Recommend these 3 true botanicals for their proven cancer-attacking abilities
Holistic and integrative practices have some distinct advantages over conventional models, but they can literally be complementary practices, too. Aside from the obvious benefits of natural anti-inflammatories for stopping acute and chronic pain, there are easily recommended true botanicals that can potentially prevent cancer from developing, inhibit its growth and destroy tumors altogether.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)
The use of boswellia resin dates back thousands of years in Ayurvedic practice, but it is only in recent decades that the full potential of extracted boswellic acids has been scientifically studied for cancer-inhibiting effects.1-5
Aside from reducing DNA-damaging inflammation, research has shown that boswellia can prevent already damaged cells from duplicating, inhibit their growth and prevent further tumor growth. Age and environment can cause protective genes in the body to become inactive and essentially fall asleep. Some of these genes direct the body to suppress tumors; that is why the risk of cancer increases with age — the body’s defenses are increasingly inactive. My colleagues and I have found that boswellia helps stop cancer cells and prevents their spread.4,5
This is due, in large part, to acetyl-11-keto-B-boswellic acid (AKBA), a key compound in this true botanical. In my own research, a high-AKBA boswellia extract (BOS-10) was found to inhibit the growth of tumors in colorectal cells. We attributed this to many reasons, but two stand out: One is through DNA demethylation, and the other is by waking up the sleeping genes that naturally suppress tumor growth. In other words, aside from its anti-inflammatory actions (particularly against 5-lipoxygenase), boswellia helps unlock the body’s potential to heal itself.4,5
Choosing the right boswellia is critical. A balanced approach, with an extract standardized for at least 10% AKBA and virtually no beta-boswellic acids, means that patients get a true, complete boswellia with all of the beneficial components they need and none of the potentially dangerous amounts of beta-boswellic acid.2,6
Curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Curcumin awakens cancer-fighting genes in our bodies, preserves healthy DNA and inhibits the changes that cause normal cells to become cancerous, stops tumor formation, and prevents metastasis. Curcumin also roots out cancer stem cells that have become immune to chemotherapy drugs.7
While research conducted by myself and my colleagues found that curcumin specifically stopped cancer stem cells of the colon, it is among valuable true botanicals for fighting cancers throughout the body. Published studies on curcumin’s anticancer activity (so far) have found that it can suppress breast, prostate, liver, skin, colon, oral and lung tumors.8-12
Cell research showed that the best results for inhibiting cancer growth occurred when curcumin was used as a pretreatment before administering chemotherapy drugs. The compound increases the activity of cancer drugs and decreases drug resistance in cancer cells, while protecting normal cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments.12,13
Taking curcumin in combination with chemotherapy drugs can mean a reduced requirement for the drugs themselves and fewer side effects. In fact, a clinical trial showed that curcumin decreased the severity of adverse effects of radiation therapy on the urinary tract in men with prostate cancer.14
Aside from working well with conventional drugs, curcumin is an excellent partner to other true botanicals. The curcumin I’ve used in my research is blended with turmeric essential oil for enhanced absorption and blood retention. The additional anti-inflammatory aspect of ar-turmerone and other turmerones present in the oil may be helpful as well and add to the overall benefits of curcumin.
In one study, my colleagues and I found that a combination of the boswellia and curcumin we’d used in previous research as single herbs induced tumor suppression more effectively than either of these incredibly strong botanicals could on their own.15
Similarly, combining curcumin with tannin-free, oligomeric proanthocyanidins from fractionated grape seed extract (VX1) showed intriguing results. When the two botanicals were administered together, they were much more powerful in fighting tumor growth than either of the ingredients could individually.16
Grape (Vitis vinifera) seed extract
Like boswellia and curcumin, grape seed extract is a powerful addition to a patient’s regimen. There has been an increased understanding of cancer stem cells that can re-emerge following treatment, sometimes years later, but even stronger and more resistant. I’ve been involved with research showing that the same French grape seed extract that my colleagues and I tested in combination with curcumin did more than reduce tumors. It also stopped cancer stem cells — the “super cell” seeds of recurring cancer that often resists chemotherapy on its own.17
OPCs from grape seed achieve this, in part, by blocking key pathways necessary for cancer stem cell survival, including Hippo-YAP. This specific extract was so powerful that viable cancer stem cells exposed to these OPCs declined by 70%. Further study showed that it suppressed tumor growth overall by up to 90%.17
Cellular resistance to chemotherapy drugs is one of the biggest barriers to conventional treatment. Another study found that the OPCs from the French grape seed VX1 extract inhibited the growth of chemo-resistant cancer cells and the attendant proteins that would otherwise help them thrive.19 This potentially means that grape seed could provide an adjunct therapy to chemotherapy and make those drugs more effective at lower dosages.18
Absorption and efficaciousness are intricately linked. With this in mind, OPCs from French grape seed extract (VX1) were compared to an unfractionated grape seed extract that was not tannin-free, nor specifically standardized for the compounds. We found that low molecular weight OPCs were much more effective anticancer agents compared to larger, tannin- bound proanthocyanidins from an unfractionated grape seed extract.19
These OPCs targeted specific microRNAs that replicate cancer cells, boosted levels of tumor suppressor genes, downregulated tumor-promoting genes and prevented the migration of cancer cells.19
In vivo tests also found that the tannin-free OPCs from the French grape seed extract were more effective at much lower dosages compared to the unfractionated extract. For example, in just 13 days, 100 mg of French grape seed OPCs reduced tumor size by 65%; and even a 50-mg level brought the tumor size down 40%. Compared to the unfractionated extract at only 13% and 8%, this is a substantial difference. And these actions were targeted to cancer cells only — there were no harmful effects on healthy cells.19
Integrative, effective options and your patients
One of the goals of holistic treatment is to work on a broad front along many different pathways at once — in this case, to root out the causes of recurring cancer.
These true botanicals can easily be incorporated into a protocol for your patients. Each one contributes its own strengths, and they can be combined for an even greater spectrum of actions. And, in true integrative fashion, they can be used safely alongside conventional therapies.
AJAY GOEL, PhD, AGAF, is Professor and Chair, Department of Translational Genomics and Oncology at the Beckman Research Institute City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as Director of Biotech Innovations at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California. He has also been recognized as an American Gastrointestinal Association Fellow (AGAF) for his research on colorectal cancer. In fact, Goel has spent more than 20 years researching cancer and has been the lead author or contributor to over 300 scientific articles published in peer- reviewed international journals and several book chapters. He is currently researching the prevention of gastrointestinal cancers using integrative and alternative approaches, including botanical products. Three of the primary botanicals he is investigating are curcumin (from turmeric), boswellia and French grape seed. For inquiries regarding his research, Goel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Ravindranathan P, Pasham D, Balaji U, et al. Carcinogenesis. 2018 May 28;39(6):767-777.