God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. (Genesis 1:29, CSB)*

 

Never make changes or additions to your chemotherapy treatments without consulting with your oncologist first.

CANCER HERBS

OVERVIEW

Although there are no whole herbs which can cure cancer by themselves there are numerous plants which can help boost the effectiveness of your cancer treatments while supporting your body's natural ability to heal. It is important to realize, though, that just because a product is natural it does not mean the product can be used without limit. For example, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been scientifically proven to help reduce fatigue in cancer patients, however a patient must be aware that this herb may interact with certain medications and may contribute to the rejection of transplanted organs. Never use an herbal remedy without checking out the risks, side effects, and possible interactions with other substances you are taking (this includes both prescription and over-the-counter products). Each person is unique in his or her health history and substances being used, therefore keep in mind that an herb which is right for one person may not be right for another. Fortunately, there are plenty of options in the plant kingdom so that those who are restricted from one herb may be able to try an alternative herb for the same effect.

In some cases you may be seeing a practitioner who uses combinations of herbs or formulas instead of single products. Although this is usually seen with practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kampo Medicine, or Ayurvedic Medicine, it is also common with other herbal practitioners as well. If your practitioner is recommending a combination be sure you are not allergic to any of the components and make sure they will not negatively interact with any other herbs, supplements, medications or chemotherapy agents you may be currently taking. Also, some combinations may not follow your dietary plan; for example the Chinese xiaoji decoction, though effective, contains items that are not vegan. This means you must know all of the ingredients in the proposed formula or combination, and an ethical practitioner will know this and should write them down for you. If your practitioner refuses to give you this information for any reason then he or she is a fraud and you must immediately stop wasting your valuable time (and money) with that practitioner.

EFFECTIVE HERBS

There are numerous herbs and herbal preparations which are useful against cancer -- so many that it would take an entire website to list them all. My book "Holistic Chemotherapy" explains a large number of these herbs in details in Chapter 6, but for the purposes of this webpage I will briefly explain a few of the most popular evidence-based herbs used in cancer treatment:

ASTRAGALUS
Astragalus membranaceus/ A. propinquus / A. penduliflorus
This is a popular herb known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as Huang Qi. Astragalus is effective in reducing inflammation and enhancing blood cell counts as well as helping patients reduce cancer-related fatigue.1 It has also been observed to be protective of the heart and liver from the effects of chemotherapy-induced damages2 3 while it also induces death in liver cancer cells,4 and colon cancer cells.5 Another study observed that using astragalus along with Vinblastine slows colon cancer by inhibiting tumor blood vessel formation.6 Combining astragalus with Asian ginseng (panax ginseng) may increase the survival of lung cancer patients being treated with Methotrexate and Vincristine. In mouse models astragalus was shown to enhance the action of 5-Fluorouracil in mice with stomach tumors7 while another study showed that it enhances the effects of Pterosilbene against melanomas.8 Other studies have shown that using astragalus with platinum-based chemotherapy may increase patient survival rate and improves tumor response.9 This is but a handful of the numerous research studies proving the efficacy of astragalus. Typical dosage of astragalus is as follows: Combine 1 tsp. (5ml) astragalus tincture with 1 tsp. (5ml) ginseng tincture in ¼ cup of water (60ml) and consume three times daily. May increase the tinctures to 4 tsp. each per dose as needed. If using capsules the typical dosage is one 250mg – 500mg capsule three to four times daily. 10 or make a tea with 7ml of powdered root (1 ½ tsp.) to 12 ounces of boiling water three times daily, or 20-60 drops of tincture (30% ethanol) three times daily. Precautions: Astragalus can increase urination and may affect the elimination of the drug lithium. May affect blood sugar levels and blood pressure. This herb is known to thin the blood. This herb has antioxidant activity, estrogenic properties, and immune-stimulating properties which may interfere with the actions of certain chemotherapy treatments. Be sure to speak to your oncologist before using astragulus with your treatment plan.

