Traditionally Used Anticancer Herbs In India


Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies

Year: 2013, Volume: 1, Issue: 3

First page: (56) Last page: (74)

ISSN: 2320-3862

Online Available at


Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies

Traditionally Used Anticancer Herbs In India

Parts of the text


Plants Used for Cancer Treatment

Cancer is often deadly and affects a considerable number of people worldwide.

Ongoing research is being done throughout the world to seek out effective treatments for cancer, including the use of plants to relieve and treat cancer patients. This treatment makes use of the compounds naturally present in plants that are known to inhibit or kill carcinogenic cells. An alternative to chemotherapy, which is the most common means by which doctors and specialists treat cancer, organically based treatments may not have the severe side effects that radial treatments and chemotherapy has. The harsh side effects of cancer treatments is one motivating factor to finding alternative methods. The use of botanical when treating cancer patients is considered a natural alternative, because some plants may contain properties that naturally have the ability to prevent the spread or risk of developing various forms of cancer. As in all medical testing, careful precautions and considerations are taken when studying the different compounds present in plants that are known to treat cancer. Some examples of plants that may be used for cancer treatment are discussed below with their respective advancements. Some side effects are still expected, and it is important that any patient interested in exploring botanical treatment seek the advice of a licensed medical professional.

There are around 460 species of plants that can be used as herb for remedy, including plant healer various types of cancer.Various types of anti-cancer plant are Zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria), Rodent Tuber (Typhonium flagelliforme), God’s Crown (Phaleria macrocarpa), Madagaskar Periwinkle (Catharanthus rosens), Artocarpus Integer (Selaginella corymbosa), Bamboo Grass (Loathatreum Gràcies), handsome (Taraxacum mongolicum), fruit makasar (Brucca javanica), Garlic (Allium sativum), Echo China (Smilax china), Sunflower (Helianthus annus), Leunca (Solanum nigrum), Job’s Tears (Coix Lachryma-Jobi), Bamboo Rope (Asparagus cochinchinensis), and others.


Anticancer Herbs

Anticancer herbs, there are many different anticancer herbs that have been used by different cultures throughout time for medicinal purposes. In fact, much of modern medicine owes itself to plants and herbs.

With such a wide variety of herbs in the world it’s no surprise that there are quite a few anticancer herbs that can really help with cancer prevention. There are also many other anticancer herbs which will help to alleviate the symptoms if you already suffer from cancer treatments.One of the many anticancer herbs is Alfalfa.

Considered one of the most nutritious foods available, Alfalfa has very important uses for counteracting the effects of

chemotherapy. Alfalfa contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties that make it a great body cleanser and infection fighter. It works to increase the production of white blood cells and replace those lost during treatments. The large amount of nutrients in these anticancer herbs makes them invaluable in restoring healthy levels of vitamins in the blood stream. Alfalfa has been researched and found to help lower cholesterol levels and neutralize cancer.Another anticancer herb is Andrographis. It is an ancient medicinal herb and is an annual plant that grows in the wastelands and forests of Asia. There have been many conclusive studies of its use against cancer, AIDS and both bacterial and viral infections. This herb has been shown to have a dramatic effect in maturing cancer cells, a process which seems to stop the cancer cells growing out of control. In addition, extracts from Andrographis leaves have been recorded as being able to kill cancer cells. Research done in Japan has reportedly found that Andrographis reduced the likelihood of cancer cells in the stomach multiplying. Many independent studies have also discovered impressive results with other cancers including prostate and breast cancer.

Anticancer herbs come in many forms one of which is a type of thistle plant. Blessed thistle has a hugely positive effect on the reduction in size of tumors due to its main component cnicin. This has the effect of reducing fluid around the tumor, cooling any inflammation in the body as well as fighting off bacteria. Not only this but the antiinflammatory

properties help rejuvenate the body and speed up recovery one of the more well-known anticancer herbs is Burdock.

