Pioneering study on ginseng for lung disease expands

09 May, 2013

RMIT University's groundbreaking research into the use of the traditional Chinese herb ginseng for the treatment of lung disease has been expanded to new hospitals in Melbourne's north and south.

The Northern Hospital and the Frankston Hospital are now part of the study, which has been jointly conducted by RMIT and the Austin and Box Hill Hospitals.

With the new hospitals on board, researchers hope to recruit a further 100 participants for the study, which is investigating whether ginseng can improve quality of life and lung function for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - an umbrella term for the lung diseases chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

More than 1.2 million Australians are affected by moderate to severe COPD and currently there is no cure from any common Western medical treatments.

Professor Charlie Xue, Director of the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Research Program at RMIT's Health Innovations Research Institute, said the expansion of the study showed there was a clear priority in the medical community to tackle the condition.

"Pre-clinical laboratory trials have shown ginseng has great potential - not only for its quality and safety but also its efficacy in treating the symptoms of COPD," Professor Xue said.

"A safe, effective treatment for people suffering from the early stages of COPD has enormous potential to improve the quality of life and lung function for millions of people."

The research is funded through a $560,000 National Health and Medical Research Council grant and $30,000 grant from the National Institute of Complementary Medicine.

Ex-smokers aged 40-80 who suffer from shortness of breath and chronic cough are needed for the trial, which is running until the end of 2013.

Volunteers who meet the relevant criteria are randomly assigned to receive 24 weeks of treatment with either ginseng or placebo capsules. The study has been approved by a Human Research Ethics Committee.

To find out more, or to volunteer, contact the Trial Coordinator at RMIT by phone (03) 9925 6527.