Cancer Fighting Botanicals: Medicine for the 21st Century
For years you’ve been told to eat your greens. Perhaps now there is more incentive for you to do so, other than Mother’s good wisdom of the past. Vegetables, herbs, and fruits, will not only help to produce a glowing, vibrant “you,” but will help you to beat the odds of developing cancer as well.
A few years ago, the American Cancer Society led a $6 million study of beneficial phytochemicals to pursue the treatment, and more importantly, the prevention of cancer. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring agents found in plants, which help the body to guard against carcinogenesis at the cellular level. Several groups of phytochemicals have been identified, which produce different benefits. The class of phytochemicals termed indoles, inhibit the actions of excess estrogen, possibly reducing the incidence of breast cancer. Sulforaphane, a member of this same class, promotes the production of anti-cancer enzymes. Polyacetylenes (found in parsley) prevent the synthesis of carcinogens, and isoflavones (from legumes) appear to offset cancer-gene enzymes.
Thirty to 60% of all cancers, including breast cancer, cannot be blamed on environment or genetics, but on a poor diet. In Japan, for instance, where the diet is primarily low-fat vegetarian, women rarely experience breast cancer. Yet, population studies have shown that Japanese women who relocate to the U.S. soon face the same cancer risk as their American sisters, at a rate nearly 400% higher than in Japan. Why?
Several studies have shown that women of western nations typically consume a diet liberal in fat, and that leads to an over production of estrogen in pre-menopausal women. Estradiol, the principal estrogen hormone, is also produced in increased amounts. When a high-fat diet is consumed, the excess estradiol hormone is enabled to break free from carrier molecules and becomes biologically active. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) likens this action as being “like soldiers jumping off a jeep and starting their attack.” Research has unveiled that adequate amounts of sulforaphane inhibits the mechanisms of excess estrogen levels, thereby diminishing the risk of breast cancer.
Men are also at risk for cancer due to hormonal imbalance. Sixty percent of men between the ages of 40 and 60 suffer from BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), or enlargement of the prostate. One of the primary reasons for this is the fall off of testosterone levels in men of this age group. As testosterone levels decrease, other hormones, especially dihydrotestosterone, are on the rise and concentrate in the prostate. Dihydrotestosterone is a potent androgen, formerly metabolized with testosterone in the prostate and excreted. However, as testosterone levels dwindle, and other hormones increase, this metabolism is prevented, and what testosterone is present is converted to dihydrotestosterone. This results in the overproduction of prostate cells, and eventually, enlargement of the prostate.
There is hope, and prevention. Studies show that adequate zinc intake, particularly zinc picolinate, prevents the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase from irreversibly converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, and paves the way for normal metabolism and excretion of both hormones. In addition, research involving the extract of the berries of the Saw Palmetto (Sernoa repens) inhibit the overproduction of dihydrotestosterone. Studies have also shown that daily doses of Panax ginseng increases testosterone levels, and improves the absorption of zinc.
The Kurume University School of Medicine in Japan conducted a series of studies on the effects of a popular medicine blend called Sho-saiko-to on liver cancer. This traditional Chinese medicine is composed of Bupleurum penelia, Chinese skullcap, Zyzyphus, ginseng, licorice and ginger. Their findings showed that this product demonstrated an ability to battle cancerous liver cells, while stimulating healthy cell regeneration. The study also concluded that these herbs were much more effective in combination than in singular form, and offered protection from the formation of cancer cells that no other medicine, including synthetics, could duplicate.
Rodent research in 1984 spurred London’s Charing Cross Hospital to launch a Phase I trial of limonene last year to treat pancreatic cancer. Limonene is derived from the essential oils of citrus fruits, mints, caraway, dill, lemongrass, and other plants. In the animal studies, limonene not only deterred new tumor formation, but caused the deterioration of existing tumors as well.
Velban and Oncovin are the registered trade names of two anti-cancer drugs manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company. The development of these beneficial drugs began with the investigation of cancer folk remedies. The researchers eventually discovered that the extract of Tropical periwinkle leaves (Catharanthus roseus) extended the lives of mice chemically infected with leukemia. Vinblastine sulfate (Velban) is used to treat Hodgkin’s disease, and some skin or lymph cancers. Vincristine sulfate (Oncovin) contains an alkaloid useful in treating childhood leukemia’s and breast cancer. In one study, both drugs were combined and given to patients with malignant lymphoma. Significant improvement was experienced by 43% of the group.
Plant Sources of Cancer-Fighting Agents
- allyic sulfides – garlic, onions, chives,leeks, ginger
- carotenoids – carrots, squash, dill, calendula, cayenne, peppermint, dandelion
- ellagic acid – apples, mangoes, grapes, papaya
- indoles, sulphoraphane and isothiocyanates – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, cabbage, turnip greens, mustard greens, radishes, watercress
- lycopene – tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon, pink grapefruit
- benzyaldehyde – figs
- chlorgenic acid – tomatoes
- bromelain – pineapple
- caffeic acid and ferulic acid – apple
- limonene – citrus fruits, angelica, caraway, dill, lemongrass, lavender, horehound
- lutein – spinach
- terpenes – oranges, saffron, bay, marjoram, thyme
- dithiolhiones – broccoli
- phytosterols – soybeans, dried beans
- phytic acid – whole grains