Background Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a common yet troublesome adverse effect that compromises patient quality of life (QoL). Ginseng is often used to boost energy. Objectives The aim of this study was to systematically appraise evidence whether ginseng could alleviate CRF and improve QoL. Methods We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the effectiveness of ginseng for relieving CRF. The primary outcome was fatigue. The secondary outcomes included QoL, anxiety, adverse events, depression, and laboratory markers. Results The final sample comprised seven trials. The pooled results showed that ginseng consumption led to significant reductions in CRF levels (standard mean difference [SMD], -0.21; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.42 to 0.00). Furthermore, improvements in physical well-being (SMD, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.09-0.41) and emotional well-being (SMD, 0.20; 95% CI, 0.01-0.40) were observed, as were nonsignificant trends toward improvement in vigor (SMD, 0.18; 95% CI, -0.02 to 0.38), mitigated nausea (SMD, 0.38; 95% CI, -0.09 to 0.85), dyspnea (SMD, 0.27; 95% CI, -0.04 to 0.59), and anxiety (mean difference, -0.97; 95% CI, -2.12 to 0.18). Conclusions Ginseng consumption alleviates CRF and may have certain benefits in improving QoL especially physical well-being. Implications for Practice Ginseng may be used as an energy or nutrient supplement to alleviate CRF. However, the concentration of ginseng's functional components is affected by the production methods and thus probably its effects. Oncology nurses are encouraged to have a better understanding of the benefits and functional limitations of ginseng as an energy or nutrient supplement for CRF.
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