Study: Using herbs for treatment of cancer not necessarily a good idea

Many cancer patients, despairing of chemotherapy and other medical procedures, turn to herbal medicines. But according to new research at the Technion, those herbal remedies may actually exacerbate the cancers they are supposed to fight, at least when they are used in conjunction with medical care procedures.

Late-night radio talk shows, Sunday newspaper supplements, and innumerable websites tout the benefits of various herbal supplements as cancer fighters. Turmeric, for example, is being heavily promoted by many alternative care practitioners as an effective remedy for cancer. According to one popular site, “turmeric’s active ingredient is an extracted compound called curcumin. Studies have shown that curcumin helps prevent several forms of cancer including breast, lung, stomach, liver, and colon because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It stops the development of cancer by interfering with the cellular signaling aspects of the chronic disease.”

Not necessarily, according to a team led by Professor Eran Ben-Arye of the Technion. A study published by Ben-Arye shows that herbal remedies — such as turmeric — may increase the toxic effects of certain chemotherapies, while gingko biloba and green teas could increase the risks of bleeding in some cancer patients. Other herbs, including black cumin and turmeric, can alter the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

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