Natural healing, natural wellness

Archive for June, 2010

Oldenlandia – The Cancer-Killing Weed

For years I ignored it because I didn’t know what it was. There were usually several varieties available on the supermarket shelves, and in the Chinese medicinal shops it was available as dried herbs, granules as well as pills or capsules. Then recently, for some reason, I started researching it. What I found out spurred me to stock my larder with products containing it.

The oldenlandia plant has been used by the Chinese for medicinal purposes for centuries. The book “An Illustrated Guide to Antineoplastic Chinese Herbal Medicine” lists oldenlandia as having the following:

Properties: sweet, bland, slightly bitter, and slightly cold. Clears heat and toxin, activates blood circulation, removes blood stasis, promotes diuresis, and relieves stranguria (urinary obstruction).

Indications: various kinds of tumor, especially tumors of the digestive tract, lymphosarcoma, carcinoma of the liver and larynx. Also for appendicitis, hepatitis, pneumonia, cholecystitis, urinary infection, furunculosis, cellulites, and snake bite.

In an article titled “Oldenlandia and Scutellaria: Antitoxin and Anticancer Herbs” by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, USA, it is said that the oldenlandia is from the Rubiaceae family, and is collected from the wild. It is found mainly in the southeastern provinces of China-Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian-growing at low altitude in moist fields. According to Dr. Dharmananda, Dr. Jiao Shude, in his “Ten Lectures on the use of Medicinals”, says that he “frequently adds about 30-40 grams of this medicinal to an appropriate decoction medicine devised according to the principle of pattern identification” for treating various forms of cancer. He also suggests adding some other anticancer herbs, such as scutellaria barbata.

In “Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica”, it states that: “The herb at the dose of 30-60 grams is often added to conventional prescriptions for carcinoma.” In “Chinese Medicinal Herbs of Hong Kong”, among the indications for oldenlandia is “early stage of cancer of lungs, liver, and rectum.” It is recommended there that oldenlandia be used in a dosage of 60 grams along with 30 grams of scutellaria as a decoction, taken once a day.

Various laboratory studies of the action of oldenlandia suggest that the herb may contribute to inhibiting growth of cancer cells, promoting cancer cell death (apoptosis), and enhancing immune attack against cancer cells.

In the 2006 report “Evidence for Oldenlandia diffusa-evoked cancer cell apoptosis through superoxide burst and caspase activation” by Yadav SK and Lee SC from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore, the researchers concluded that “the ethanol extract of the herb effectively evokes cancer cell apoptosis, possibly through burst-mediated caspase activation.” This study was published in PubMed.gov, the online publication of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

In another study, the “Apoptotic effect of Oldenlandia diffusa on the leukaemic cell line HL60 and human lymphocytes”, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 114, Issue 3, 3 December 2007, the researchers reported that their findings“support a cytotoxic action for Oldenlandia diffusa”

Oldenlandia may be used as a preventive health care agent to inhibit mutation of cells by carcinogens. As it also builds up the immune system, this herb may be beneficial for anyone undergoing modern cancer therapies. Fortunately for me, oldenlandia diffusa grows wild here and beverages containing oldenlandia are cheap (the equivalent of 50 US cents per bottle) and easily available where I live. I particularly like one from China which is a sparkling mineral water with oldenlandia extract. It comes in a green glass bottle and the Chinese have been drinking it for decades. You can probably find oldenlandia beverages in most Asian supermarkets and grocers as well as Chinese medical shops.

In Chinese, oldenlandia diffusa is known as “baihuasheshecao” (sometimes written Bai Hua She She Cao). “Baihua” means white flower, “she” means snake, and “shecao” means tongue weed, referring to the long thin leaves of the herb. English-speakers sometimes refer to it as the snake-needle weed.

Cheers to good health!

Olive Oil For HER2+ Breast Cancer

I got really excited recently when I read that oncology researchers have reported that extra-virgin olive oil is an effective anti-cancer fighter against an aggressive form of breast cancer, HER2 breast cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, “HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. In about 1 of every 5 breast cancers, the cancer cells make an excess of HER2 due to a gene mutation. This gene mutation and the elevated levels of HER2 that it causes can occur in many types of cancer — not only breast cancer…..HER2-positive breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. They’re also less responsive to hormone treatment.”

