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Anticancer Herbs

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Anti-Cancer Herbs
List Of 60+ Anti-Cancer Herbs image to repin / share
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The subject of anticancer herbs is certainly a controversial one. Opinions are polarized - with some strongly opposed to orthodox cancer treatments, and some strongly opposed to herbal medicine.

A very significant amount of scientific research has been done in the investigation of anticancer properties of various plants - however much work still needs to be done.

The purpose of this page is neither to attempt to persuade, nor to debunk - but simply to present as much good information as possible on the subject, in order that the person interested in the possibility of anticancer herbs may be assisted in "doing their homework". See this page as a "starting point" for research or investigation. I've done my best to cite references that I have found. It is written in the small print at the foot of this page in greater detail, but it is expedient to repeat it: This page is not medical advice, nor is it intended to substitute for professional medical consultation.

Note - this page uses the term "anticancer" with a broad brush; and it is the most widely-used term - however please note that the National Cancer Institute considers that the term "anticancer herb" is not accurate enough. Their definition gives three terms: cytotoxic - action against tumors in vitro (i.e. in laboratory cell cultures); anti-tumor - toxic to tumors in animals; anti-cancer - action against tumors in human trials. Ref. article on this with many more points -

Mechanisms by which herbs may fight against or have a preventative effect on cancer are varied and the science complex. Some herbs may act as "immunomodulators" - stimulating the immune system to fight against cancer cells. Others may have a direct cytotoxic action - however this does not necessarily mean they should immediately be used; as an agent that has been shown to be toxic to cancer cells may also be toxic to healthy cells. Some herbs (such as Milk thistle) have been found by studies to act selectively against cancer cells and this is considered a highly desired quality.

One of the challenges of the work against cancer is that there are so many factors which may influence it, that it becomes difficult to pin down both actual causes and beneficial agents in real life. I for one would welcome large scale "big data" type research which might more easily detect correlations between lifestyle, dietary and supplement factors with incidence of cancer. A future project for the world to consider? We now have the technology.

With the above said, on to our list of over 60 herbs and plants for which anticancer properties have been reported / claimed. This page has officially turned into a mammoth tome and we have done our best to cite all references. I hope this information is of benefit to you. Let's work together to fight against this tragic disease. Suggestions are welcomed; please see the foot of the page for contact information.

(Note - "Anticancer Foods" have now been separated from this list and appear on their own page.)

Special thanks to Dan Ablir, Kelsey Wambold and Julie Anne Ne for their assistance with this page.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is celebrated for its varied pharmacological properties and therapeutic uses, one of which being a promising treatment for certain types of cancers. A systematic review of Aloe vera had accumulated a good amount of data from extensive literature search on dermatology studies and clinical trials and supports the use of Aloe vera as a candidate for photodynamic therapy of some kinds of cancer. [1]

Aloe vera also contains a substance known as 1,8-dihydroxy-3-[hydroxymethyl]-anthraquinone (or simply AE), which has been proven to induce cell death among T24 cells (human bladder cancer cell line). AE has notable anticancer effects and inhibits cell viability while stimulating the arrest of G2/M of the cell cycle. [2]


[1] Feily A. & Namazi M. R. (2009). Aloe vera in dermatology: a brief review. Giornale Italiano di Dermatologia e Venereologia, 144(1): 85-91. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[2] Lin J. G. et al. (2006). Aloe-emodin induces apoptosis in T24 human bladder cancer cells through the p53 dependent apoptotic pathway. Journal of Urology, 175(1): 343-347. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Ammania Vesieatoria

Ammania Vesieatoria is an obscure East Indian aquatic plant. The leaves are very acrid, and are sometimes used as blisters. Source -

Ammania Vesieatoria is an ingredient in Carctol, an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that has been used as an anticancer treatment. Carctol is under strict legal restrictions in the UK although the web site claims it has passed 'strict toxology tests'. Source -

Asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida)

Ferula is a perennial herb commonly found in Afghanistan mountains but is also cultivated in nearby India. It contains ferulic acid, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory activities and synergistic protective action against oxidative stress in skin and, by extension, photoaging and skin cancer. It also has alpha-pinene and luteolin, two compounds that have anticancer properties. [1]


[1] Asafoetida. Wikipedia. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Artemisia annua

Artemisia annua, also known as sweet wormwood, sweet annie, sweet fern, sweet sagewort, or annual wormwood, [1] sprang to fame as a possible anticancer herb in 2001 when two researchers at the University of Washington noted that wormwood showed highly selective activity against breast cancer cells. [2]

In more recent research, artemisinin, a compound extracted from A. annua, has been demonstrated to have activity against malaria and cancer cells [3][4] and to inhibit a number of viruses, including herpes simplex 1 and hepatitis B and C. [5]

Artemisinin and its derivatives have been shown to induce apoptosis of prostate cancer cells and to possess activity against breast cancer, leukemia, colon cancer, and other cancer cells. [6] A significant body of scientific research investigating the anticancer properties of Artemisia annua has been performed since 2008, which indicated the potential for development of both therapeutic and preventative treatments.

(See's full Artemisia article)


[1] Artemisia annua. Wikipedia. Retrieved 4 June 2013 from

2] Environmental News Network. (2001). Wormwood is the basis for a cancer-fighting pill. Retrieved 4 June 2013 from

[3] Wormwood. Ideal Health Services. Retrieved 4 June 2013 from

[4] Schaller J. (2006).The use of the herb artemisinin for babesia, malaria, and cancer: All the practical information you need to make smart decisions on artemisinin. CreateSpace. Retrieved 4 June 2013 from

[5] Blazquez A. G. et al. (2013). Novel artemisinin derivatives with potential usefulness against liver/colon cancer and viral hepatitis. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, pii: S0968-0896(13)00385-4. doi: 10.1016/j.bmc.2013.04.059. Retrieved 4 June 2013 from

[6] Mizushina Y. et al. (2010). Inhibitory effects of docosyl p-coumarate on DNA topoisomerase activity and human cancer cell growth. International Journal of Oncology, 37(4): 993-1000. Retrieved 4 June 2013 from


Baptisia, also known as wild indigo, is a perennial indigenous to New England. As it thrives in dry soil, it does not grow around streams or in areas of high precipitation. Baptisia has a high polysaccharide content, which makes it an immunomodulator (it stimulates the immune system). Applied topically, Baptisia soothes inflammation and reduces redness. Historically, Baptisia was used as a natural antibiotic in the treatment of both internal and external infections. Herbalists and homeopaths continue to use Baptisia to treat a wide range of imbalances in the body. Baptisia promotes a sense of mental clarity, motivation, and emotional well-being, all of which are seen as necessary components in a holistic healing program.

As a decongestant for the lymph and other drainage systems, Baptisia is best prepared as an infusion or in a tea with complementary herbs. Whole dried Baptisia herb can be prepared as an infusion, or the whole herb can be coarsely ground and brewed as loose-leaf tea or finely ground and administered in capsules made of vegetable cellulose. Although traditionally a mortar and pestle was used to grind the Baptisia herb, a coffee grinder will suffice.

Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Barberry has been used in Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) for over 2,500 years. It is primarily used to treat fever, diarrhea, nausea, stomach upset, and fatigue, but most recently it has been recognized as an anticancer herb. [1]

Barberry is found to have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties. It is used interchangeably with goldenseal (more commonly used in the West) because the two share a similar chemical composition. Modern studies indicate that barberry improves immune function and reduces hypertension, and according to Ayurvedic tradition, it is an effective treatment for liver tumors. [2] The results of a study in Taiwan indicate that when administered at high doses to cancer patients over time, berberine - a potent alkaloid in barberry - killed cancer cells in humans. [3]

Barberry was one of the ingredients in the Hoxsey herbal formula, which was first marketed as a cancer cure in 1919. [4]


[1] Ehrlich S. (2010). Barberry. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

[2] Liver cancer herbal treatment. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

[3] Ho Y. T. et al. (2009). Berberine induced apoptosis via promoting the expression of caspase-8, -9 and -3, apoptosis-inducing factor and endonuclease G in SCC-4 human tongue squamous carcinoma cancer cells. Anticancer Research, 29(10): 4063-4070. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

[4] Chamberlain J. (2008). Cancer: The complete recovery guide: Everything that everyone should know about cancer and how to recover from it. USA: Long Island Press. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia)

Evidences about the anticancer properties of bitter melon are vast. In a 2010 American study, bitter melon extract was effective against human breast cancer cells and primary human mammary epithelial cells. It was able to reduce the proliferation of cancer cells and induce cell death among breast cancer cells. [1]

Aside from breast cancer, the administration of bitter melon has also been proven beneficial for cervical and prostate cancer patients. Bitter melon can remarkably increase the number of natural killer (NK) cells, which is usually low or reduced in cervical cancer patients who have a defective immune system.[2] Its administration also results in the arrest of the cell cycle among prostate cancer cells and halts the progress of prostate tumor. [3]


[1] Ray R.B., Raychoudhuri A., Steele R., & Nerurkar P. (2010). Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation by modulating cell cycle regulatory genes and promotes apoptosis. Cancer Research, 70(5): 1925-1931. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-3438. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[2] Pongnikorn S., Fongmoon D., Kasinrerk W., & Limtrakul P. N. (2003). Effect of bitter melon (Momordica charantia Linn) on level and function of natural killer cells in cervical cancer patients with radiotherapy. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 86(1): 61-68. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[3] Ru P., Steele R., Nerurkar P. V., Phillips N., & Ray R. B. (2011). Bitter melon extract impairs prostate cancer cell-cycle progression and delays prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia in TRAMP model. Cancer Prevention Research (Phila), 4(12): 2122-2130. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Blackberry Bush

Blackberry bush owes much of its anticancer property to its ellagic acid content. Ellagic acid is a phenol antioxidant that can induce cancer cell death through apoptosis associated with decreased ATP production. More importantly however, this apoptotic activity comes without any toxic effect on the viability of normal human lung fibroblast cells. Ellagic acid expresses selective cytotoxicity and anti-proliferative activity as well. [1]


[1] Losso J. N., Bansode R. R., Trappey A., Bawadi H. A., & Truax R. (2004). In vitro anti-proliferative activities of ellagic acid. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 15(11): 672-678. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Black Walnut Hulls (Juglans nigra)

Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans and in Russian folk medicine, [1] black walnut hull is used today by herbalists to treat various conditions. [2]

According to certain theories within alternative medicine, all disease is caused by parasitic infection. These theories suggest that black walnut hull is effective in eliminating the parasites, including those responsible for chronic diseases. Taken internally, the extract or tincture of black walnut hull is listed in the "Prescription for Natural Cures" [3] as an effective way to rid the system of parasites, especially when combined with clove and wormwood extracts.


[1] walnut

[2] Medicinal uses of black walnut. Demand Media, Inc. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

[3] Taylor G. (2011). Healing properties of black walnut hulls. Demand Media, Inc. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

Blackberry (Rubus, Rubus vulgaris, Rubus fruticosus)

Recent pharmaceutical research indicates that a daily dose of blackberries might prevent cancer. Blackberries contain anthocyanins - which have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. According to findings presented by the University of Kentucky, [1] the anthocyanins found in blackberries may have the potential to inhibit cancer cell growth and to kill existing cancer cells.

Naturally occurring in fruits such as blackberries, anthocyanins are not produced by the human body. While the addition of fresh blackberries, or blackberry jam, into your daily diet can increase your body's defense against free radicals, the most efficient way to unleash the fruit's disease-fighting power is to take blackberry extract in capsule form so that the anthocyanins are not immediately digested (and thus will be delivered to the gastrointestinal tract). [1]


[1] Roenker R. (2006). Elisting blackberries in the fight against cancer. University of Kentucky Odyssey. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

Blepharis edulis

Blepharis edulis is a species of plant belonging to the family Acanthaceae and is indigenous to the Middle East. Found today in Pakistan, India, and Egypt, it is used as an herbal remedy in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine to treat cases of mental confusion and nervousness. The seed of Blepharis edulis is a component of Carcatol, a remedy used in Ayurveda to increase vitality in cancer patients.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Native to Nova Scotia, Canada, and the eastern North America, bloodroot was used by indigenous peoples as a respiratory aid. The external application of bloodroot has been used as a home remedy for skin cancer. [1] Opposing claims have been made regarding bloodroot as an anticancer agent: certain publications on the subject of anticancer herbs indicate that bloodroot is a powerful anticancer agent. However, medical research indicates that bloodroot cannot be relied upon as a means of removing tumors and should not be used as a home remedy. [2]


[1] Chamberlain J. (2008). Cancer: The complete recovery guide: Everything that everyone should know about cancer and how to recover from it. USA: Long Island Press. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

[2] Ross K. (2008). Crackdown on unproven cancer treatments focuses on Internet marketers. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 100(17): 1200-1202. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djn317. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Boswellia serrata (Frankincense)

Boswellia serrata has been studied for its anticancer properties, especially acetyl-11-keto-fl-boswellic acid (AKBA), the substance obtained from the gum resin of the said herb. A study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has demonstrated that AKBA inhibits the growth and proliferation of human pancreatic cancer lines, induces apoptosis, and suppresses the metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells to the spleen, liver, and lungs in an orthotopic nude mouse model. [1]

In another study, the oral administration of AKBA to mice resulted in the inhibition of colorectal cancer growth. AKBA was also found to be highly effective against ascites (accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity) and suppressed the metastasis of the cancer cells to the liver, lungs, and spleen in nude mice. [2]

It appears that Boswellia serrata's effectiveness against cancer lies on its ability to regulate cellular epigenetic machinery [3] and to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis by downregulating cancer-related biomarkers. [2]

Frankincense contains a number of compounds that hinder cancer cells from spreading or migrating. Immunologist Mahmoud Suhail in a BBC News write-up states, "Cancer starts when the DNA code within the cell's nucleus becomes corrupted. It seems frankincense has a re-set function. It can tell the cell what the right DNA code should be." [4]

A 2009 study from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center had reported that frankincense oil is effective in suppressing the viability of human bladder cancer cells, inducing death among cancer cells. More to this, frankincense oil appears to exert its anticancer effects without harming the normal bladder cells. [5] These findings are more or less similar to those of a 2012 study from Long Hua Hospital Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China. This Chinese study had demonstrated too that frankincense essential oil suppresses viability and stimulates cell death among cancer cells (in this case, human pancreatic cancer cells). Human pancreatic cancer cells seem to be sensitive to frankincense essential oil distillate fractions with higher-molecular-weight compounds. [6]


