Cancer remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally. Amongst the non-communicable diseases, cancer is the second leading cause of death, after cardiovascular disease . Cancer is responsible for one in eight deaths worldwide—more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria together . Overall cancer incidence and mortality are higher in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe compared to the rest of the world . In the United States, one in four deaths is attributed to cancer . Globally, the number of cancer deaths is projected to increase from 7.1 million in 2002 to 11.5 million in 2030
Chemotherapy is routinely used for cancer treatment. Since cancer cells lose many of the regulatory functions present in normal cells, they continue to divide when normal cells do not. This feature makes cancer cells susceptible to chemotherapeutic drugs. Approximately five decades of systemic drug discovery and development have resulted in the establishment of a large collection of useful chemotherapeutic agents. However, chemotherapeutic treatments are not devoid of their own intrinsic problems. Various kinds of toxicities may occur as a result of chemotherapeutic treatments. For example, 5-fluorouracil, a common chemotherapeutic agent, is known to cause myelotoxicity , cardio toxicity [and has even been shown to act as a vasospastic agent in rare but documented cases . Another widely used chemodrug, doxorubicin causes cardiac toxicity , renal toxicity , and myelotoxicity Similarly, bleomycin a well known chemotherapeutic agent, is known for its pulmonary toxicity . In addition, bleomycin shows cutaneous toxicity . Cyclophosphamide, a drug to treat many malignant conditions, has been shown to have bladder toxicity in the form of hemorrhagic cystitis, immunosuppression, alopecia and at high doses cardiotoxicity
The toxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs sometimes creates a significant problem in the treatment of cancer using allopathy or established medicine. Various therapies have been propounded for the treatment of cancer, many of which use plant-derived products. There are four classes of plant-derived anticancer agents in the market today, the vinca alkaloids (vinblastine, vincristine and vindesine), the epipodophyllotoxins (etoposide and teniposide), the taxanes (paclitaxel and docetaxel) and the camptothecin derivatives (camptotecin and irinotecan). Plants still have enormous potential to provide newer drugs and as such are a reservoir of natural chemicals that may provide chemo-protective potential against cancer. Recently, Taneja and Qazi, have suggested a number of compounds from medicinal plants with potential anti-cancer activities
20 Herbs that can fight cancer
Herbs can be potent and powerful, and research is growing with many herbs shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties without the damaging side-effects of drugs; here are twenty herbs that just might help your fight against cancer. (This article was prepared with help from two of the UK’s top herbalists, Alan Hopkins and David Broom.)
1 ASTRAGALUS (Huang Qi):
A Chinese herb; an immune system booster, known to stimulate body’s natural production of interferon. It also helps the immune system identify rogue cells. Work with the herb in both cancer and AIDS cases has been encouraging. The MD Anderson Cancer Centro in Texas conducted research showing that taking Astragalus when having Radiotherapy doubled survival times.
2 BERBERIS FAMILY (e.g. Podophyllum peltanum):
Slow active purgative. Research has shown these herbs to have a strong action against cancer and they have been used with many cancers, especially Ovarian cancer. In Cancer Watch March 2015, an ingredient Berberine, was shown in research to outperform brain cancer drug, Temozolomide in vitro. It was also shown to act synergistic ally with it and improve its efficacy. Berberine is anti-inflammatory, attacks microbes, attacks the AMPK pathway in cancer cells and cuts blood sugar.
3 BLOODROOT (Sanguinaria canadensis):
Research shows consistent anti-neoplastic activity. It has been shown to be effective against cancer tumours, and can shrink them; it is one of the herbs in an anti-cancer poultice called Black Salve against breast and skin cancers; and has proven useful with sarcomas.
4 BUTCHERS BROOM (Ruscus aculeatus):
The active ingredients of this herb has been found to be the ruscogenins which have tum-our-shrinking and anti-estrogen abilities. Thus its use in the treatment of breast cancer.
5 CAT’S CLAW (Uncaria tormentosa):
An adaptogen and powerful immune-stimulant, it enhances the white cells clean up process (phagocytosis). It is an excellent companion to astragalus, curcumin and echinacea. Research indicates it can reduce tumour size, particularly with skin cancers. It also helps reduce the side-effects of chemo and radiotherapy.
6 CHAPARRAL (Larrea mexicana):
Cancer Watch covered a major research study from the US which heaped praise on this herb. It appears to boost the immune system, stop metastases and reduce tumour size. Seems especially interesting with breast cancer and is another ingredient in Black Salve. It is also an anti-oxidant and anti-microbial, with low toxicity.
