One of the most frustrating side effects of certain cancer treatments is neuropathy. Neuropathy is characterized by burning and tingling in the hands and feet. It is caused by nerve damage due to some types of chemotherapy. New research suggests that a Japanese herbal medicine called Goshajinkigan (GJG), may help minimize, and possibly prevent, neuropathy.
For the study, researchers in Japan examined rates of neuropathy in 90 patients with advanced (metastatic) colorectal cancer who had received chemotherapy that included the medication oxaliplatin. Oxaliplatin is one of the types of chemotherapy most likely to cause nerve damage that leads to neuropathy. The 90 patients had received their chemotherapy in one of four ways:
- Group A: Along with 7.5 grams per day of Goshajinkigan (GJG) herbal medication, taken orally (by mouth)
- Group B: Along with 1 gram each of calcium gluconate and magnesium sulfate, given intravenously, before each chemotherapy treatment
- Group C: Along with combined GJG and calcium gluconate and magnesium sulfate therapies
- Group D: Alone, without either GJG or calcium gluconate and magnesium sulfate
The researchers report that:
- 50% of people in Group A experienced neuropathy
- 100% of people in Group B experienced neuropathy
- 78.9% of people in Group C experienced neuropathy
- 91.7% of people in Group D experienced neuropathy
Only the people who received their chemotherapy with GJG herbal medication alone, had a significantly lower overall rate of neuropathy compared with no herbal medication or calcium/magnesium therapy. The authors concluded that giving GJG herbal medication along with oxaliplatin can reduce the rate of neuropathy. In this study, GJG reduced the rate of neuropathy by half.
Is GJG for You?
Goshajinkigan (GJG) is a Japanese herbal preparation that can contain up to 10 different herbs. For this reason, it may be difficult to obtain exactly the same herbal formula that was used in this study. If you are going to be receiving chemotherapy that can cause neuropathy, talk to your doctor about all of the options available for managing and preventing this side effect. There are medications that may help and other dietary supplements that are more easily obtained in the US, such as glutamine (a protein supplement).
It's unlikely that your doctor will have heard of Goshajinkigan, because it is not regularly used or available in the US. You can print out a copy of this research and share it with your doctor. He or she may be able to contact the study authors to find out more about Goshajinkigan and where it may be available for purchase.
If you plan to take any over-the-counter (OTC) medications or dietary supplements, always talk to your doctor first. Some OTCs and supplements can interfere with chemotherapy, making it less effective or more toxic. For this reason, it's vital that you work with your medical team to decide which therapies, including supplements and OTCs, are best for you.