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Top 20 Anti-Cancer Herbs and Plants
The idea that simple herbs and plants can have anti-cancer effects is sometimes a controversial subject. Although many people have experienced their benefits, there are still a great many skeptics. However, for those of you, who are interested in this information and wish to apply it to your life, we have compiled a list of the top 20 herbs and medicinal plants that have had scientific research applied to them and received positive outcomes in the area of fighting cancer.
1. Ginger Root
Gingerol, the active ingredient in ginger root, got a great deal of attention, especially in clinical trials, in an attempt to determine its potential to stop or prevent certain cancers. Results from these pharmacological experiments show that ginger might inhibit the growth of tumors in human beings. In cases of ovarian cancer, researchers found that gingerol caused cancer cell death, reduced inflammation, and improved immune function. Research also shows that it might offer protection from colon cancer as well.
In many Asian countries, especially in India, ginger root is a part of their everyday diet. India has some of the lowest cancer rates of any country in the world. Besides, ginger is well known to have natural anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties.
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Onion is associated with a variety of pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti-carcinogenic. They are high in polyphenols, which help prevent diseases, including cancer, and in antioxidants, which are well-known cancer fighters. These popular veggies also contain a compound called quercetin, which has been shown to decrease tumor cells.
There is a definite relationship between the consumption of onions and the risk of common cancers. Researchers from the Italian Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research compiled data from both Italian and Swiss controlled studies and logistic models for onion consumption and cancer rates. The risk rates vary, but onions lowered the risk of colorectal, ovarian, renal cell, prostate, esophageal, mouth, and breast cancers.
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3. Grape Seed
Several studies have shown that the phytochemicals in grape seeds have strong potential for cancer prevention, that can be isolated from the seeds themselves. A team at the University of Colorado showed evidence that grape seed extract induced the death of colorectal cancer cells. In fact, the more advanced the cancer cells were, the better the extract seemed to work at limiting the growth and survival of cancer cells.
Proanthocyanidins in grape seeds have also been reported to stop pancreatic cancer cells from spreading or migrating and inhibit the growth of colon tumors. Proanthocyanidins accumulate in large amounts in the colon, as they are not well absorbed in the stomach. This is good news, as the proanthocyanidins can stop cancer cells more efficiently as they build up in the colon.
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New research shows that this very popular spice has a powerful chemo-preventative effect against liver cancer in tests done with animals. This study came out in September of 2011 in the journal Hepatology and was done by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. The findings from this 22 week study showed that animals who received the highest dosage of saffron (300mg/kg) had a complete inhibition of hepatic nodules. Saffron also prevented tumor necrosis factor receptor, which plays a major role in the progression and development of cancerous liver cells. These findings suggest that saffron can promote cancer cells death, inhibit the proliferation of cancerous cells, and effectively block inflammation. More tests involving saffron are currently planned.
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Turmeric has been used since the early 1900’s by Ayurvedic medicine to stop the symptoms of inflammation, allergies, rheumatism, and liver problems. The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is believed to be a gene regulator when it comes to the formation of cancer and causes cancer cell death without harming healthy cells. It does this through the suppression of an activation pathway, kappaB, which is linked to numerous diseases caused by inflammation, including cancer. In clinical trials, it was found to stop the migration of lung cancer cells.
More recently, when given to laboratory rats orally, turmeric was effective in preventing cancer of the stomach, colon, breast, and skin.
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Dandelion leaves have long been used by Chinese and Ayurvedic practitioners to treat abscesses, water retention, tumors, and cysts. A study done in 2008 provided some scientific proof that dandelion, that weed in your garden, had anti-cancer compounds. They tested separately all parts of the plant – leaves, roots, and flowers – for their activity on the progression of tumors. This study showed that the leaf blocked the growth of breast cancer cells and prostate cancer cells, and the root extract was noted to stop the invasion of breast cancer cells. A Canadian study showed in 2005 that the extract of dandelion flower stopped hydroxyl and superoxide radicals, which means that dandelion has the potential to be a powerful, yet novel, cancer fighter.
SEE ALSO: 12 Cancer Symptoms Most Women Ignore But Shouldn’t
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7. Red Clover
Red clover is the main ingredient in the ancient Native American remedy, Flor Essence, which is still a popular herbal tonic consumed by cancer patients. This plant is an ingredient in Hoxsey Herbal Treatment, sold around the turn of the century as a cancer treatment, too. The University of Maryland Medical Center found that red clover might help prevent certain types of cancer. These same scientists mention in their article that they believe red clover should not be consumed by women with breast cancer or women with a history of breast cancer in their family.
