Therapies using herbs and plants

Herbal remedies, also known as botanical medicine, have been used in many traditional medicine systems. They are produced from all parts of plants including the roots, leaves, berries and flowers. These may contain active ingredients that can cause chemical changes in the body.

Herbal remedies can be taken by mouth or applied to the skin to treat disease and promote health. Sometimes herbs and plants are categorised as biological treatments.

What are the benefits?

Many scientific studies have examined the effects of various herbs on people with cancer. While some remedies have been shown to reduce side effects of cancer treatment, many remedies aren’t supported by research.

What are the side effects?

Some herbs may interact with conventional cancer treatment or medicines, and change how the treatment works or the dose is absorbed. Herbs taken in large quantities can be toxic. For more on the effects of specific herbs and botanicals, go to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and search for “herbs”. You can also download their About Herbs app from iTunes.

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Do herbs cure cancer?

There is no reliable scientific evidence that herbal remedies alone can cure or treat cancer. However, some plant extracts have been found to have anti-cancer effects and have been turned into chemotherapy drugs. These include vincristine from the periwinkle plant, and taxanes from the bark of the Pacific yew tree.

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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