[1] Park B., Prasad S., Yadav V., Sung B., & Aggarwal B. B. (2011). Boswellic acid suppresses growth and metastasis of human pancreatic tumors in an orthotopic nude mouse model through modulation of multiple targets. PLoS One, 6(10): e26943. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026943. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Yadav V. R. et al. (2012). Boswellic acid inhibits growth and metastasis of human colorectal cancer in orthotopic mouse model by downregulating inflammatory, proliferative, invasive and angiogenic biomarkers. International Journal of Cancer, 130(9): 2176-2184. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26251. Retrieved 24th July 2013 from

[3] Takahashi M. et al. (2012). Boswellic acid exerts antitumor effects in colorectal cancer cells by modulating expression of the let-7 and miR-200 microRNA family. Carcinogenesis, 33(12):

[4] Howell J. (2010). Frankincense: Could it be a cure for cancer? BBC World News. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[5] Frank M. B. et al. (2009). Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9:6. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-9-6. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[6] Ni X. et al. (2012). Frankincense essential oil prepared from hydrodistillation of Boswellia sacra gum resins induces human pancreatic cancer cell death in cultures and in a xenograft murine model. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12: 253. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-253. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

The buckthorn plant is used to treat inflammation, especially in the abdominal area. [1] The results of in vitro tests indicate that the toxin T-514 (a dimeric anthracenone isolated from the buckthorn plant) might have an antitumor effect, [2] but further testing must be carried out before any claims can be made as to whether buckthorn is an anticancer agent. [3]


[1] Kraft K. & Hobbs C. (2004). Pocket guide to herbal medicine. Germany: Georg Thieme Verlag. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Piñeyro-López A., Martínez de Villarreal L., & Gonzalez-Alanís R. (1994). In vitro selective toxicity of toxin T-514 from Karwinskia humboldtiana (buckthorn) plant on various human tumor cell lines. Toxicology, 92(1-3): 217-227. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Diamon A. Buckthorn. Diamon Naturals. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Burdock root (Arctium lappa)

Native to Europe and northern Asia, burdock root is described in historical texts as a "blood purifier." [1] Physicians in ancient China used burdock root to treat skin conditions, venereal diseases, respiratory infections, and kidney problems. In Medieval Europe, it was used to remedy various ailments including arthritis, gout, pneumonia, and scurvy. Although scientific data is lacking overall, recent diabetes research determined that burdock root is an effective eliminator of cancer-causing toxins that accumulate in the intestinal flora from improper digestion of certain foods. [2]

Burdock root has a long history of use in traditional/herbal anticancer formulas including "Flor Essence" and "Essiac."

Burdock was one of the ingredients in the Hoxsey herbal formula, which was first marketed as a cancer cure in 1919. [3]


[1] Ehrlich S. (2011). Burdock. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Zak V. (2009). 20,000 Secrets of tea: The most effective ways to benefit from nature's healing herbs. USA: Random House Publishing Group. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Chamberlain J. (2008). Cancer: The complete recovery guide: Everything that everyone should know about cancer and how to recover from it. USA: Long Island Press. Retrieved 5 June 2013 from

Cacao (Theobroma cacao)

Cacao is a natural rich source of pentameric procyanidin, which exerts a cytotoxic effect against human breast cancer cells. [1]


[1] Ramljak D. et al. (2005). Pentameric procyanidin from Theobroma cacao selectively inhibits growth of human breast cancer cells. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 4(4): 537-546. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana)

The medicinal bark of this plant, which is native to Mexico and the Pacific coastline, was highly revered by indigenous peoples as a cleanser of the body and mind. Spanish explorers, fascinated by its healing properties, referred to this healing botanical as Cascara sagrada - which means sacred bark. In modern times, its power to purge the body of impurities sparked the interest of the pharmaceutical industry - Cascara sagrada became the most common active ingredient in over-the-counter laxatives until it was banned by the FDA in May 2002. Cascara sagrada is used today by traditional healers, naturopaths, and health-minded individuals to cleanse the colon of toxic matter, and research indicates that Cascara sagrada not only increases vitality but also protects against colon cancer.

Chamomile (Matricaria)

Chamomile contains chemical constituents with anticancer properties. One of these is apigenin, a plant flavone with antioxidant and anticancer activities. It is principally linked to a decreased cancer risk, especially to cancers of the breast, digestive tract, skin, prostate, and blood. [1]


[1] Shukla S. & Gupta S. (2010). Apigenin: A promising molecule for cancer prevention. Pharmaceutical Research, 27(6): 962-978. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from

Chaparral (Larrea tridentata)

Indigenous to the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, chaparral has traditionally been used to heal skin abrasions, burns, cold sores, and contact dermatitis. [1] Although its healing potential has long been recognized by traditional healers, the benefits of chaparral have recently been validated by scientific studies in which chaparral was found to contain nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), which inhibits tumor growth. [2]


[1] Chaparral herb profile. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Tierra M.. (2003). Treating cancer with herbs: An integrative approach. USA: Lotus Press. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum, syn. Eugenia aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata)

Clove pertains to the dried flower buds of a tree native to Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Zanzibar, and clove oil has been studied for its potential to improve immune function, [1] which correlates with cancer prevention. According to the American Pharmaceutical Association's Practical Guide to Natural Medicines, clove oil appears to have antioxidative properties and might have potential as an anticancer agent. However, more research must be carried out before any definitive claims can be made.[2] On the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) scale, pharmaceutical-grade clove oil measures at 1,078,700 ute/100g; it has the highest concentration of antioxidant activity of any single ingredient tested by the ORAC. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no sufficient evidence to suggest that clove oil can assist in the prevention or treatment of cancer. However, its high antioxidant rating indicates that it is a powerful supplier of anthocyanins, which can inhibit the growth of tumors and existing cancer cells.


[1] Shifko R. (2010). Clove oil health benefits. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Peirce A. (1999). The American Pharmaceutical Association practical guide to natural medicines. NY: HarperCollins. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

There is encouraging evidence that dandelion (Taraxacum) inhibits the growth and development of a wide range of cancer types and influences their metastasizing behavior.

Dandelion leaves are used by practitioners of both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat cysts and abscesses, water retention and tumors. [1]

A 2008 study provided scientific data on Taraxacum officinale that highly suggest that dandelion extracts or their constituents exert anticancer activities. In this study, three aqueous extracts prepared from the mature dandelion leaves, flowers, and roots were investigated for their activities on tumor progression and invasion. The results of this study had demonstrated that dandelion leaf extract suppresses the growth of MCF-7/AZ breast cancer cells in an ERK-dependent manner and blocks the invasion of LNCaP prostate cancer cells into collagen type I. On the other hand, dandelion root extract blocks the invasion of MCF-7/AZ breast cancer cells. [2]

The flower extract of dandelion also holds striking antioxidant activity in both biological and chemical models, as shown in a 2005 Canadian study in which extended lag phase and reduced propagation rate were observed in the oxidation of linoleic acid emulsion plus dandelion flower extract. In this study, the extract from dandelion had suppressed superoxide and hydroxyl radicals. [3] These results translate to dandelion being a potential novel anticancer agent.


[1] Fugh-Berman, Adriane. 2003. The 5-Minute Herb and Dietary Supplement Guide. Lippincot Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia, PA.