The root has been used in natural medicine for centuries. Although it was originally used for liver function, joint pain and skin health burdock root has been discovered to have anti-tumor effects alongside its detoxifying qualities. This has been shown in animal studies where it was discovered that this anticancer herbs inhibits mutations in cells that are exposed to mutation causing chemicals that can lead to cancer.

Mushrooms, although not really an herb, are still a very natural cure. As a fungus there are many qualities that certain types of mushrooms possess that aren’t found in herbs. For example the Maitake mushroom has excellent healing properties. Extracts of the mushroom are most effective when used as Maitake D-fraction and is available in capsule or tablet form. Maitake is a proven cancer fighter. The FDA has recently approved clinical studies of a Maitake extract on participants with advanced breast and prostate cancer. American studies also show positive results on colorectal cancer and Chinese studies show positive results with liver, lung, stomach cancer and leukemia. These mushrooms should be used as a complementary therapy for such conditions and not be a substitute for standard treatments.

Anticancer herbs include the garden variety rosemary that is found all over the place. Rosemary is a potent antioxidant, antispasmodic and antiseptic. It is rarely respected for its powerful effect on the body. Rosemary helps to prevent cancer from ever forming in the first place. It does this by helping to prevent carcinogenic chemicals from attaching themselves to cells and causing the mutations that lead to cancer. A number of green tea blends are also anticancer herbs and act in a very similar way to rosemary.

To make a tea infusion of Rosemary, pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoon of rosemary leaves and steep for 15 minutes.

Strain and drink. Half a teaspoon of cinnamon spice is also known to aid the fight against cancer.These anticancer herbs are just a small percentage of the plants that can benefit the body through healing. These herbs can be a preventative measure to ensure the body has everything it needs to stop mutations from occurring in the first place. They can also be used to lessen the horrible side effects when taken alongside chemotherapy treatments. But most importantly they have been shown to reduce the effects of cancerous cells and even reduce the size of tumors. With all the benefits these anticancer herbs can provide you may want to start growing some in your own garden.




1.2 Autumn Crocus

Species Name – Colchicum Autumnale

Common Names – Naked Ladies, Colchicum, and Meadow Saffron

The Autumn Crocus, of the Lily Family (Liliaceae),

Compound – Colchicine

1.3 Birch

Species Name – Betula Alba

Common Name – Birch

The Birch or Betula Alba plant has a variety of different uses. Its medicinal use include diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and a general pain reliever.

Compound – Betulinic Acid

1.4 Camptotheca

Species Name – Camptotheca Acuminata

Common Names – Xi Shu, Happy Tree, The Camptotheca, otherwise known as the Happy Tree,

Compound – Camptothecia, Topotecan, CPT-11, 9-Aminocamptothecin

1.5 Hemp

Species Name – Cannabis Sativa

Common Names – Marijuana, Bhang, Ganja, and Hashish

Compound – Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol

1.6 Lapacho Tree

Species Names – Tabebuia Impetiginosa , T.Avellanedae

Common Names – Lapacho, Pau D’Arco,Taheebo, and Ipe Roxo

Compound – Beta-Lapachone, Lapachol Beta-lapachone has anti-cancer properties that are being researched with focus on pancreatic cancer.

1.7 Mayapple

Species Name – Podophyllum Peltatum

Common Names – Devil’s Apple, Hog Apple, Indian Apple, Umbrella Plant, Wild Lemon

Compound – Podophyllotoxin, Etoposide, Podophyllinic Acid, and Teniposide

With the other forms of the compound, medicinally in the removal of genital warts which was first used in 1942 with outstanding success.

1.8 Nothapodytes Tree

Species Name – Nothapodytes Foetida

Common Name – Nothapodytes Tree

Compound – Acetylcamptothecin, Camptothecin, Scopolectin

1.9 Pacific Yew

Species Name – Taxus Brevifolia

Common Name – Yew

The Pacific Vew, otherwise known as the Western Yew, is a tree with many special uses. Its bark contains valuable properties that are effective in treating various forms of cancer.