1 A novel infusible botanically-derived drug, PG2, for cancer-related fatigue: a phase II double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study (H. W. Chen, 2012)
2 Astragalus Polysaccharide Suppresses Doxorubicin-induced Cardiotoxicity by Regulating the PI3k/Akt and p38MAPK Pathways (Yuan Cao, 2014)
3 Protective Effect of Astragalus polysaccharides on Liver Injury Induced by Several Different Chemotherapeutics in Mice. (Wen Liu, 2014)
4 Astragalus polysaccharide induces the apoptosis of human hepatocellular carcinoma cells by decreasing the expression of Notch1. (Huang, 2016)
5 Astragalus saponins induce growth inhibition and apoptosis in human colon cancer cells and tumor xenograft. (Tin, 2007)
6 Combined therapeutic effects of vinblastine and Astragalus saponins in human colon cancer cells and tumor xenograft via inhibition of tumor growth and proangiogenic factors. (Auyeung, 2014)
7 Effect of 5-fluorouracil in combination with Astragalus membranaceus on amino acid metabolism in mice model of gastric carcinoma (Z. X. Zhang, 2006)
8 Enhanced antitumor efficacy with combined administration of astragalus and pterostilbene for melanoma (X. Y. Huang, 2015)
9 Astragalus-based Chinese herbs and platinum-based chemotherapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: meta-analysis of randomized trials (McCulloch, 2006)
10 Standardized to 0.4% 4-hydroxy-3-methoxy isoflavone 7-sug

BERBERINE
Although this can be found as a natural supplement in the vitamin aisle this yellow alkaloid is naturally present in abundance in herbs such as barberry (Berberis vulgaris), goldenthread (Coptis chinensis), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis),1 Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), and tree turmeric (Berberis aristata).2 In vitro studies have shown berberine to be effective against various cancers through interruption of the cancer cells' ability to reproduce and induction of cancer cell death. Several hundred published papers confirm that berberine is effective against brain tumors and a wide range of other cancers. In vitro studies have found that when berberine and curcumin (a substance in the spice turmeric, a.k.a. Curcuma longa) are combined they have synergistic effect against estrogen-receptor-positive and triple negative breast cancer cells which works better than either substance alone.3 One study observed that the use of goldenthread root (Coptidis rhizoma) inhibits the growth of esophageal cancers.4 One review of studies found that cancers sensitive to berberine include leukemia, liver, lung, stomach, colon, skin, oral, esophagus, brain, bone, breast and hormone-fueled cells. Berberine usually inhibits cancer through cell death but can also slow down cancer through other methods. The review also noted that berberine has shown synergistic effect with chemotherapy agents fighting estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers as well as arsenic trioxide.5 Other studies have shown berberine to re-sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy agents such as 5-fluorouracil,6 and cisplatin,7 among others. Typical dosage of berberine supplement is 500 – 2,000 mg daily in divided doses with meals (do not take more than 500mg at a time). Precautions: May lower blood sugar and blood pressure. High doses may cause digestive issues and diarrhea. Too much berberine may decrease muscle mass. Herbs and supplements containing berberine may prolong Qtc in patients with certain types of heart disease. May cause jaundice in those with liver problems.

1 H. canadensis contains more berberine than its relative c. chinensis on this list.
2 Do not confuse tree turmeric with Javanese turmeric (curcuma xanthorrhiza ) or regular turmeric (curcuma longa). These are each different herbs.
3 Synergistic Chemopreventive Effects of Curcumin and Berberine on Human Breast Cancer Cells Through Induction of Apoptosis and Autophagic Cell Death. (Wang, 2016)
4 Inhibitory effect of Coptidis Rhizoma and berberine on the proliferation of human esophageal cancer cell lines. ( Iizuka, 2000)
5 Berberine and Coptidis Rhizoma as novel antineoplastic agents: a review of traditional use and biomedical investigations. (Jun Tang, 2009)
6 Berberine Reverses the Chemoresistance of Breast Cancer to 5- Fluorouracil by Downregulating Metadherin (Kong 2012)
7 Berberine sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin through miR-21/PDCD4 axis (Liu, 2013)

