Herbs in the News...
Herbs Against Cancer
NEWPORT BEACH, CA (thehealthchannel.com) Preliminary results
from a study of ancient Chinese herbs by University of California, San
Francisco researchers indicate that a surprising number of them may have
anti-cancer benefitsat least in the laboratory.
Led by Dr.
Michael Campbell, the researchers have so far looked at more than 70
traditional Chinese and Tibetan herbs and preparations, and found that almost a
third may have at least some ability to inhibit cancer cells
grown in test
testing agents that have been used for hundreds of years, said Campbell
in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
More than 120
herbs and traditional medicines will eventually be evaluated by Campbells
team and others at UCSF. Sixteen of the herbs tested so far have been deemed
highly active against breast cancer cell growth. Among these, rz
rhei, a Chinese Rhubarb root, was especially promising in laboratory tests.
Other herbs that
showed significant anti-cancer activity in laboratory tests included ban zhi
lian, zhi mu, and wang bu liu xing. These may be the focus of future clinical
trials in human breast cancer
and other patients.
herbs have been found to be moderately active, according to
Campbell, with the balance having no discernible impact on the
some early results have been disappointing. For example, a small trial
evaluating a Tibetan herb preparation created by the personal physician of the
Dalai Lama slowed tumor progression in only one of nine women with metastatic
breast cancer who took the preparation over the course of a year.
In addition to
testing Chinese and Tibetan herbs for anti-cancer properties, other UCSF
researchers are evaluating a 21-herb formulation to see if it alleviates some
of the side effects of chemotherapy. A third trial is studying the use of
Chinese herbs to treat menopausal symptoms in
breast cancer patients.
focusing on areas unmet by industry, said another UCSF researcher, Isaac
Cohen, in the Chronicle story. However, he cautioned that their work should be
kept in perspective. We are targeting symptoms. We dont have a
SOURCE: The San Francisco Chronicle, July 16, 2001.
Written by Richard A. Zmuda, thehealthchannel.com
Herbal Remedies: Helpful or Harmful?
Experts Call for
of Alternative Medicines
turning more and more often to herbal remedies as a natural alternative to
drugs. But before you head off to the health food store for that bottle of St.
John's wort or kava kava, you should know that natural does not necessarily
mean safer. In fact, evidence is mounting that some of the most popular herbs
have serious side effects.
Now, a team of
researchers has collected all the information available -- from clinical trial
results to FDA warnings to individual physician's reports -- on several of the
most widely used herbs, and created a set of guidelines that doctors and
patients can use to protect themselves. Their complete report appears in the
Spring issue of the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and
"The bottom line
is that these herbal medications are purported to be harmless, but that's an
incorrect myth. [Reports about individuals] and letters to the editors in
various medical journals have documented that these are in fact not harmless,"
says lead author W. Curt LaFrance Jr., MD, who is with the departments of
neurology and psychiatry at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence,
St. John's wort,
for example, which can indeed be useful in mild or moderate depression, has now
been implicated in heart transplant rejection. Apparently, LaFrance explains,
the herb can render anti-rejection drugs ineffective. Kava kava, which has been
shown to successfully relieve insomnia and anxiety, can also cause patients on
various psychiatric drugs like Valium and Librium to become severely
disoriented. And the list of side effects and drug interactions continues to
prescription drugs, which are closely regulated by the FDA, herbal products are
considered food and are not required to undergo rigorous animal and human
testing before being placed on the market. It is entirely up to the consumer to
seek out information before deciding to take an herbal product, but most
consumers are not doing the research. And they're not talking to their doctors,
either, LaFrance tells WebMD.
should be making every effort to learn exactly which drugs -- chemical or
herbal -- their patients are taking, patients must do their part as well, says
LaFrance. People worry that their doctor will scoff at their use of an
alternative medicine, he says, so they put themselves at unnecessary risk
by not mentioning it.
"I think there
is potential for these herbal medications, so I wouldn't throw the baby out
with the bath water," says LaFrance. "But it needs to be cautiously monitored."
Herbs may come from a garden rather than a laboratory, but they "are bioactive
substances with the potential to do good and the potential to harm," he says.
"The bottom line is that they
should be regulated."
Liza Jane Maltin,
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WebMD Medical News, June 12, 2000