A plant of many uses; its medicinal uses are integral in cancer treatment, especially refractory ovarian cancer.

Compound – Paclitaxel, Taxol,

1.10 Periwinkle

Species Name – Catharanthus Roseus

Common Names – Madagascar Periwinkle, Periwinkle

Compound – Vinblastine, Vincristine, Vindesine, Vinorelbine


  1. Herbs and Anti-Oxidants That Fight Cancer

A number of studies from all over the world are pointing to culinary herbs as sources of anti-oxidants and other substances that have anti-cancer characteristics. The scientists found that these herbs help reduce cancer risk and some can even modify tumor behavior.

Some of these cancer preventing herbs are discussed here.

2.1 Oregano:

Amongst the dried herbs, oregano has perhaps the highest anti-oxidant levels. Rosmarinic acid is the compound in oregano that has the strong anti-oxidant activity. An Indian study reported that oregano supplementation of 40 mg per kg of body weight had a modulatory role on tissue lipid peroxidation in colon cancer-bearing experimental rodents.The dosage for human beings has not yet been determined, but then, how much of oregano would you need to flavor your dish!

2.2 Thyme:

Thyme is sweeter and milder than oregano. Thyme as a dried herb contains very high levels of anti-oxidants in the form of rosmarinic acid and phenolic compounds such as thymol and carvacrol. A Turkish study supported by Hacettepe University Research Foundation suggested that these phenolic compounds at concentrations below 0.2 mM and 0.1 mM respectively can significantly reduce the oxidative DNA damage and thus prevent the development of any type of cancer.

2.3 Cilantro:

Cilantro or, more commonly, coriander is another potent herb that has anti-cancer properties. The prevalent antioxidants in cilantro are beta-carotene, quercetin and rutin. This herb, normally used in chelation therapy for people suffering from lead poisoning, helps remove free radicals by getting rid of the heavy metals in your body. Dr. Yoshiaki Omura from the Heart Disease Research Foundation, New York, NY, USA, has actually found that fresh cilantro removes heavy metals – and with it the free radicals too – from the body in less than 2 weeks.

2.4 Basil:

Basil is well known for its medicinal value. Apart from having antiinflammatory, blood pressure lowering, and nervous system stimulating properties, this popular herb has been found to have chemoprotective potential for colon cancer. In fact, a study found that basil played a significant role in reducing colon tumors in experimental animals. However, no human clinical trials have been conducted to confirm this experiment.

2.5 Garlic: The National Cancer Institute (affiliated to the NIH) recognizes garlic to have potential anticancer properties. The sulphydryl compounds in garlic have the ability to block the formation of cancer – causing substances. Several population studies have shown an association between increased garlic consumption and reduced risk of cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and also breast cancer. A study has found that garlic intake of 10 g per day could reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 50 percent.

2.6 Ginger:

Some pungent substances present in ginger rhizome have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. The anticancer properties of ginger are attributed to phenolic substances such as 6-gingerol and 6-paradol and other constituents such as shogaols and zingerone. A study published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications reported that 6- gingerol can reduce viability of gastric cancer cells and limit the spread of cancer.

2.7 Turmeric:

Although turmeric is promoted mainly as anti-inflammatory herbal remedy, some scientists believe that the anti-oxidant curcumin present in turmeric may prevent or slow the growth of many cancers including tumor of esophagus, stomach and intestine, breast cancer and also skin cancer in experimental animals.

However, clinical research is needed to determine its efficacy in cancer prevention and treatment in human beings. But, the laboratory studies have confirmed the cucumin interferes with several molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth and spread. Further, a study found that ethanolic extract of turmeric produces remarkable symptomatic relief in patients with external cancerous lesions. There was a reduction in smell in 90 percent of cases and reduction in itching in almost all cases.

2.8 Green tea:

Polyphenols in green tea and sometimes black tea, help kill cancerous cells and stop their progression. Mayo Clinic studies have revealed that a substance called epigalloacatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea reduces the number of leukemia cells in patients with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), a form of blood cancer.

