As a follow-up to my post last week, Botanical Medicine: A Symphony in Harmony Against Cancer, I want to present some of the latest research into botanicals and cancer.
Researchers are investigating the potential of botanicals to treat all types of cancers, studying the use of natural compounds to prevent or reverse the process of carcinogenesis. For example, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is one of the most fatal cancers. Despite advances in the management of HNSCC, the overall survival for patients has not improved significantly due to advanced stages at diagnosis, high recurrence rate after surgical removal, and second primary tumor development. To develop approaches that can intervene at any stage of cancer development requires understanding of the crosstalk between cancer signaling pathways and networks to retain or enhance chemopreventive activity while reducing known toxic effects. Researchers are discovering that many natural dietary compounds have been identified as multiple molecular targets, effective in the prevention and treatment of cancer.1
The world of Western conventional medicine is oriented to the ‘magic bullet’ paradigm, where the search for drugs relies on the concept of compounds that bind specifically to a single target and demonstrate a high degree of potency. Recently, though, this approach has broadened, with researchers suggesting that it is non-specific and relatively weak patterns of activity that may ultimately prove of greatest importance in drug discovery. Though research on multi-targeted drugs is still at an early stage, studies indicate that certain antipsychotic drugs, for instance, appear to be more effective when several types of receptors are targeted.1-3
Traditional herbal medicine recognized centuries ago that combining many plants delivers far better results than relying on a single plant. This is true both for supporting health and vitality and for treating imbalances and diseases. The multi-component nature inherent in medicinal herbs makes them particularly suitable for managing the multitude of issues that present in complex diseases such as cancer, and offers great potential for synergistic actions, including interactions between botanicals and the relationship of botanicals to conventional cytotoxic drugs such as chemotherapy and targeted agents.
In a recent article published in Medscape, the authors state that antioxidants are not only useless in preventing cancer, but quite possibly promote cancer growth. The target audience for this article is primary care clinicians, oncologists, nurses, and other clinicians who care for patients at risk for cancer, with the purported goal of providing “medical news to primary care clinicians and other healthcare professionals in order to enhance patient care.”
I find this article disturbing, to say the least. Here’s why:
1) The article is blatantly biased. The authors point out only the few studies that have concluded negative results, while totally ignoring all of the positive studies—of which there are several hundred, or more. I do not understand how in good conscience they can skew the research findings in this way. Furthermore, I’m not certain of what they have to gain from this inaccurate representation of the total body of research available.
2) Their theory of antioxidants in relationship to cancer is completely wrong. The studies they use for their findings involve mostly synthetic forms of vitamin or mineral isolates. This is far removed from nature, and something I would never recommend. It’s essential to understand that the negative impact and possible increase in cancer incidence is related to a substance being a ‘PRO-OXIDANT’ and not an anti-oxidant. For example, high doses of vitamin C, K-3, beta-carotene, and E are all pro-oxidative when used as isolates, in high doses, and in certain conditions. It’s well established that smokers who take synthetic beta-carotene have an increased incidence of lung cancer. This does not mean that antioxidants cause cancer.
3) Details matter! It raises my ire when people use the word antioxidant in a general way. What specifically are they talking about? For example, the researchers for this article refer to the SELECT trial. Let’s explore this in a bit more depth to understand what the trial really reveals about antioxidants.
I’ve had numerous requests for information regarding specific dietary supplements and herbs that can help to normalize cholesterol profiles. Because there is so much misinformation regarding cholesterol, I want to reiterate that cholesterol is not the evil monster that it is made out to be.
Cholesterol is a lipid that is critical for the proper functioning of the body, and is used to build cell membranes, create sex hormones, aid in immune health and tissue repair; and facilitate digestion. However, elevated LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol, in the presence of prolonged inflammation, oxidation (of LDL cholesterol) and elevated blood glucose and insulin levels can contribute mightily to cardiovascular disease.
Over the last few months, headlines around the world have focused on the Ebola epidemic sweeping West Africa. In early August of this year, the World Health Organization defined the outbreak as a Public Health Event of International Concern. Closer to home, the focus has been on the recent outbreak in the US, with calls for special hospitals equipped to handle Ebola and for specialists to recognize and treat the disease as well as to be trained in monitoring travelers at airports.1
I’ve recently had numerous inquiries from people who are concerned about Ebola. It’s important to understand that the possibility of an Ebola epidemic in the United States is extremely low.2 However, because of increasing concern about the disease, I’m presenting information from my research and guidance as far as what I personally would do if I was inadvertently exposed to the virus, or if I actually contracted the disease. Although I have no factual scientific data on any of these recommendations, based on the etiology of Ebola, I would look to the herbal toolbox I have used for decades as my first line of defense.
In part 1 of this series, I provided an in-depth evaluation of the powerful role that diet plays in cardiovascular health, particularly in regard to achieving healthy cholesterol levels. As I pointed out in that post, I do not recommend statins, except in rare cases. Even then, the dosages I recommend are far less than the current standard of practice dictates.
Although cholesterol is often singled out as the cause of cardiovascular disease, this waxy, fat-like substance is essential to our health. Cholesterol is found in every cell, and is an important component of the membrane that surrounds cells. It’s also necessary for hormone production, specifically the hormone pregnenolone, which is the precursor to all other steroid hormones. Additionally, cholesterol is the precursor for bile acids that are necessary for digestion and provitamin D.