I'm just back from a seminar about the latest research into cancer treatments, and how herbs can help support people through them. The common side-effects of chemo and radiotherapy are well known, and we are learning more all the time about how herbs can be used alongside them.
Sadly, it's still common for oncologists to ask their patients to stop all other treatments while having chemo, in case they interfere with the work of the drugs. However, there is growing evidence that some herbs can potentiate the drugs.
Some herbs can help reduce toxicity
For example, black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa) will enhance the effect of gemcitabine – given for pancreatic carcinoma – and reduce its toxicity. And the infamous Japanese knotweed (Polygonatum cuspidatum) has an unexpected virtue: it contains even more resveratrol than black grapes, and when taken with chemotherapy for breast carcinoma, it seems to reduce resistance and enhance the effects of the drugs.
There are many more examples like this, and the more we ask the questions, the more we will find interesting answers. At the moment, research tends to focus on just a few herbs – turmeric and green tea are currently top of the list – with a view to isolating their constituents to make new drugs.
The action of whole herbs is exciting
But it's far more exciting to look at the actions of whole herbs, and how they can help you make best use of the drugs or radiotherapy, and simply support your vitality through the whole process of treatment. It's a fair bet that within the next decade or so, cancer treatments will become a lot more sophisticated and a lot less difficult for patients to cope with.