Nutritional and Herbal Therapies
There is an almost unlimited
source of free advice about which vitamins and herbs are useful for medical problems. Be aware that very little of this information has been proven
to be reliable or accurate and some supplements may in fact be harmful (it was
recently shown that taking anti-oxidants like beta-carotene actually increase cancer in
There is also evidence that anti-oxidants should not be taken during chemotherapy or
radiation (see report)
. A recent study showed a benefit from pomegranate
juice for men with prostate cancer (go
here), but the recent NCI trial showed that taking a lot of multivitamins
increased the risk of dying of prostate cancer (go here). For a discussion of anti-oxidants go here. Another
study showed that taking folic acid may increase the risk of
advanced cancer (go
|As the studies below point out, some of the herbal agents people take may actually work (St. John's Wort) others may be dangerous (Black cohosh) or totally worthless (shark cartilage or echinacea.) It's impossible to perform proper research trials on every agent someone believes has merit and even when the studies show no value many people will still insist on taking these agents (read this editorial.)|
|St. John's Wort Effective Treating Depression
At the end of the latest trial, half of those taking St John's wort (61 out of 122) found that their depressive symptoms were in decline, but only a third of those on paroxetine (Paxil) (43 out of 122) -- as a widely-prescribed antidepressant drug -- went into remission.
Herbal Medicine May Alter Cell Response To Cancer Therapeutic Agents (4/28/2005)
Black cohosh, an herb widely used by breast cancer patients to alleviate hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, may alter the way that cells respond to drugs commonly used to treat breast cancer, according to a Yale School of Medicine study in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. the herb is being widely used by and recommended to breast cancer patients who are experiencing menopausal symptoms due to removal from hormone replacement therapy or to the effects of their therapy.
In this study black cohosh increased cell killing by two of the drugs, decreased the effectiveness of one drug, and did not alter the effects of radiation or a fourth drug. Why each agent responded differently needs to be studied further, she said, but enough is known about the herb's effects on cancer cells to caution patients about using and other over the counter agents without consulting their physicians.
"Our studies caution that black cohosh should not be considered to be a harmless
herb that is inconsequential to the health of cancer patients or to the outcome of
conventional cancer therapy," Rockwell said.
An Evaluation of Echinacea angustifolia in Experimental Rhinovirus Infections
Ronald B. Turner, M.D., NEJM 2005;353:341
Echinacea has been widely used as an herbal remedy for the common cold, but efficacy studies have produced conflicting results, and there are a variety of echinacea products on the market with different phytochemical compositions. We evaluated the effect of chemically defined extracts from Echinacea angustifolia roots on rhinovirus infection. A total of 437 volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either prophylaxis (beginning seven days before the virus challenge) or treatment (beginning at the time of the challenge) either with one of these preparations or with placebo. The results for 399 volunteers who were challenged with rhinovirus type 39 and observed in a sequestered setting for five days were included in the data analysis.
Results There were no statistically significant effects of the three echinacea extracts on rates of infection or severity of symptoms. Similarly, there were no significant effects of treatment on the volume of nasal secretions, on polymorphonuclear leukocyte or interleukin-8 concentrations in nasal-lavage specimens, or on quantitative-virus titer. The results of this study indicate that extracts of E. angustifolia root, either alone or in combination, do not have clinically significant effects on infection with a rhinovirus or on the clinical illness that results from it. Our study, however, adds to the accumulating evidence that suggests that the burden of proof should lie with those who advocate this treatment.