Red clover supplements are available in most health food stores in different forms. Dried red clover leaves are often brewed into a tea with a typical daily dose being about 4 grams of dried red clover to 30 milliliters of water.
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Cloves are dried flower buds from trees native to India, Pakistan, Zanzibar, and Madagascar. The oil from cloves has been studied for its ability to improve immune function, which means it offers cancer prevention. It has antioxidant compounds that show the potential to act as anticancer agents, according to the American Pharmaceutical Association’s Practical Guide to Natural Medicines.
Clove oil has the highest concentration of antioxidant activity of any single ingredient tested by the ORAC. The American Cancer Society says that there is currently insufficient evidence to prove that clove oil can prevent cancer, however its high antioxidant levels show that it is a powerful supplier of anthocyanins, which are known to stop the growth of tumors, as well as kill existing cancer cells.
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This plant has been used for more than 3,000 years in Ayurveda. Mostly used for fevers, fatigue, and stomach upsets, barberry (berberis vulgaris) has recently been recognized as a powerful anti-cancer herb. Barberry has strong anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antioxidant properties. Recent studies show that barberry improves immune functions significantly.
According to Ayurvedic tradition, barberry is an effective treatment for liver tumors. One study done in Taiwan shows that when barberry is administered in high doses to cancer patients over time, the alkaloid in the plant – berberine – kills cancer cells in tests done with humans. Moreover, barberry is another of the ingredients in the Hoxsey herbal formula marketed in 1919 as a cancer treatment.
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Considered by many cultures to have healing and preventative compounds, including those against cancer, tea has been the focus of several scientific studies recently. One study performed by the USDA in 2006 found that tea had more than 700 different compounds, many of which were already known for their ability to fight disease. These compounds include polysaccharides, flavonoids, certain vitamins, and amino acids. All varieties of tea, including green, white, black, and oolong, were found to contain high levels of antioxidants, which are believed to be powerful anti-tumor agents.
Tea has high levels of vitamin C, which is known to fight cancer causing free radicals. Consuming tea regularly can greatly improve the intestinal balance of healthy bacteria by increasing beneficial microorganisms and lessening the harmful ones.
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The extract from mistletoe and the products that come from this extract, especially iscador, is one of the most commonly used oncological drugs in Europe. It’s been used as an overall treatment for cancer for years. One study that involved more than 10,000 cancer patients has shown that iscador may prolong the survival time of cancer patients. Amazingly, this study showed that the overall survival time of the group that took iscador was as much as 40 percent longer when compared to the control group. Mistletoe extract is known to show a better survival rate among cancer patients.
If all of Europe is using this natural plant extract, and it is saving, if not extending lives, and has been used with no problems for years, why isn’t America using this natural anti-cancer treatment?
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12. Burdock Root
Burdock root (arctium lappa) is native to northern Asia and Europe. Recent research shows that burdock root is very effective at removing the cancer causing toxins that accumulate in our digestive systems when certain foods are not properly digested. There are several anti-cancer herbal compounds that have used burdock root as a base including “Flor-Essence,” and “Essiac.” In fact, one anti-cancer formula sold and marketed in 1919, called “Hoxsey,” had a burdock root in it. Some herbalists state that burdock root can stop cancer cells from metastasizing. It is often used in India and Russia for the treatment of cancer. Burdock can be used safely, except for those who are on potassium lowering diuretic therapy, as it contains fairly high quantities of potassium.
RELATED: The Deadly Cancer No One Talks About
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You might have heard a great deal of controversy over graviola (or sour sop). Yet, its compounds are found to be promising natural anti-cancer agents. A lot of excitement over this fruit came from a study done in 2012 in Nebraska at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology that showed that it was effective against pancreatic cancer cells, which are known as extremely resistant to conventional therapies. By inhibiting several signaling pathways that pancreatic cancer cells use to regulate their survival and metastatic lifecycle, graviola makes them unable to complete their normal functions. Once they are inhibited in this manner, the rate at which pancreatic cancer cells spread to other organs to produce new cancerous cells becomes incredibly slow.