[2] Sigstedt S. C. et al. (2008). Evaluation of aqueous extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells. International Journal of Oncology, 32(5): 1085-1090. Retrieved 1 March 2013 from from

[3] Hu C. & Kitts D. D. (2005). Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) flower extract suppresses both reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide and prevents lipid oxidation in vitro. Phytomedicine, 12(8): 588-597. Retrieved 1 March 2013 from

Dioscorea (Dioscorea bulbifera, D. membranacea, D. collettii var. hypoglauca)

Dioscorea collettii var. hypoglauca has been a Chinese herbal remedy for renal/cervical/urinary cancer for centuries.



Of the nine different species of Echinacea, only three, namely, E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida, are used in marketed products. Native to North America, E. angustifolia was used by the Plains Indians to aid in preventing exhaustion. Other tribes used E. angustifolia to treat headaches and sore throats.

Echinacea can be purchased in capsules, tinctures, and teas. It can also be purchased as a liquid extract. All three commonly sold varieties of Echinacea are thought to have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Used to protect against sun damage, Echinacea is thought to be effective in preventing skin cancer. E. purpurea was commonly used by physicians to treat infections until it fell out of popularity in favor of antibiotics. Today, Echinacea is sometimes administered by physicians to cancer patients as a supplement to the normal course of treatment.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

A number of studies have investigated the anticancer activity of foxglove. Two varieties of foxglove, namely, Digitalis lanata Ehrh. and Digitalis purpurea L. (Plantaginaceae), have been explored for their in vitro cytotoxicity following extraction and fractionation (polypeptide isolation) and have been noted for their commendable antitumor potential. [1]

In 2003, a Spanish study screened the cytotoxic activity of the extract derived from the leaves of D. purpurea ssp. heywoodii against human cancer cell lines. This study found high cytotoxic action from the foxglove extracts used (IC50 0.78-15 μg/mL), particularly the methanolic extract, which contained steroid glycosides (gitoxigenin derivatives). [2]

Acteoside, a glycoside that can be isolated from foxglove leaves, exerts a hepatoprotective effect against aflatoxin B1, a toxin. It also inhibits the cytotoxicity caused by this toxin, making the said glycoside a potential chemopreventive agent. [3]


[1] Lindholm et al. (2002). Selective cytotoxicity evaluation in anticancer drug screening of fractionated plant extracts. Journal of Biomolecular Screening, 7(4): 333-340. Retrieved 5 March 2013 from

[2] López-Lázaro M. et al. (2003). Anti-tumour activity of Digitalis purpurea L. subsp. heywoodii. Planta Medica, 69(8): 701-704. Retrieved 5 March 2013 from

[3] Lee J. Y., Woo E., & Kang K. W. (2006). Screening of new chemopreventive compounds from Digitalis purpurea. Die Pharmazie, 61(4): 356-358. Retrieved 5 March 2013 from

Gentian (Gentiana triflora)

Gentian has been identified as an anticancer agent by PrevPharma, which, according to their website, "was established to create a high quality of processed biologic materials with evidence-based evaluation in the field of preventative medicine for cancer, cancer-related issues and metabolic syndrome." [1] Results from in vitro testing (of human tumor cells) indicate that gentian root extract has antiproliferative activity.

Prev-Pharma has implemented a strategy for the development of an antitumor drug using the antitumor component in gentian extract or its derivatives. This drug would be prescribed in cases of melanoma, lymphoma, and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma . [2]

Gentian is an ingredient in Phytolacca Syrup, [3] an herbal formula marketed as a cancer treatment in the late 1900s.


[1] PrevPharma: Objectives of company. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] PrevPharma: Core technologies. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Phytolacca syrup. Cancer Salves. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale)

Results from pharmacological experiments indicate that ginger might inhibit the growth of tumors in humans. [1] Gingerol, the active component in ginger, has been the focus of clinical trials determining its potential to prevent certain cancers. Researchers determined that in cases of ovarian cancer, administration of gingerol contributed to cancer-cell death. [2] In cases of ovarian cancer, gingerol was found to reduce inflammation and boost immune function. It has been stated by researchers that gingerol might protect against colon cancer. [3]


[1] Wichtl M. (2004). Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals: A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Rhode J. et al. (2007). Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. BMC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, 7: 44. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Jeong C. H. et al. (2009). [6]-Gingerol suppresses colon cancer growth by targeting leukotriene A4 hydrolase. Cancer Research, 69(13): 5584-5591. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-0491. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from


Native to North America, goldenseal has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples to treat infections of the gums, mouth, and throat. Today, it is often used as a key ingredient in natural toothpastes and mouthwash in order to inhibit bacterial growth and to prevent tooth decay. Studies show that berberine, a potent compound in goldenseal, has antibiotic properties. [1] Goldenseal is currently undergoing scientific analysis for its potential to lower cholesterol. Low cholesterol is associated with a decreased risk for developing certain types of cancer. [2]


[1] Sun Y., Xun K., Wang Y., & Chen X.. (2009). A systematic review of the anticancer properties of berberine, a natural product from Chinese herbs. 2009. Anticancer Drugs, 20(9): 757-769. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Efferth T. et al. (2005). Molecular determinants of response of tumor cells to berberine. Cancer Genomics & Proteomics, 2(2): 115-124. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Graviola / "Sour Sop" (Annona muricata)

The herb graviola has recently received an immense amount of attention due to its promising characteristics as a natural anticancer agent. Graviola is a flowering evergreen tree whose leaves, fruit, seeds, and stem are used as a remedy for bacterial and parasite infections, herpes, cough, and arthritis. [1] It often goes by the name "soursop," presumably because of the fruit's sour citrus flavor.

A 2012 study from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Omaha, Nebraska, has shown that graviola is effective against pancreatic cells, tumor cells that are known to be very resistant to conventional therapy. Graviola owes its ability to eliminate cancer cells to its compounds that inhibit several signaling pathways used by pancreatic cancer cells to regulate their metabolism, cell cycle, survival, and metastatic properties. Because of such inhibition, the pancreatic tumors' rate to spread to other organs and to form new cancer cell growth become remarkably slower. [2]

In another study from the Department of Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, the extract from the graviola fruit had been found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. The expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) was also downregulated. [3] It should be noted that mutations that result in the overexpression of EGFR have been strongly linked to a number of cancers

There has also been some controversy over Graviola due to "hyped" claims over its cancer-killing abilities. These have been comprehensively discussed here: Here also is the original study that is behind the "10,000 times stronger than chemo" claim:


[1] Find a vitamin or supplement. Graviola. WebMD. Retrieved 13 June 2013 from =GRAVIOLA

[2] Torres M. P. et al. (2012). Graviola: a novel promising natural-derived drug that inhibits tumorigenicity and metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo through altering cell metabolism. Cancer Letters, 323(1): 29-40. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2012.03.031. Retrieved 13 June 2013 from

[3] Dai Y. et al. (2011). Selective growth inhibition of human breast cancer cells by graviola fruit extract in vitro and in vivo involving downregulation of EGFR expression. Nutrition and Cancer, 63(5): 795-801. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2011.563027. Retrieved 13 June 2013 from

Grape Seed

A research team from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, had furnished evidence on the efficacy of grape seed extract against colorectal cancer. In this study, the extract from grape seed induced the death of colorectal cancer cells. What's more interesting is the fact that the more advanced the colorectal cancer cells were, the better the grape seed extract suppresses and limits the growth and survival of these cancer cells. The administration of grape seed extract was not only effective against colorectal cancer but also safe to healthy cells of the bidy. [1]

Numerous studies have demonstrated that certain nutritive and nonnutritive phytochemicals with potential cancer-preventive or antitumor activity can be isolated from grape seeds. Of these compounds, proanthocyanidins are worthy of mention. Grape seed proanthocyanidins have been found to suppress the potential of pancreatic cancer cells to migrate or spread. [2]

Proanthocyanidins have also been reported to inhibit the process of angiogenesis (creation of new blood vessels) induced by colon cancer and to suppress colon tumor growth itself. [3] The proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract act against colon cancer cells, significantly inhibiting cell viability while inducing cell death among cancer cells. [4] Proanthocyanidins can accumulate in high amounts in the colon because they are usually poorly absorbed along the gastrointestinal tract. [3] This is beneficial for the body as this means that grape seed proanthocyanidins can suppress colon cancer more efficiently in the colon.