BOSWELLIA
Boswellia serrata
Also known as “Indian frankincense,” do not confuse with Norwegian frankincense (Albies excelsa). Boswellia is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties1 due to its steroid-like substances. It is especially effective in reducing the production of Tumor Necrosis Factor-A (TNF-Alpha), a cytokine known for causing systemic inflammation, a known risk for developing cancer. One study showed that boswellia significantly reduced formation of blood vessels in prostate cancer tumors by suppressing the VEGF proteins.2 Because steroid medications used for reducing swelling and inflammation oftentimes interfere with the effects of chemotherapy agents such as camptothecin (especially with brain cancers) the anti-inflammatory properties of boswellia can be a viable alternative. Not only does boswellia have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, but its components have been shown to be toxic to glioma cancer cells.3 4 In Europe boswellia is commonly used for treating peri-tumoral edema in brain cancer patients.5 One case study reported on a HER2-positive breast cancer patient who developed metastasis to the brain with several inoperable tumors. The report states that after ten weeks of treatment with 800mg. of boswellia three times daily along with the chemotherapy agent Capecitabine all signs of brain metastasis had disappeared. At the time of the report the patient survived over four years (whereas the average life expectancy for her condition should have been 3-5 months). 6 Other studies have observed that boswellic acids in the herb can reduce the growth of multiple myeloma7 and other leukemia cells lines8 as well as the growth of glioma brain cancers.9 Boswellia should be given orally every six hours to maintain blood plasma levels of the substance. Administration with a high fat meal significantly increases the body's absorption of the substance. Typical dosage is 800mg extract, standardized to 65% boswellic acids, three times daily. Can take up to 1,200 mg three times daily if needed. May also take in tablet or capsule form. Precautions: Is a known blood thickener. Consult with your prescribing physicians if you are already on a topoisomerase inhibitor such as Irinotecan because this is also an inhibitor. May cause mild stomach upset. If on long-term, high dose therapy with boswellia do not suddenly stop as it may cause rebound effects such as tumoral edema. May cause digestive issues, rash, or allergic reactions. Do not take for longer than six months.

1 Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Anti-inflammatory Agent: An Overview. (Siddiqui, 2011)
2 Acetyl-11-keto-beta – boswellic acid Inhibits Prostate Tumor Growth by Suppressing Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor 2- mediated Angiogenesis (Pang, 2009)
3Boswellic Acids ad Malignant Glioma: Induction of Apoptosis but no Modulation of Drug Sensitivity (Glaser, 1999)
4 Boswellic Acids Inhibit Glioma Growth; A New Treatment Option? (Winking, 2000)
5 Determination of Boswellic Acids in Brain and Plasma by High-performance Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry (Reising, 2005)
6 A lipoxygenase inhibitor in breast cancer brain metastases. (Flavin, 2007)
7 Boswellic Acid Blocks Sigal Transducers and Activators of Transcription 3 Signaling Proliferation and Survival of Multiple Myeloma via the Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase SHP-1 (Kunnumakkara, 2009)
8 Boswellic Acid Acetate Induces Differentiation and Apoptosis in Leukemia Cell Lines (Jing, 1999)
9 Boswellic Acids Inhibit Glioma Growth: a New Option? (Winking, 2000)

CAT'S CLAW
Uncaria tomentosa
Do not confuse this herb with the poisonous plant Catclaw Acacia (Acacia greggi), which is also known as cat's claw, or the herb Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens). Cat's claw is well-known for reducing inflammation its ability to increase white blood cell counts, thus enhancing immune function. If you are on an immune-stimulating or immune-suppressing regimen consult with your prescribing physician before using cat's claw. Clinical trials have shown that water-based extracts of cat's claw enhance DNA repair of healthy cells after chemotherapy-induced DNA damage1 and that breast cancer patients using the herb maintained better levels of infection-fighting white blood cells.2 Cat's claw should by used only after a chemotherapy cycle is finished because taking it during the cycle risks repairing the DNA of the cancer cells along with your healthy cells. In vitro studies observed that cat's claw inhibits the growth of medullary thyroid cancer through cell death.3 Another in vitro study observed that a compound known as mitraphylline in cat's claw, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, has significant action against neuroblastoma and glioma cancer cells.4 Other research has found that the quinovic acid glycosides and oxindole alkaloids from cat's claw has been shown to cause cell death in human bladder cancer cells.5 6 Intravesical administration (direct insertion into the bladder) may be advised. This herb is also known to improve the quality of life in patients with advanced solid tumors.7 Studies have also shown that cat's claw inhibits production of Tumor Necrosis Factor, (TNF),8 a cytokine which, when produced over a length of time, may contribute to the wasting of muscle seen in some cancer patients.9 This herb is best taken between meals. The following dosages are a general guideline: Tincture: Take according to package directions with ½ cup (120ml) of water and a tablespoon (15ml) of lemon juice, as it needs the acid from the juice to help release the effective agents. Root bark extract: Take up to 350mg of the extract daily. Extract should be standardized to at least 8% carboxy alkyl esters and less than 0.5% oxindole alkaloids. Take with ½ cup (120ml) of water and a tablespoon (15ml) of lemon juice, as it needs the acid from the lemon juice to help release the effective agents. Whole root bark: Make a decoction by simmering 4-5 pieces of the bark in one quart of water (960ml) for fifteen minutes. Strain out the bark and cool the decoction. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice. Drink one cup, (240ml) up to three time daily. Capsules: These should have the pentacylic form of this herb, with a minimum of 1.3% pentacylic oxindole alkaloids and no tetracylic oxindole alkaloids. Use according to package directions. Precautions: Do not use if you are diabetic. May cause dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. May interfere with controlling blood pressure after surgery, therefore discontinue use for two weeks before surgery May cause stomach and bowel discomfort. May lower blood pressure. May cause kidney failure in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. May worsen the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. May increase the effect of blood thinners. Increases blood levels of atazanavir, ritonavir, and saquinavir medications. May stimulate the immune system therefore you must avoid use if you've had an organ or bone marrow transplant or suffer from an autoimmune disease. Side effects include dizziness, headaches, and vomiting. Do not use if you have leukemia. May interact with medications that are processed by the liver.

