We chose Ashwagandha, a shrub prevalent in South and Central Asia and Africa, for this month’s featured herb because of its increasing popularity among cancer patients.

Herb pixAshwagandha is widely used in Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, to treat a variety of ailments including arthritis, epilepsy, and as a general tonic to promote health. Current clinical data indicate its effectiveness for the treatment of osteoarthritis and for relieving anxiety. Preliminary findings suggest the herb’s utility in reversing chemo-induced neutropenia in mice, and in reducing chemo-induced fatigue in breast cancer patients.

The Herb of the Month column is provided with thanks to the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which has developed and maintains a free Web site, “About Herbs.”

The last two decades have seen a significant increase in dietary supplement use by cancer patients. Despite the proliferation of web sites that contain information about dietary supplements, finding a reliable source can be overwhelming. About Herbs provides objective and unbiased information about herbs, vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements, and unproven anticancer treatments. Each of the 276 and growing number of entries has versions for healthcare professionals and patients that are regularly updated with the latest research findings. Download the free About Herbs App, compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch devices, at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/about-herbs/id554267162?mt=8. Link to the MSKCC monograph.