[1] Derry M., Raina K., Agarwal R., & Agarwal C. (2012). Differential effects of grape seed extract against human colorectal cancer cell lines: The intricate role of death receptors and mitochondria. Cancer Letters, pii: S0304-3835(12)00732-X. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[2] Prasad R. & Katiyar S. K. (2012). Grape seed proanthocyanidins inhibit migration potential of pancreatic cancer cells by promoting mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition and targeting NF-?B. Cancer Letters, pii: S0304-3835(12)00474-0. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2012.08.003. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[3] Huang S. et al. (2012). Grape seed proanthocyanidins inhibit colon cancer-induced angiogenesis through suppressing the expression of VEGF and Ang1. International Journal of Molecular Medicine, 30(6): 1410-1416. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[4] Engelbrecht A. M. et al. (2007). Proanthocyanidin from grape seeds inactivates the PI3-kinase/PKB pathway and induces apoptosis in a colon cancer cell line. Cancer Letters, 258(1): 144-153. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

Guava (Psidium)

A study from Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea, had identified d-glucuronic acid, quercetin 3-glucuronide, loganin, and xanthyletin from the butanol fraction of guava leaf extract. The researchers of this study concluded that guava leaves could reduce lung cancer cell metastasis and that the fraction from guava leaves can suppress the expression and activity of matrix metalloproteinase-9 and metalloproteinase-2 by downregulating ERK1/2 activation in lung cancer cells. [1]

In another study from Taiwan, guava leaf extract was determined to be effective in inhibiting brain-derived metastatic cancers because of its high polyphenolic and flavonoid contents. The extract from guava leaves can serve as both a chemopreventive and a chemotherapeutic agent. [2] Guava is a potential source of compounds associated with the prevention and treatment of cancer and overall interferes with multiple signaling cascades known to induce tumor growth and formation.[3]


[1] Im I. et al. (2012). The butanol fraction of guava (Psidium cattleianum Sabine) leaf extract suppresses MMP-2 and MMP-9 expression and activity through the suppression of the ERK1/2 MAPK signaling pathway. Nutrition and Cancer, 64(2): 255-266. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2012.642455. Retrieved 7 March 2013 from

[2] Chen K. C. et al. (2007). Brain derived metastatic prostate cancer DU-145 cells are effectively inhibited in vitro by guava (Psidium gujava L.) leaf extracts. Nutrition and Cancer, 58(1): 93-106. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[3] Ryu N. H. et al. (2012). A hexane fraction of guava Leaves (Psidium guajava L.) induces anticancer activity by suppressing AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin/ribosomal p70 S6 kinase in human prostate cancer cells. Journal of Medicinal Food, 15(3): 231-241. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2011.1701. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Indian Sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus indicus)

Hemidesmus indicus is a plant found in South Asia. It is used in Ayurvedic herbal preparations. [1] A few studies appear investigating its anticancer potential. [2]

Hemidesmus indicus is an ingredient in Carctol, an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that has been used as an anticancer treatment. Carctol is under strict legal restrictions in the UK although the website claims it has passed "strict toxology tests." [3]


[1] Hemidesmus indicus. Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Introduction to Carctol. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)

A 2005 study found the oral administration of ethanolic extract of Jasminum grandiflorum flowers to have a potent (100%) chemopreventive efficacy in experimental mammary carcinogenesis in vivo. This is a very strong indicator for possible use as a breast cancer preventive herbal remedy or a basis for investigation and isolation of the bioactive principle, although much further research needs to be done and I have seen no follow-up studies listed since 2005! The extract also demonstrated significant anti-lipid peroxidative effect and improved the antioxidant defense of test subjects. [1]


[1] Kolanjiappan K. & Manoharan S. (2005). Chemopreventive efficacy and anti-lipid peroxidative potential of Jasminum grandiflorum Linn. on 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced rat mammary carcinogenesis. Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, 19(6): 687-693. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

(Here is the link to our full Jasmine Essential Oil article)

Lepidium sativum (Garden Cress)

In a 2002 Austrian study, Lepidium sativum (garden cress) was found to have chemoprotective effects. [1]

Lepidium sativum is an ingredient in Carctol, an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that has been used as an anticancer treatment. Carctol is under strict legal restrictions in the UK although the website claims it has passed "strict toxology tests." [2]


[1] Kassie F. et al. (2002). Chemoprotective effects of garden cress (Lepidium sativum) and its constituents towards 2-amino-3-methyl-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (IQ)-induced genotoxic effects and colonic preneoplastic lesions. Carcinogenesis, 23(7): 1155-1161. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Introduction to Carctol. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Liquorice Root

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root is one of the oldest botanical in Chinese medicine and is most frequently used as an anti-inflammatory, antivirus, and antiulcer agent. A study has shown that it provides protection against DNA damage that may be induced by carcinogens. The polyphenols found in liquorice also stimulate apoptosis in cancer cells. [1]

A South Korean study had also demonstrated the ability of liquorice root to suppress the proliferation of human breast cancer cells. Liquorice root provides protection against human breast cancer by modulating the expression of the Bcl-2/Bax family of apoptotic regulatory factors. [2]


[1] Wang Z. Y. & Nixon D. W. (2001). Licorice and cancer. Nutrition and Cancer, 39(1): 1-11. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Jo E. H. et al. (2004). Modulations of the Bcl-2/Bax family were involved in the chemopreventive effects of licorice root (Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch) in MCF-7 human breast cancer cell. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52(6): 1715-1719. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms contain a wealth of bioactive compounds that exert cancer-preventive effects on the body and are themselves potentially novel anticancer agents. These compounds have a variety of biological activities, including immunomodulating, free radical-scavenging, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, and anticancer. Because of such, it comes without surprise that medicinal mushrooms have always played an integral role in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as an herb that prevents or treats a variety of diseases, including cancer. Modern research in fact associates the anticancer property of medicinal mushrooms with the ability of their active constituents to intervene with intracellular signaling pathways related to inflammation, cell differentiation and survival, apoptosis, angiogenesis, tumor progression, and metastasis. [1]

A study from the Cancer Research Laboratory of the Methodist Research Institute, Indianapolis, had demonstrated the therapeutic potential of medicinal mushrooms against breast cancer. According to this study, medicinal mushrooms retard the proliferation of highly invasive breast cancer cells by inducing cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase and inhibiting the expression of genes that regulate the cell cycle of cancer cells. The ability of breast cancer cells to adhere, migrate, and invade was also suppressed by the medicinal mushroom blend. [2]