Similarly, another study found that women who drank powdered green tea were less likely to develop bladder cancer. Again, men who drank the most green tea were 37 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer. A large Chinese clinical study found that the risk of prostate cancer declined with increasing frequency and quantity of green tea consumption. However, scientists found that green tea could reduce the chances of recurrence of breast cancer but it could not prevent or improve breast cancer.

2.9 Maitake Mushroom:

Maitake is an edible mushroom native to the mountains of northeast Japan. Its active ingredient is a polysaccharide called beta glucan. Maitake mushroom extract is said to limit or even reverse tumor growth. It also enhances the benefits of chemotherapy and lessens the side effects of anti-cancer drugs. It acts by activating certain cells and proteins that attack cancer, T-cells and interleukin-1 and interleukin-2. The daily dose of dried  mushroom is between 3 to 7 g. Maitake may not be suitable for those on hypoglycemic medication.

2.10 Cinnamon bark:

Cinnamon has antioxidant properties that can significantly decrease lipid peroxidation that lead to cancer. Further, cinnamon bark oil has been found by researchers to be one of the most effective inhibitors of bacteria, such as Helicobacter pylori, that facilitate the invasion and progression of cancer. However, high amount of coumarin present in cinnamon can damage liver tissues. Although there are no reports of coumarin related tumor formation, high levels of coumarin did trigger cancer in experimental rodents.




3.8 Berberis vulgaris

Berberis vulgaris root contains berberine, berbamine, chelidonic acid, citric acid, columbamine, hydrastine, isotetrandrine, jacaranone, magnoflorine, oxycanthine and palmatine. Berberine (an isoquinoline alkaloid), possesses anticancer, immunoenhancing, antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties. Berberine arrests cancer cell cycle in G1-phase and induces apoptosis. Berberine possesses strong anticancer activity against prostate cancer, liver cancer and leukaemia. Berberine interferes with P-glycoprotein in chemotherapy-resistant cancers. Berberine also increases the penetration of some chemotherapy drugs through the blood-brain barrier, thereby enhancing their effect on intracranial tumours. Berberis vulgaris root bark contains three phenolic compounds, tyramine, cannabisin-G and lyoniresinol. Cannabisin-G and lyoniresinol exhibit strong antioxidant activity. Cannabisin-G protects against breast cancer. Berberis vulgaris also inhibits growth of stomach and oral cavity cancers.

3.10 Curcuma longa

Curcumin (Di-feruloyl-methane) and curcuminoids isolated from Curcuma longa suppress cancer at every step, i.e. initiation, growth and metastasis. Curcumin arrests the cancer cells proliferation in G2/S phase and induces apoptosis (programmed cell death). It inhibits angiogenesis, a crucial step in the growth and metastasis of cancer. Curcumin and Genistein (isolated from Glycine max) act synergistically to inhibit growth & spread of oestrogen-positive breast cancer. Curcumin works even in multidrug-resistant breast cancers. Curcumin suppresses adhesion of cancer cells, thus preventing metastasis. Curcumin inhibits growth & spread of various cancers including that of breast, lung, oesophagus, liver, colon, prostate, head & neck and skin. Curcumin is particularly effective in radiotherapy-resistant prostate cancer. Curcumin is effective even in advanced stages of cancer. Curcumin also protects from stomach cancer and colon cancer.Curcuma longa also possesses antimutagenic, antioxidant, immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective and radioprotective properties.

3.12 Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgetin and Ginkgolides (A & B), isolated from Ginkgo biloba inhibits growth & spread of various aggressive cancers such as invasive oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, hepatocellular carcinoma and cancers of ovary, colon, prostate and liver by inducing apoptosis.Ginkgo biloba extract is well known for its antioxidant activity. Ginkgo bilobaalso reduces side effects of chemotherapy & radiotherapy.