1 DNA Repair Enhancement of water-based Extracts of Uncaria Tomentosa in a Human Volunteer Study (Y. Sheng, 2001)
2 Uncaria tomentosa-Adjuvant Treatment for Breast Cancer: Clinical Trial. (Santos Araújo , 2010)
3 Antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of Uncaria tomentosa in human medullary thyroid carcinoma cells. (Rinner, 2009)
4 Antiproliferative effects of mitraphylline, a pentacyclic oxindole alkaloid of Uncaria tomentosa on human glioma and neuroblastoma cell lines. (Prado, 2007)
5Quinovic Acid Glycosides Purified Fraction from Uncaria Tomentosa Induces Cell Death by Apoptosis in the T24 Human Bladder Cancer Cell Line (Dietrich, 2014)
6 Cat's claw oxindole alkaloid isomerization induced by cell incubation and cytotoxic activity against T24 and RT4 human bladder cancer cell lines. (Kaiser, 2013)
7 Uncaria tomentosa (cat's claw) improves quality of life in patients with advanced solid tumors. (de Paula, 2015)
8Cat's claw inhibits TNFα production and scavenges free radicals: role in cytoprotection (Manuel Sandoval, 2000)
9Tumor necrosis factor-α and Muscle Wasting: A Cellular Perspective( Michael B. Reid, 2001)

GINGER
Zingiber Officinale
Research using ginger on animal models has shown ginger to provide significant protection for the kidneys during chemotherapy treatments using the drugs Cisplatin1 and Doxorubicin.2 In numerous human studies ginger has been shown to be highly effective in reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and systemic inflammation.3 In vitro studies have shown ginger to reduce the viability of gastric cancer cells,4 induce cell death in colorectal cancer cells,5 and inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells.6 Other studies, both in vitro and in vivo show substances in ginger known as 6-Gingerol and zerumbone inhibit tumor blood vessel formation through inhibition of VEGF7 8 as well as inhibiting the production of cytokines that are known to contribute to muscle wasting often seen in cancer patients.9 Dosages: Take a single dose up to three times daily. Because ginger comes in several forms here is a list of what a “single dose” is: 1 cup (240ml) of ginger tea; 1 medium piece of crystallized ginger (1 inch square or 2.5 cm square); 2 droppers full of ginger extract; 2 teaspoons of ginger syrup; 1 tablespoon (15ml) freshly grated root; or ½ teaspoon (3ml) of ground ginger. Precautions: Ginger is a blood thinner. Overuse may cause uterine contractions. Ginger can prolong the effect of barbituates. Do not use if you have gallstones, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcers. May lower blood sugar levels. May lower blood pressure. May worsen some heart conditions, especially arrhythmias – speak with your cardiologist.