Mushrooms belonging to the following genera have been found to be with anticancer potential: Phellinus, Pleurotus, Agaricus, Ganoderma, Clitocybe, Antrodia, Trametes, Cordyceps, Xerocomus, Calvatia, Schizophyllum, Flammulina, Suillus, Inonotus, Inocybe, Funlia, Lactarius, Albatrellus, Russula, and Fomes. [3]

Numerous scientific studies (mostly from Asia) have investigated the anticancer properties of Reishi Mushroom - Ganoderma lucidum. 122 are listed with a search of PubMed. [4]


[1] Petrova R. D. (2012). New scientific approaches to cancer treatment: can medicinal mushrooms defeat the curse of the century? International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 14(1): 1-20. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[2] Jiang J. & Sliva D. (2010). Novel medicinal mushroom blend suppresses growth and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells. International Journal of Oncology, 37(6): 1529-1536. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[3] Patel S. & Goyal A. (2012). Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review. 3Biotech, 2(1): 1-15. Retrieved 15 June 2013 from

[4] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Milk Thistle (Silybum eburneum, S. marianum)

Several studies have shown anticancer effects for the extract of the pericarp (seed coat) of milk thistle. Silymarin, a standardized extract of the milk thistle seeds, contains a mixture of flavonolignans consisting of, among others, silibinin, isosilibinin, silicristin, and silidianin. Of these, silibinin (the major active constituent) has demonstrated in vitro anticancer effects against human prostate adenocarcinoma cells, estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent human breast carcinoma cells, human ectocervical carcinoma cells, human colon cancer cells, and both small and nonsmall human lung carcinoma cells. [1] [2] [3] [4] In addition, silymarin has been found to have very low toxicity - with no adverse effects observed even at high oral doses of 20 g/kg in mice and 1 g/kg in dogs. [5]

NEW (2013): Two University of Colorado (USA) Cancer Center studies, dated 2012 and 2013 respectively, have demonstrated that silibinin - the main active ingredient in milk thistle seed extract - has efficacy against both ultraviolet A (UVA)-induced and ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced skin carcinogenesis and photo-aging. What's truly astonishing is that silibinin has been found to act selectively, killing cells that have been mutated by UVA while simultaneously being nontoxic to healthy cells and also accelerating repair of UVB-damaged noncancerous cells. [6] [7]


[1] Mokhtari M. J., Motamed N., & Shokrgozar M. A. (2008). Evaluation of silibinin on the viability, migration and adhesion of the human prostate adenocarcinoma (PC-3) cell line. Cell Biology International, 32(8): 888-892. doi:10.1016/j.cellbi.2008.03.019. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Bhatia N., Zhao J., Wolf D. M., & Agarwal R. (1999). Inhibition of human carcinoma cell growth and DNA synthesis by silibinin, an active constituent of milk thistle: comparison with silymarin. Cancer Letters, 147 (1-2): 77-84. doi:10.1016/S0304-3835(99)00276-1. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Hogan F. S., Krishnegowda N. K., Mikhailova M., & Kahlenberg M. S. (2007). Flavonoid, silibinin, inhibits proliferation and promotes cell-cycle arrest of human colon cancer. Journal of Surgical Research, 143 (1): 58-65. doi:10.1016/j.jss.2007.03.080. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[4] Sharma G., Singh R. P., Chan D. C., & Agarwal R. (2003). Silibinin induces growth inhibition and apoptotic cell death in human lung carcinoma cells. Anticancer Research, 23(3B): 2649-2655. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[5] Vogel G., Trost W., Braatz R., Odenthal K. P., Brusewitz G., Antweiler H., & Seeger R. (1975). Pharmacodynamics, site and mechanism of action of silymarin, the antihepatoxic principle from Silybum mar. (L) Gaertn. 1. Acute toxicology or tolerance, general and specific (liver-) pharmacology. Arzneimittelforschung, 25(1): 82-89. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[6] Narayanapillai S., Agarwal C., Tilley C., & Agarwal R. (2012). Silibinin is a potent sensitizer of UVA radiation-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in human keratinocyte HaCaT cells. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 88(5): 1135-1140. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-1097.2011.01050.x. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[7] Narayanapillai S., Agarwal C., Deep G., & Agarwal R. (2013). Silibinin inhibits ultraviolet B radiation-induced DNA-damage and apoptosis by enhancing interleukin-12 expression in JB6 cells and SKH-1 hairless mouse skin. Molecular Carcinogenesis. doi: 10.1002/mc.22000. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from


Mistletoe (Viscum album) extracts and the products from it, particularly Iscador, the most commonly used oncological drug in Europe, have been used as part of the treatment for cancer. In one prospective nonrandomized and randomized matched-pair study involving 10,226 cancer patients, Iscador treatment was determined to prolong the survival time of cancer patients and to induce self-regulation. In fact, the mean survival time of the Iscador group was around 40% longer than that of the control group. [1]

The use of mistletoe extract is also associated with better survival among cancer patients, and a good number of studies highlighting the positive effects of mistletoe extract on cancer patients are abundant. [2]


[1] Grossarth-Maticek R., Kiene H., Baumgartner S. M., & Ziegler R. (2001). Use of Iscador, an extract of European mistletoe (Viscum album), in cancer treatment: prospective nonrandomized and randomized matched-pair studies nested within a cohort study. Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine, 7(3): 57-66, 68-72, 74-76 passim. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[2] Ostermann T., Raak C., & Bussing A. (2009). Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): A systematic literature review. BMC Cancer, 9: 451. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-9-451. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Nightshades (Solanum spp.)

Numerous scientific studies had evaluated the anticancer properties of Solanum (nightshade) species - in particular S. nigrum (black nightshade), but also S. mammosum (five-fingered eggplant), S. lyratum, S. dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade, Amara dulcis), and others. Note that several nightshade species are highly toxic.

Some papers here:

1. Cytotoxicity of hydro-alcoholic extracts of Cucurbitapepo and Solanum nigrum on HepG2 and CT26 cancer cell lines (Iran, 2010)

2. Review about mechanisms of anti-cancer of Solanum nigrum (Beijing, 2006)

3. Anticancer activity evaluation of the solanum glycoalkaloid solamargine. Triggering apoptosis in human hepatoma cells (Taiwan, 2000)

This is an interesting report - - it is thought that polysaccharides extracted from S. Nigrum may have antitumor activity via the mechanism of activation of immune responses of the host, rather than direct action against the U14 cervical cancer cells of the study. this looks like a serious study of Solanum lyratum- attempts were made to isolate the compounds responsible for antiproliferative activities.

"In-vitro cytotoxicity activity of S. nigrum extract against hela cell line and vero cell line" (India, 2009) - full paper available.

More - An "anticancer herbal" formulation including S. nigrum appears here -

A similar formulation, using bitter nightshade (S. dulcamara), appears here - This page also states that a hot water extract of S. dulcamara showed "100% inhibitory action" against JIC-26 cell line [human cervical carcinoma cell?] with no action against normal cells. No reference given although the language used indicates that this report was likely combed from the abstract of a scientific paper.

Oldenlandia (diffusa) (Bai Hua She She Cao or baihuasheshecao)

Several sources state that Oldenlandia is a Chinese herb that is currently used in cancer treatment. For example, according to, Oldenlandia "is considered to be effective in treating stomach cancer." No reference is cited.

