Complementary and alternative medicine is not a substitute for medical care and treatment for cancer, but it does have an important place. There are certain herbs and supplements, for instance, that are under investigation for anti-tumor properties. Some can help prevent cancer or manage symptoms and side effects, while there are certain substances from nature that may even fight cancer and help shrink tumors.
Lowering Cancer Risk
Cancer prevention is an important part of overall wellness. This terrible disease is too often an inevitable part of many people’s lives, but you can take steps to reduce your own risks. It begins with what you eat. There are some powerful substances in natural foods and herbs that may lower the risk of any type or a specific type of cancer. Green tea, for instance, which can be taken as an extract and supplement for more potency, contains a compound called EGCG that may block tumor growth and protect against cancers of all types.
Herbs to Slow Tumor Growth
Some types of cancer, like mesothelioma, are particularly aggressive. The tumors spread fast and are difficult to treat. Some herbs and supplements are showing great promise in research to be able to slow the growth of these fast-moving cancers.
For example, curcumin, a substance found in the spice turmeric, is well known to have anti-inflammatory properties and to be beneficial for health. In studies of curcumin and mesothelioma, the supplement proved to inhibit the growth of tumor cells. It was also shown to be able to make traditional chemotherapy with cisplatin more effective.
Other herbs are being tested for their ability to slow cancer cell reproduction and tumor growth and show promise. These include Boswellia, which comes from an Indian tree. It may have anti-tumor properties. Artemesia, an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, and maitake, an Asian mushroom, may also be able to help fight cancer naturally.
Managing Symptoms and Side Effects
Herbs are also useful in helping cancer patients get some relief from the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of treatments. Cancer can and its traditional treatments can cause all types of uncomfortable symptoms, including nausea, weight loss, fatigue, and pain. There are herbs that can combat these and improve the quality of life for patients:
- Ginseng is an herb that has been used in China for millennia to boost energy. It may help relieve fatigue for cancer patients.
- Dong Quai is another traditional Chinese herbal. It is known for reducing some of the toxic effects of chemotherapy and reducing irritation after radiation treatment.
- Ginger root is great for reducing nausea and stimulating the appetite.
- Astralagus, or milk vetch, is proven to stimulate the immune system. Chemotherapy often represses the immune system, resulting in worse symptoms and illness.
Herbs and other natural supplements from plants can provide major benefits for all types of cancer patients. Research into these substances is ongoing, but for now many are safe to try. Make sure you talk to your doctor before trying any new supplement or medicine. There may be important reasons why a particular herb is risky for you or certain herbs that could interact badly with your current medications.