1 Zingiber officinale Roscoe alone and in combination with α-tocopherol protect the kidney against cisplatin-induced acute renal failure ( Ajith, 2007)
2 Protective effect of Zingiber officinale roscoe against anticancer drug doxorubicin-induced acute nephrotoxicity (Ajith, 2008)
3 Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients (Ryan, 2012)
4 Ginger ingredients reduce viability of gastric cancer cells via distinct mechanisms. (Ishiguro, 2007)
5 Multiple mechanisms are involved in 6-gingerol-induced cell growth arrest and apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells. (S. H. Lee, 2008)
6 Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer (Karna, 2012)
7 [6]-Gingerol, A Pungent Ingredient of Ginger, Inhibits Angiogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo (Kim, 2005)
8 Zerumbone, Sesquiterpene Photochemical From Ginger Inhibits Angiogenesis (Park, 2015)
9Ginger Extract (Zingiber Officinale) has Anti-Cancer and Anti-Inflammatory Effects on Ethionine-Induced Hepatoma Rats (Shafina Hanim Mohd Habib, 2008)

 

CANCER FIGHTING MUSHROOMS

Although medicinal mushrooms are not botanically classified as plants or herbs they are often included in herbal therapies. Medicinal mushrooms have been proven through scientific research to be effective against cancer however most of these tend to have antioxidants and immune-boosting properties which are contraindicated in certain cancer treatments. Therefore, always be sure you check with your oncologist before using a mushroom-based therapy.

Many cancer-fighting mushrooms are already used in everyday cooking, such a white button, enoki, crimini/baby bella, and shiitake mushrooms. Although these are culinary ingredients they pack a powerful punch when used against cancer. For example, shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) contain lentinan, a water soluble compound used in the medical field for its anti-tumor properties. Clinical studies have associated lentinan with a higher survival rate, higher quality of life and lower recurrence of cancer. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, lentinan has been shown to increase the repair of DNA damage in bone marrow caused by paclitaxel treatments, induces cell death in stomach cancers (especially when used with the chemotherapy agents docetaxel and cisplatin), and increases cancer cell death in bladder cancers (especially when combined with the chemotherapy agent gemcitabine). It has also been shown to enhance the effects of paclitaxel against lung cancer. Due to the water solubility of the lentinan be sure to consume the broth/water that is released when you cook the mushrooms. If, instead, you take commercial supplements be sure to drink a full glass of water with your supplement to encourage the absorption of lentinan into your system. Precautions: Overuse may cause bloating, diarrhea or other digestive disturbances. May cause eosinophilia – an increase in certain types of white blood cells – therefore consult with your oncologist first if you are being treated for leukemia. Lentinan may enhance the effects of AZT. Some individuals may be sensitive to the lentinans. Other cancer-fighting mushrooms are strictly for therapeutic use only, such as reishi, maitake, and chaga mushrooms, just to name a few. Therapeutic-only mushrooms are not usually used for cooking because they are oftentimes bitter, too tough, or otherwise give an "off" flavor.

When using mushrooms please be advised that eating raw, whole mushrooms is not an effective method to receive the therapeutic properties; this is because the cell walls of mushrooms are very tough and simple chewing and digestion does not extract enough of the therapeutic agents to be absorbed into your system. Mushrooms need to be processed in such a way that the agents are preserved and yet able to be readily absorbed.1 The following methods are preferable (never use any medical mushrooms if you have any kind of allergy to mushroom-based products):

It is important to realize that, just as with other herbs and medicines, mushroom therapy must also be taken with care: In some cases too-high of a dose can be harmful, in other cases the wrong method of storage can render the mushroom ineffective, and in yet other cases some may worsen a pre-existing health condition. Because the science of using medicinal mushrooms to fight cancer can be a little detailed I made sure to include a chapter detailing the use of these natural agents in my Holistic Chemotherapy book.

1 Be aware that many medicinal mushroom extracts contain substances which are known to be toxic to your heart and blood cells when injected directly into the body. Therefore, do not receive mushroom products by injection if they were not originally intended or specially processed for that method of administration.

 

PLANT-BASED CHEMOTHERAPY AGENTS

Many patients do not realize there are several chemotherapy agents that are derived from plants. These were created by isolating and concentrating therapeutic substances from the plants which have proven to be effective against cancer. Although these agents originate from plants these are not whole-herb therapies (such as herbal tea or oral supplements). Because they are concentrated they do carry the risk of side effects similar to other chemotherapy agents. Plant-based chemotherapy agents include the following (not a complete listing):

Although these are plant-based agents, due to their toxicity they can only be given under the direct supervision of a qualified physician.