7 CURCUMIN (Turmeric):
Turmeric root contains 3% curcumin. Both have significant anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activity. That alone seems enough for certain hospitals in America to consider using it in the treatment of polyps and colon cancer. However new research shows that it can attack cancer stem cells, shrink cancer tumours and inhibit blood supply growth to tumours. It is a powerful antioxidant with liver protective benefits, and outperformed several anti-inflammatory drugs without side-effects in research.
8 DANG SHEN ROOT (Codonopsis pilosula):
increases both the white blood cell and red blood cell levels, so can be extremely helpful to patients having chemotherapy and radiotherapy, or to patients whose cancer diminishes levels of either.
Another known immune system booster, it gained a populist reputation in treating colds. There is research on its helpfulness with brain tum-ours apart from its abilities to increase the levels of certain immune white cells in the body.
This herb caused a storm when research from Rochester University in New York showed it to be more effective than the drug cytarabine in killing leukaemia cells. The US Food and Drug Agency put the active ingredient, parthenolide, on to its fast track programme. Nothing has yet been heard. But then, the FDA has never approved a herb for use as a cancer treatment.
One cause of stomach cancer can be the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This burrows into the mucous lining of the stomach to hide from gastric acids, and then causes irritation, acid re-flux, ulcers and even cancer. Goldenseal is generally anti-microbial and is used in the Caribbean and South East Asia against parasites. Goldenseal, helped by the mineral Bismuth, will kill Helicobacter pylori. Vets seem to know this, even if doctors don’t. Berberine can be found in Goldenseal.
12 MILK THISTLE:
Known for years to be helpful in strengthening the liver, this herb has now been shown to be capable of protecting the liver during chemotherapy. Research in America showed that leukaemia patients who took milk thistle had reduced liver toxicity and chemo side-effects. There is a little evidence that it has its own anti-cancer activity too.
13 PAU D’ARCO:
This tree bark was original thought to be a strong anti-cancer agent, but then its actions were clarified as strongly anti-bacterial, anti-yeast and anti-viral. That alone might be enough to eradicate cancer drivers. But new research on the differing ingredients has shown the quinoids possess immune strengthening abilities and seem to help in cases of blood and lymph cancers.
14 RED CLOVER:
Research from a number of cancer centers including the Royal Mars-den has shown its potential as a part of a treatment programme against estrogen-driven cancers, from breast to prostate. One active ingredient in the so-called Herb of Hippocrates is Genistein, which Professor Powles formerly of the Royal Marsden dubbed ’the anti-estrogen’.
15 SHEEP’S SORRELL:
Used in Essiac and other herbal remedies, it is a cleanser and aids healthy tissue regeneration. There is some suggestion from research that it helps normalise damaged cells and tissue. It is also a highly praised ’vermifuge’ – intestinal worms have little or no resistance to this herb.
16 SKULLCAP (Scutellaria barbata):
Research has shown action against many cancer types, for example against cancers of the lung, stomach and intestines.
17 SUTHERLANDIA (Cancer Bush):
Peer reviewed research studies indicate that this herb is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-fungal. It boosts the immune system and inhibits Tumour Necrosis Factor, known to drive wasting in cancer patients.
18 THOROWAX, or HARES EAR (Bulpleurum scorzoneraefolium):
Research has shown its ability to enhance the production of natural interferon and it seems especially useful in bone cancer.
19 WHEAT GRASS:
One of the top private hospitals in South East Asia extols the benefits of freshly juiced wheatgrass. One shot gives you the chlorophyll of some 12 or more kilograms of broccoli. It acts as a blood purifier, and liver and kidney cleansing agent. In research, after two weeks of daily use, blood and tissue oxygen levels improve, as does circulation.
20 SWEET WORMWOOD:
Another Chinese Herb, Artemesia annua, has ingredients like artemisinin and artesunate that have outperformed the anti-malaria drugs and Artemisinin is now used as the number 1 drug against Malaria. It is strongly anti-microbial and anti-yeast and can be used as an effective part of an anti-candida diet. Also certain cancer treatments cause excesses of yeasts to form (for example, in Leukemia treatment) threatening the patient’s health further. It is also known to attack pathogens like E.coli and Borrelia borgdorferi. In 2017 research Wormwood was shown to have direct anti-cancer properties.