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Goldenseal has been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans to treat numerous infections, including infections of the mouth, throat, or gums. This plant was once so popular that it was harvested almost to the point of extinction! Goldenseal is a key ingredient in many mouthwashes and toothpastes thanks to its antibacterial compounds which prevent tooth decay and kill bacteria. This herb is currently undergoing scientific tests to see if it can lower cholesterol, and by lowering cholesterol levels, it decreases the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
One of the main problems with manufactured goldenseal supplements is that there is little or no oversight as to how much of the active ingredient each capsule contains.Yet, goldenseal is best used under the supervision of a herbalist as high doses can become toxic.
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15. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has been around for centuries, with the earliest known references to its medicinal use being from the ancient Egyptians, who used it therapeutically for burns or skin problems. Over the last time there have been very promising founding in using aloe vera for the treatment of certain types of cancer. A number of laboratory studies seem to show that aloe vera may be helpful in boosting the immune system to attack cancer cells. Emodin, one of the natural chemicals in the plant, has shown to stop liver and head and neck cancer cells growing in test tubes.
Different studies have shown, that other chemicals in aloe vera – acemannan and aloeride – are potentially stimulating immune system to make cancer-killing chemicals. Yet, aloe vera may have side effects, when consumed orally, so always speak to your doctor if you plan to do so.
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16. Licorice Root
One of the oldest botanical plants around, licorice root has been used by Ancient Chinese medicine as an anti-virus, anti-inflammatory, and anti-ulcer agent. DNA damage is often done by carcinogens, and licorice root provides protection from that type of damage. Licorice root also contains polyphenols that encourage apoptosis (automatic death) in cancer cells. The plant regulates the production of hormones from your adrenal glands, leading to reduction of stress, whereas stress is believed to often trigger the growth of cancer cells. Licorice root stops the proliferation of breast cancer cells in humans, according to a study done in South Korea. It modulates the expression of Bcl-2/Bax apoptotic regulatory factors. Licorice root has been linked to some side effects, so it is advised to consume the plant only under the supervision of your doctor or herbalist.
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Bloodroot is indigenous to Canada, eastern North America, and Nova Scotia. It was used by native peoples as an aid for respiratory problems.
There have been several publications showing that bloodroot has the potential to be a powerful anticancer agent. Bloodroot (sanguinaria canadensis) has been found to have consistent anti-neoplastic activity; it can shrink tumors, and has shown itself to be useful when dealing with sarcomas. It’s often used in naturopathic treatments for skin cancer. The sap is toxic if consumed in anything more than minute amounts, but all parts of the plant can be used externally.
It’s best to have a doctor’s support in taking bloodroot to ensure that all the cancer cells have been destroyed.
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18. Artemisia Annua
This little known plant recently became the subject of attention when two researchers at the University of Washington noted in 2001 that this wormwood had the potential of being highly effective against breast cancer cells.
One compound extracted from this plant, called artemisinin, has been shown to have a positive effect against cancer cells and malaria, along with numerous viruses, including hepatitis B and C, along with herpes simplex 1. One important study that is investigating the anti-cancer possibilities of Artemisia annua has been ongoing since 2008. It shows promise for the development of both preventative measures as well as therapeutic ones.
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Sseveral studies have been done regarding foxglove and its possible anti-cancer capabilities. Acteoside, which can be extracted from the leaves of this common flower, has shown a hepatoprotective effect from a toxin called aflatoxin-B1. This gives foxglove cytotoxic properties, so it empowers with a strong potential for chemo-preventative possibilities. Another chemical in this flower, called digoxin, is known to slow the spread of breast cancer cells, as well as prostate cancer by as much as 24 percent. Keep in mind that foxglove extracts are removed professionally. NEVER consume foxglove from your garden, as it is quite poisonous and must be used only with the advice and supervision of a doctor or herbalist.
READ ALSO: Top 15 Contaminated Fish You Should Not Be Eating
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20. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle has an active ingredient in their seeds which contains a wide mixture of flavonolignans, such as silibinin, silidianin, silicristin, and isosilibinin. Of all of these, silibinin has shown the strongest in vitro effects against human prostate cancer cells, human colon cancer cells, human lung cancer cells, and estrogen dependent and estrogen independent human breast cancer cells. Two studies done recently at the University of Colorado Cancer Center Studies have shown that silibinin has efficacy from both UVB and UVA induced skin cancer and photo-aging. These studies, done in 2012 and 2013, showed the amazing ability of silibinin to selectively kill skin cells mutated by UVA, but were nontoxic to healthy skin cells. It also accelerated the repair of UVB damaged noncancerous cells.
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