3.13 Glycine max

Isoflavones (such as genistein & daidzein) and saponins isolated from Glycine max inhibit growth & spread of various cancers such as cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix, ovary, lung, stomach, colon, pancreas, liver, kidney, urinary bladder, prostate, testis, oral cavity, larynx, and thyroid.Glycine max is also effective in nasopharyngeal carcinoma, skin cancer, malignant lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, malignant brain tumours and leukaemia. Isoflavones & saponins isolated from Glycine maxpossess wide ranging anticancer properties such as inhibition of cancer cell proliferation, promotion of cell differentiation and induction of apoptosis. Genistein works by blocking angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessel), acting as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (the mechanism of action of many new cancer drugs) and inducing apoptosis. Genistein is an excellent intracellular antioxidant. Genistein also blocks the supply of oxygen and nutrients to cancer cells, thus killing them by starving. Genistein and quercetin have synergistic anticancer effect against ovarian carcinoma. Saponins isolated from Glycine max decrease invasiveness of the glioblastoma cells. Anthocyanins isolated from Glycine max induce apoptosis in leukaemic cells.Glycine max protects against many cancers including that of the colon, lung and ovary.

3.14 Glycyrrhiza glabra

Flavonoids (flavones, flavonals, isoflavones, chalcones, licochalcones and bihydrochalcones), derived from Glycyrrhiza glabra possess strong anticancer, antioxidant, antimutagenic, antiulcer, anti-HIV and hepatoprotective properties. Licochalcone-A isolated from Glycyrrhiza glabra, inhibits growth & spread of various cancers particularly the androgen-refractory prostate cancer by inducing apoptosis and arresting cancer cells division. Licoagrochalcone, possesses strong anticancer activity against cancers of breast, lung, stomach, colon, liver, kidney and leukaemia. Glycyrrhizin isolated from Glycyrrhiza glabra inhibits growth & spread of lung cancer and fibrosarcomas. Glycyrrhizic acid isolated from Glycyrrhiza glabraprotects against aflatoxins (powerful fungal carcinogens of the liver).Glycyrrhiza glabra stimulates immune system response of the body and protects against colon cancer and oestrogen-positive breast cancer.

3.29 Viscum album

Lectins (such as viscumin), polypeptides (viscotoxins) and phenolic compounds (such as digallic acid) isolated from Viscum album inhibit growth & spread of various cancers including that of the breast, cervix, ovary, lung, stomach, colon, rectum, kidney, urinary bladder, testis, malignant melanoma, sarcomas, fibrosarcoma, malignant ascites, lung metastasis and leukaemia by inducing apoptosis and anti-angiogenesis activity. Lectins isolated from Viscum album possess both anticancer and immunostimulating activities. Viscumin, responsible for most of the biological activities ofViscum album, works by bringing together immune system effector cells and cancer cells. Lectin-II induces apoptosis in cancer cells via activation of caspase cascades.




  1. Conclusion

There are many traditional systems of medicine in the world, each with different associated philosophies and cultural origins.Some of these, such as Tibetan traditional medicine, remain relatively localised in theircountry of origin; while others such as Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicines are increasingly used in many different areasof the world. This paper will concentrate onthe issue treatment of chronic diseases andheavy metal poisoning related to herbal traditional medicines. Ayurveda is the mostwidely practised of the Indian traditional medicine systems, but there are others such asSiddha and Unani which are also used in the ndian subcontinent.

Cancer is a major public health burden in both developed and developing countries.

Cancer is an abnormal malignant growth of body tissue or cell. A cancerous growth is called a malignant tumor or malignancy. A noncancerous growth is called benign tumor .The process of cancer metastasis is consisting of series of sequential interrelated steps, each of which is rate limiting. Plants with loaded with chemical with chemo protective activities of some of them are undergoing clinical trial. Inhibition of angiogenesis is a novel process of cancer therapy. The selected and careful use of this plant may definitely in antiangiogenic therapy and thus in cancer management.


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