Many people with cancer are interested in trying anything that may help them, including complementary and alternative cancer treatments. If cancer makes you feel as if you have little control over your health, alternative cancer treatments may offer some feeling of control. But many alternative cancer treatments are unproved and some may even be dangerous.
In Dr. Weil’s view, the principle advantage of herbs is their complexity. Medicinal plants contain a wide array of chemical compounds, which gives them versatile therapeutic powers. For example, for Andean Indians, whole coca leaf is the number one medicinal plant. They use it to treat gastrointestinal disturbances; specifically, for both diarrhea and constipation. Its ability to treat two opposite disease states springs from the fact that coca contains 14 bioactive alkaloids, some of which stimulate the gut, while others inhibit gut activity. When the whole mixture enters the body, receptors in the gut’s tissues bind to the alkaloids that are needed for the body to return it to equilibrium.
Cannabis is a controversial subject, and really needs an article all itself. Few people understand all the political and therapeutic issues surrounding cannabis. Many people distinguish between “medical cannabis” and “marijuana.” Medical cannabis involves research into particular varieties of the cannabis plant and its therapeutic value. Many varieties are lower in THC, the component that makes people “high”, while recreational varieties of marijuana have been cultivated to maximize the amount of THC for recreational purposes. For more information see:
Garlic another herb commonly used in the kitchen also has its place here in our list of herbs. Garlic has been used for thousands of years and was thought to increase strength and stamina, it was used by the first Olympic athletes of Greece which very well could make it one of the first performance enhancing substances. From vampires to witches garlic was also used to ward off evil entities, in spells and charms. In the Middle Ages monasteries would grow garlic to treat digestive, kidney, and breathing issues. During World War II the Russians reportedly ate a lot of garlic and some say it helped keep them alive through the hard times. Today a lot of the use garlic get is to treat and prevent heart disease, regulate cholesterol levels, reduce high blood pressure and strengthen the immune system. Garlic grows well all over the world where vegetable gardens can be made. Even grown indoors garlic can do quite well, you can actually take a clove of garlic and grow an entire garlic plant from that one clove. The next time you're at the grocery store buy some garlic, take one of the cloves and plant in some moist soil with the pointed end up. Continue to regularly water the clove and in no time at all you'll have a nice garlic plant. Garlic is perhaps one of the most important and often overlooked medicinal herbs on the planet, which is why I had to include it into our list of herbs.
Native Americans and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) use this common weed as a great digestive tonic and bladder curative. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) helps stimulate the kidneys to increase urine production, which helps flush out your urinary tract. Dandelion tea is also used for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and often referred to an anti-diabetic plant and anti-hyperglycemic. It is also used as a treatment for atherosclerosis.
Stinging nettles are an interesting herb that we have growing rampant here in Nebraska. Stinging nettles are probably best known for... you guessed it their sting. The nettle plant has sharp spines that are revealed upon contact and once they penetrate the skin of the victim they release a concoction of chemicals into the body. This is where you get that burning/itchy feeling from, the nettle plant releases a mix of histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and formic acid. Surprisingly the treatment for this burning sensation can be found via the plant itself; the juice from the nettle's leaves can be applied to the affected area. Aside from the painful sting of the nettle plant it is actually a very beneficial herb and undoubtedly deserves to be in our list of herbs here.
The new research in cancer treatment is to find a way to target cancer stem cells which are the cells that drive the cancer growth. Chemotherapy up to date has only had success in killing the non-stem cell cancer cells. These are the cancer cells that grow from the core stem cancer cells. The problem is when you use toxic chemotherapy to try to kill the cancer cells all you accomplish is a temporary killing of the outer layer of non-stem cancer cells. The true source of the cancer proliferation is the cancer stem cells which are not killed with chemotherapy.
It’s not just easy, but also tasty to add spices and herbs that lower blood sugar to your diet. Most of these can be used in everyday recipes. If you are looking for inspiration on how to start cooking with these, try out these recipes from our recipe section – Mushroom-stuffed Turkey, Stuffed Peppers, Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Pizza, Courgette Carrot & Tomato Frittata, Moussaka, Vegetable Stir Fry, and Roasted Butternut Squash
Chemical compounds in plants mediate their effects on the human body through processes identical to those already well understood for the chemical compounds in conventional drugs; thus herbal medicines do not differ greatly from conventional drugs in terms of how they work. This enables herbal medicines to be as effective as conventional medicines, but also gives them the same potential to cause harmful side effects.
This mushroom has a long history of use in Chinese herbalism. It is considered a great tonic for building physical strength and endurance. There is a substance in cordyceps which dilates the lung’s airways, providing more oxygen to the blood. For this fact it is very popular with athletes. This healing mushroom is also used to treat asthma, cough and bronchitis. It possesses anti-inflammatory properties and has the ability to relax the bronchial walls. It’s a great immune system booster as well.
Most studies of complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of cancer pain are of low quality in terms of scientific evidence. Studies of massage therapy have produced mixed results, but overall show some temporary benefit for reducing pain, anxiety, and depression and a very low risk of harm, unless the patient is at risk for bleeding disorders. There is weak evidence for a modest benefit from hypnosis, supportive psychotherapy and cognitive therapy. Results about Reiki and touch therapy were inconclusive. The most studied such treatment, acupuncture, has demonstrated no benefit as an adjunct analgesic in cancer pain. The evidence for music therapy is equivocal, and some herbal interventions such as PC-SPES, mistletoe, and saw palmetto are known to be toxic to some cancer patients. The most promising evidence, though still weak, is for mind–body interventions such as biofeedback and relaxation techniques.
However, patients who use alternative treatments have a poorer survival time, even after controlling for type and stage of disease. In 2017, researchers at Yale School of Medicine published a paper which suggested that people who choose alternative medicine over conventional cancer treatments were more than twice as likely to die within five years of diagnosis. And specifically, in those with breast cancer, people choosing alternative medicine were 5.68 times more likely to die within five years.