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.
Learn more about:
- Chinese herbal medicine
- Flower remedies
- Medical use of cannabis
- Taking herbal medicine: tips and safety information
- Western herbal medicine
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.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Suzanne Grant, Senior Acupuncturist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Craig Hassed, Senior Lecturer, Department of General Practice, Monash University, VIC; Mara Lidums, Consumer; Tanya McMillan, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Manager, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Byeongsang Oh, Acupuncturist, University of Sydney and Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, NSW; Sue Suchy, Consumer; Marie Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Prof Anne Williams, Nursing Research Consultant, Centre for Nursing Research, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Chair, Health Research, School of Health Professions, Murdoch University, WA.
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