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Ginseng May Relieve Symptoms of Schizophrenia

According to a recent CBS News article a small study was conducted where schizophrenia symptoms were reduced when the patients took Panax ginseng compared to those patients who took a placebo.  Could this be a new treatment option for schizophrenia sufferers? Let’s take a look at the results of this recent medical study.

According to a CBS News article a small study was conducted where schizophrenia symptoms were reduced when the patients took Panax ginseng compared to those patients who took a placebo.  Some of these symptoms included lack of motivation and emotional expression. 

What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia generally begins in late adolescence or early adulthood.  There is a huge misconception that this disease means split or multiple personalities.  People also think that a person with schizophrenia is violent.  This is often what is portrayed on television, but most of the time, is not the case. 

Symptoms of schizophrenia:
•    Psychotic symptoms- delusions, which are bizarre thoughts that have no basis to reality
•    Hallucinations – they hear voices, see nonexistent things, experience sensations, such as burning that has no source
•    Disordered thinking - fragmented, disconnected and nonsensical speech
•    Withdrawal
•    Extreme apathy
•    Lack of motivation
•    Emotional expression

Schizophrenia affects 3.2 million Americans.  Though there is no cure, antipsychotic medications are very effective at reducing what doctors call the "positive" symptoms of schizophrenia -- hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking.

But "what causes the most impairment are 'negative' symptoms and cognitive impairment," says National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel, MD. “They include flat affect, lack of pleasure or motivation in everyday life, and an inability to converse meaningfully, even when forced to interact.”

Animal and lab studies suggest that Panax ginseng hits some of the same targets in the brain as drugs being developed to treat both negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia, according to Canadian researchers.

They studied Panax ginseng in 42 schizophrenia patients who continued to suffer negative symptoms despite treatment with antipsychotic medications.

In the small study, patients had fewer negative symptoms -- such as lack of motivation and a severe reduction in emotional expression known as "flat affect" -- when they took Panax ginseng than when they took a placebo.

They were given one of two doses of Panax ginseng or a placebo for eight weeks.  Those patients that were taking ginseng were switched to placebo and patients on placebo were given ginseng for another eight weeks. 

They also continued to take their antipsychotic drugs during the study.

The findings were that the patients were 50 percent less likely to have flat effect when taking the higher, 200-miligram dose of ginseng than when taking the placebo.  Also, the ginseng lowered the negative symptoms, according to Simon S. Chiu, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Western Ontario.

"Unexpectedly, ginseng's effect on reducing symptoms continued even when the patients were crossed over to placebo," he noted.

David Baron, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at Temple University in Philadelphia, and chairman of the committee that chose which studies to highlight at the meeting, said that some studies of complementary and alternative medical remedies are "lacking in science. But this is potentially promising."

"There's a signal here; the fact that Panax ginseng works on the same brain receptors [as antipsychotic drugs] makes it something to look at," says Baron.

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