Oldenlandia is a genus of flowering plants with around 240 species. [1] I found an excellent and serious article on the use of Oldenlandia in Chinese medicine here: According to that page, the principal species used is Oldenlandia diffusa, with several other species sometimes being used, such as O. corymbosa.


[1] Oldenlandia. Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Onion (Allium cepa)

Onion (Allium cepa) is associated with a wide array of pharmacological activities, including anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic. [1] It has also a high antioxidant activity. One study in fact had reported an improvement in the antioxidant status of aged Sprague Dawley rats on onion flesh or peel diet. [2]

An inverse association between the frequency of onion consumption and the risk of numerous common cancers had been established by one Italian study from a data set in southern Europe. The researchers from Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research used the data from an integrated network of Italian and Swiss case-control studies and multivariate logistic regression models to come up with odds ratios. The multivariate odds ratios for onion consumption were as follows: 0.16, oral cavity and pharynx cancers; 0.12, esophageal cancer; 0.44, colorectal cancer; 0.17, laryngeal cancer; 0.75, breast cancer; 0.27, ovarian cancer; 0.29, prostate cancer; and 0.62, renal cell cancer. [3]


[1] Griffiths G., Trueman L., Crowther T., Thomas B., & Smith B. (2002). Onions--a global benefit to health. Phytotherapy Research, 16(7): 603-615. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[2] Park J., Kim J., & Kim M. K. (2007). Onion flesh and onion peel enhance antioxidant status in aged rats. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo), 53(1): 21-29. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[3] Galeone C. et al. (2006). Onion and garlic use and human cancer. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84(5): 1027-1032. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from


Check out this fascinating firsthand account of an in vivo study finding strong results in favor of Origanum onites effect on lung cancer in rats.

Poke Root

Poke root is an ingredient in Origanum onites, [1] an herbal formula marketed as a cancer treatment in the late 1900s.


[1] Phytolacca syrup. Cancer Salves. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Piper or Pepper (Piper cubeba (Cubeb), P. nigrum (Black Pepper), P. longum (Long Pepper), P. regnellii, P. methysticum (Kava), and others)

Piper is a genus of 1,000 to 2,000 species: the "true peppers." [1] Several scientific studies report certain Piper species to have anticancer properties. [2]

Piper cubeba is an ingredient in Carctol, an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that has been used as an anticancer treatment. Carctol is under strict legal restrictions in the UK although the website claims it has passed "strict toxology tests." [3]


[1] Piper (genus). Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Introduction to Carctol. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Polygala senega

In vivo testing has confirmed that Polygala senega has the potential to protect against chemically induced lung cancer. [1] The article can be accessed through PubMed.


[1] Paul S. et al. (2011). Anticancer potentials of root extract of Polygala senega against benzo[a]pyrene-induced lung cancer in mice. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao, 9(3): 320-327. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)

Researchers have found that the components of prickly ash might have antitumor effects. [1]


[1] Trivieri L. & Anderson J. W. (2002). Alternative medicine: The definitive guide. CA: Burton Goldberg Group

Rabdosia rubescens (Dong Ling Cao, Isodon rubescens)

Rabdosia rubescens (whole plant) is a Chinese herb that is sometimes used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as treatment for cancer of the esophagus. Several scientific studies have associated the active components of R. rubescens and cancer treatment. [1]


[1] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red clover is one of the ingredients in Flor Essence, an ancient Ojibway Indian remedy and a still-popular herbal tonic taken by cancer patients. [1] According to findings presented by the University of Maryland Medical Center, red clover might help to prevent certain types of cancer. [2][3]


[1] The Health Experts of The Doctors' Prescription for Healthy Living. (2008). Natural cancer cures: The definitive guide to using dietary supplements to fight and prevent cancer. UK: Freedom Press. p.19.

[2] Cassileth B. (2010). Complementary therapies, herbs, and other OTC agents: red clover (Trifolium pratense). Oncology (Wiliston Park), 24(10): 960. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Ehrlich S. (2010). Red clover. University of Maryland Medical Center.

Himalayan Rhubarb (Rheum emodi)

Emodin, an anthraquinone extracted from rhubarb, has been the subject of much study for anticancer effects. PubMed search turns up 205 papers. [1] Rheum emodi is an ingredient in Carctol, an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that has been used as an anticancer treatment. Carctol is under strict legal restrictions in the UK although the website claims it has passed "strict toxology tests." [2]


[1] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Introduction to Carctol. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Several studies have found antitumor effects of rosemary on various human cancer cell lines, including some very recent research. [1]


[1] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Rue has been evidenced to reduce solid tumors. The extract that can be acquired from it is cytotoxic to Dalton's lymphoma ascites, Ehrlich ascites carcinoma, and L929 cells in culture. It has also been known to prolong the lifespan of experimental animals with tumors. [1] Ruta is a homeopathic medicine derived from rue. What sets it apart from other medicines is its ability to eliminate brain cancer cells, especially when used in combination with tricalcium phosphate. In one study from the Department of Molecular Genetics of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas, which included fifteen patients with intracranial tumors but treated with Ruta, six of the seven glioma patients manifested complete regression of tumors. [2]


[1] Preethi K. C., Kuttan G., & Kuttan R. (2006). Anti-tumour activity of Ruta graveolens extract. Asian Pacific Organization for Cancer Prevention, 7(3): 439-443. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

[2] Pathak S., Multani A. S., Banerji P., & Banerji P. (2003). Ruta 6 selectively induces cell death in brain cancer cells but proliferation in normal peripheral blood lymphocytes: A novel treatment for human brain cancer. International Journal of Oncology, 23(4): 975-982. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from


The results of in vivo and in vitro experiments indicate that crocetin, a carotenoid constituent in saffron, might have potential as an antitumor agent. [1] Saffron was found to inhibit skin cancer in mice. [2]


[1] Gutheil W. G., Reed G., Ray A., Anant S., & Dhar A. (2012). Crocetin: An agent derived from saffron for prevention and therapy for cancer. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 13(1):173-179. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Das I., Das S., & Saha T. (2010). Saffron suppresses oxidative stress in DMBA-induced skin carcinoma: A histopathological study. Acta Histochemica, 112(4): 317-327. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from


Scrophularia is a genus of around 200 species, several of which have found use in herbal anticancer preparations or research. Scrophularia marilandica was used by the Iroquois and was considered by Dr. Eli G. Jones, who had a forty-year career of treating cancer patients, to be "the most important item in his repertoire." [1]

Some scientific studies have investigated Scrophularia for its anticancer activity:

1. (Scrophularia ningpoensis)

2. (Scrophularia ningpoensis)

3. (Scrophularia striata)

4. (Scrophularia megalantha)


[1] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Scutellaria barbata (Banzhilian, Ban Zhi Lian, Barbed Skullcap)

Scutellaria barbata, not to be confused with Scutellaria baicalensis, is a plant in the mint family. It has a number of applications in Chinese herbalism, including its use as an anticancer agent. It grows predominantly in southeastern China. It is often combined with Oldenlandia (see above). [1] Scutellaria barbata is also used in TCM for prostate cancer, and several scientific studies support this. [2]


[1] Dharmananda S. (2004). Oldenlandia and Scutellaria: Antitoxin and anticancer herbs. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Also known as sour grass or sour weed, sheep's sorrel is often considered a weed. It has been used as a salad green. [1] It was one of the ingredients in the controversial Hoxsey Treatment - a 20th century herbal cancer formula that made both friends and enemies. [2]


