researchers set up a three arm study, with placebo, low dose and high dose groups.  The study participants were recruited from a cadre of CFS suffers listed as patients at a hospital in Shanghai.  The study groups included both men and women, who ranged in age from 35 to 60 years old. A total of 190 subjects were recruited, of whom 175 completed the study. Subjects with BMIs of more than 28 were excluded, because the association of obesity and fatigue would introduce a confounding factor.

The subjects were asked to take one of three pills (including the placebo) once a day for two months.  The low dose of the study material provided 300 mg of cistanche extract and 120 mg ginkgo extract.  The high dose amounts were 450 mg and 180 mg, respectively.

Questionnaires, blood biomarkers use as measurements

The researchers used several methods to measure the effectiveness of the study materials.  They administered three questionnaires: the Chalder fatigue questionnaire, the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life (QOL) questionnaire and a sexual quality of life query.  In addition, via blood draws they measured blood ammonia, glucose, free fatty acid, creatine kinase, C-reactive protein, lactic acid, estradiol (only for females), and testosterone (only for males).

The researchers found that 11 subjects (18.6%) of the high dose group and nine subjects (15.5%) of the low dose group experienced significant remission of CFS symptoms, while no members of the placebo group fell into this category.  For partial remission of symptoms, the figures were 62.7%, 56.9% and 27.6%, respectively.

As for the blood biomarkers, both the high dose and low dose groups showed significantly lower levels of blood ammonia and lactic acid concentrations.

The researchers noted that the etiology of CFS is unknown.  What is  known is that CFS suffers frequently report significant fluctuation in the severity of symptoms, making a shorter term study of limited use in determining effectiveness.

“These findings suggest a botanical-based nutritional supplementation approach in mitigating CFS symptoms and improving quality of life. However, considering the above-mentioned limitations, studies with more comprehensive assessment tools, expanded sample size, and an extended follow-up period are warranted to validate the current findings,”​ the researchers concluded.

Source:Frontiers in Nutrition
26 November 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.658630
A Botanical Product Containing Cistanche and Ginkgo Extracts Potentially Improves Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms in Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, and Placebo-Controlled Study
Authors: Kan J, et al.

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