HER2 positive breast cancer is one of the most frightening breast cancers to deal with and the drug which is typically used to treat it – Herceptin – is very expensive. So the news that phytochemicals in extra-virgin olive oil – an affordable, easily obtainable and harmless food – can shrink certain breast tumors should give hope to many.

The extra-virgin olive oil study was performed at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Girona, Spain, and reported in the open-access journal BMC Cancer. It focused on tumor tissue in laboratory culture that the researchers exposed to different fractions of extra-virgin olive oil containing various natural phytochemicals. When rats with induced breast cancers were fed large amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, their tumors’ malignancy diminished.

“Our findings reveal for the first time that all the major complex phenols present in extra-virgin olive oil drastically suppress overexpression of the cancer gene HER2 in human breast cancer cells,” said Javier Menendez, who, along with Antonio Segura-Carretero from Spain’s University of Granada, led the team of researchers who determined to investigate which parts of extra-virgin olive oil battle cancer best.

Some past studies have suggested that the olive-oil-rich Mediterranean diet prevents cancer, while other studies have not. So the Spanish scientists theorized that olive oil compounds kill only certain forms of breast cancer. Their research found that the olive-oil polyphenols known as secoiridoids and lignans are highly effective breast-cancer-cell fighters – but only against the 20 percent to 30 percent of breast cancers that express the so-called HER2 gene.

Extra-virgin olive oil comes from pressing olives in a cold state – without the use of heat or chemicals. It contains natural complex anti-cancer chemicals that the industrial refining process destroys. So will eating large quantities of such olive oil actually prevent or cure breast cancer? Sadly, the authors note that “The active phytochemicals exhibited tumoricidal effects against cultured breast cancer cells at concentrations that are unlikely to be achieved in real life by consuming olive oil.”

Still, the scientists say, “These findings, together with the fact that that humans have safely been ingesting significant amounts of lignans and secoiridoids as long as they have been consuming olives and extra-virgin oil, strongly suggest that these polyphenols might provide an excellent and safe platform for the design of new anti breast-cancer drugs.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m still going to add more extra-virgin olive oil to my salads.

$7 Anti-Fungal Drug Can Halve Chemo Needed

You have cancer and chemotherapy is required. Don’t you wish that the administration of these cytotoxic poisons could be kept to as low a dosage as possible to minimize both side-effects and costs, while not compromising on the desired outcome? Well, here’s some good news.

Scientists In Singapore have reported that chemotherapy concentration and costs for advanced breast cancer patients can be halved by incorporating the use of an anti-fungal drug, ketoconazole, which costs around Singapore $12 (about US$7). The drug, which is normally used to treat ordinary infections such as dandruff and athlete’s foot, complements chemotherapy treatment as it blocks an enzyme in the body from breaking down docetaxel, a drug used to treat breast, stomach, lung and prostate cancers.

Each cycle of docetaxel, given once every three weeks, can cost between S$1,800 – S$2,500. A typical course can involve four cycles. By pairing ketoconazole with docetaxel, researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore were able to lower the concentration level of the chemotherapy by 40%, thereby reducing costs as well as chemotherapy side effects, while still achieving the desired results.

The results of this clinical trial were published in the April 2010 Annals of oncology, the official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology and the Japanese Society of Medical Oncology.

Principal investigator Lee Soo Chin and her colleagues conducted the trial between July 2005 and September 2006. The anti-fungal treatment was administered to 31 patients in advanced stages of breast cancer or with large tumors for three days before chemotherapy cycles started. 51 patients treated with the conventional method of 100mg to 140mg of docetaxel between April 2002 and July 2005 formed the control group.

One breast cancer patient who participated in the “cocktail” trial was 58-year old housewife Gladys Goh. In June 2006, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and went through four cycles of the anti-fungal and chemotherapy drugs. “After the first cycle, my tumor was greatly reduced and after all four I was able to go for surgery to have it removed”, she said.

Said principal investigator Lee: “With this finding, this would make an expensive treatment like docetaxel more affordable”. She also said: “these two drugs are existing ones, so doctors can apply them to their patients suffering not only from breast cancer but also from stomach, lung and prostate cancers. But they have to be mindful their patients may be on other medication and our study here is on only two singular drugs.”

Yeah for lower cancer treatment costs and fewer side effects!