[1] Rumex acetosella. Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] The Health Experts of The Doctors' Prescription for Healthy Living. (2008). Natural cancer cures: The definitive guide to using dietary supplements to fight and prevent cancer. UK: Freedom Press. p.19

More on the Hoxsey Treatment:




Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus rubra)

A botanical native to North America, slippery elm bark has cooling, anti-fever, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is considered by herbalists to be effective in treating stomach cancer. [1] Slippery elm bark is an ingredient in Essiac and Flor Essence - an ancient Ojibway Indian remedy and a still-popular herbal tonic taken by cancer patients. [2]


[1] Tierra M. (2003). Treating cancer with herbs: An integrative approach. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

[2] The Health Experts of The Doctors' Prescription for Healthy Living. (2008). Natural cancer cures: The definitive guide to using dietary supplements to fight and prevent cancer. UK: Freedom Press p. 19

Smilax china

A few scientific studies on the action of Smilax china on cancer have been done. [1] Smilax china is an ingredient in the product Carctol, an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that has been used as an anticancer treatment. Carctol is under strict legal restrictions in the UK although the website claims it has passed "strict toxology tests." [2]


[1] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Introduction to Carctol. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Stillingia sylvatica

To date, there are no reports associating Stillingia sylvatica use and cancer, although one study from the Molecular Mechanisms of Tumor Promotion Section of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland has demonstrated the ability of prostratin, a component of S. sylvatica, to antagonize tumor promotion. [1]


[1] Szallasi Z., Krsmanovic L., & Blumberg P. M. (1993). Nonpromoting 12-deoxyphorbol 13-esters inhibit phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate induced tumor promotion in CD-1 mouse skin. Cancer Research, 53(11): 2507-2512. Retrieved 7 June 2013 from

Tea (Camellia sinensis)

Tea is considered by many cultures to prevent and combat various diseases, including cancer. For this reason, it has been the object of scientific study in recent years. The results of these studies are varied. In some cases, tea was found to have disease-preventing properties. However, more research must be carried out before a consensus is reached.

In a 2006 USDA study, tea was found to contain over 700 different compounds, many of which are recognized for their potential to fight disease. Among these compounds, the most widely recognized and well understood are flavonoids, amino acids, vitamins, and polysaccharides. Tea varieties - green, black, white, and oolong - were found to contain high concentrations of antioxidants, giving them antitumor and anti-aging properties. [1]

Regular consumption of tea can improve the body's intestinal balance by increasing the presence of beneficial microorganisms while ridding the body of harmful bacteria. Tea leaves contain high concentrations of vitamin C, which is known to destroy cancer-causing free radicals. Due to tea's low glycemic index and potent cleansing properties, tea consumption has been associated with the prevention of coronary heart disease and diabetes. [2]


[1] Friedman M. et al. (2007). Structure-activity relationships of tea compounds against human cancer cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 55(2): 243-253. doi: 10.1021/jf062276h S0021-8561(06)02276-X. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[2] Sabu M. C., Smitha K., & Kuttan R. (2002). Anti-diabetic activity of green tea polyphenols and their role in reducing oxidative stress in experimental diabetes. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 83(1-2): 109-116. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from (See also Anticancer Foods )

Tribulus terrestris

Native to North Africa, Tribulus terrestris was first documented in the Brazilian Pharmacopeia in 1950. [1] Scientific research indicates that T. terrestris might be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of cancer. [2] T. terrestris is an ingredient in Carctol, an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that has been used as an anticancer treatment. Carctol is under strict legal restrictions in the UK although the website claims it has passed "strict toxology tests." [3]


[1] Center for Mediterranean Corporation. (2005). A guide to medicinal plants in North Africa. Malaga, Spain: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Reproduction

[2] Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[3] Introduction to Carctol. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Turkey Tail Fungus (Trametes versicolor)

One of the more promising of the anticancer herbs, this one has been the subject of much study in recent years and even some favor within orthodox medical circles. We wrote a full report on this one here:

Turmeric (Curcuma longa or Curcuma zedoaria)

Native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, turmeric has been used - since 1900 BC - by Ayurvedic physicians to alleviate the symptoms of allergies and inflammation, liver complications, and rheumatism. [1] As a medicine, turmeric is taken as a tea or as an ingredient in chai, the traditional Indian preparation of black tea.

The component in turmeric with anticancer potential - curcumin - has been researched in depth. [1] In clinical trials, turmeric proved to be effective in preventing colon and pancreatic cancers. [1] While studies have been far reaching, few conclusions have been drawn as to whether turmeric should be used to treat cancer.

It is reported that curcumin induces apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells without cytotoxic effects on healthy cells. Curcumin achieves this via suppression of the nuclear factor-kappaB activation pathway, the activation of nuclear factor-kappaB being linked to a number of inflammatory diseases - including cancer. [2] Recent studies indicate that curcumin might have anticancer potential. When administered orally to rats, curcumin proved to be effective in preventing cancer of the skin, stomach, colon, lung, and breast. [1]

According to an in vivo study in 2001, the rodent specimens that were given curcumin as a dietary supplement throughout their life cycle showed a significant reduction in potentially cancerous cellular activity as compared to those in the control group. [1] Recently, curcumin was determined to be a regulator of genes involved in cancer formation - in clinical trials, it was found to inhibit the migration of lung cancer cells. [1]

The idea that curcumin might inhibit cancer cell growth has prompted the formation of subsequent hypotheses. Most recently, curcumin has been studied for its potential to treat myeloma and breast cancer. [1]


[1] Cho W. C. S. (Eds.). (2011). Evidence-based anticancer materia medica. London: Springer Science Business-Media.

[2] Aggarwal B. B. & Shishodia S. (2004). Suppression of the nuclear factor-kappaB activation pathway by spice-derived phytochemicals: reasoning for seasoning. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1030: 434-441. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)

Researchers claim that the extract of D. muscipula, under the trade name Carnivora, is an immunomodulator, benefiting the immune system by selectively responding to abnormal cells and leaving regular cells unharmed. [1] PubMed does not list studies; however, some research is cited on


[1] Carnivora Research International. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

White Cedar(Thuja occidentalis)

Thuja has a history of traditional use as a cancer remedy. [1][2] It was taken internally and also injected directly into tumors. [3] A 2009 study at the University of Kalyani found the thujone-rich fraction of crude ethanolic extract of T. occidentalis to have cytotoxic, antiproliferative, and apoptotic effects on the malignant melanoma cell line A375, with minimal inhibition of growth of normal cells. [4]


[1] - 23 abstracts on pubmed related to 'thuja' and 'cancer'.

[2] formulas.php

[3] Thuja occidentalis (White Cedar, Arbor Vitae) 274. Retrieved 6 June 2013 from

[4] Biswas et al. (2011). Thujone-rich fraction of Thuja occidentalis demonstrates major anti-cancer potentials: Evidences from in vitro studies on A375 Cells. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011: 1-16.doi:10.1093/ecam/neq042.

White Lily (Lilium album)

Old herbal from Elizabeth Blackwell (1751) states white lily to have antitumor action. This property is not mentioned by Culpeper. I did not find any related scientific studies of Lilium album; however, a few related studies on other Lily species - of possible interest to those doing further research - can be found:





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