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Home > Cancer and Natural Health Products

Cancer and Natural Health Products


(August 24, 2005) PHOENIX, AZ – There are more than 200 types of cancer, according to the Cancer Research Organization (UK). Conventional treatment for the disease includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of the three. When chemotherapy (the use of drugs often injected intravenously to destroy the cancer cells) is required, patients frequently suffer side effects such as nausea and vomiting, hair loss, infection, and injury to the gastrointestinal tract. Is there a role for natural health products in helping manage the side effects and capabilities of chemotherapy? Like many complex issues, there is no “yes” or “no” answer, but with the assistance of an expert in the field, there is some insight.


To shed light on the status of existing research and discuss his observations, Dugald Seely, N.D., MSc. (Cand.) will deliver his remarks entitled, “Cancer, Chemotherapy and Natural Health Products: Do They Mix?” at the 20th Annual Convention of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) (http://www.naturopathic.org/ ), being held at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix, AZ, August 24-27, 2005. Dr. Seely is a research fellow at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine’s Department of Clinical Epidemiology where he is involved in establishing the safety and efficacy of natural health products and therapies used by naturopathic physicians. He is also a member of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Medicine and is involved in developing clinical trials and research methodologies to assess naturopathic, complementary and alternative medicine.

Demonstrated Results for Chemotherapy, Herbal Products and Side Effects

Dr. Seely suggests that some natural herbal products (NHPs) should not be consumed when undergoing certain types of chemotherapy. He has summarized research studies conducted to date that determined the following about certain natural products:

Some Natural Health Products to Be Avoided During Chemotherapy

Kava: To be avoided if liver disease exists.
  • Soy: To be avoided with the use of tamoxifen, and certain types of breast and endometrial cancers.
  • St. John’s Wort: To be avoided with all types of chemotherapy as it has been shown to change the metabolism of many drugs.
  • Natural Herbal Products That May Aid in Treatment/Effects Of Chemotherapy
  • Melatonin may aid in the effectiveness, and ginger, and chamomile may help to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
  • No significant interactions have been found to occur when saw palmetto, black cohosh, or cranberries are consumed during chemotherapy.
Nevertheless, Seely recommends to cease taking most herbal medications three days prior to a chemotherapy treatment and not to recommence until two days following treatment.

Research Continues

Research into the relationship between chemotherapy and herbal products is continuing. Research is now underway at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, involving the effectiveness of select herbal products in improving the efficacy of treatment in children. Work is also ongoing at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine to assess the effectiveness and safety of natural health products in cancer with or without combination with chemotherapy and other conventional therapies. Recent research in oncology at the college has focused on green tea for the prevention of breast cancer recurrence and the use of melatonin for improving survival in numerous types of cancer.

Effect of Natural Herbal Products On New Cancer Fighting Strategies

New ways to fight cancer involve targeting the genetic instability of the DNA, improving the patient’s immune response, reducing nutrient delivery to cancer cells, and slowing or eliminating the abnormal growth signals within the cancer cells. According to Seely, bromelain (from pineapple extract) and astragalus have been shown to positively impact the immune system. In addition, green tea may slow the delivery of nutrients to cancer cells by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis).

Demonstrated Effectiveness of Natural Herbal Products on Site-Specific Cancers

A number of NHPs have demonstrated potential to reduce the growth and development of site specific cancers. In the case of breast cancer, bromelain, curcumin, and Vitamin A show the potential to help combat cancer. In the case of colon, prostate and lung cancer, curcumin may be an effective deterrent. Vitamin A has also shown beneficial effects against leukemia cell lines.

Chemopreventive Foods

While controversy exists about the beneficial role of natural health products in chemotherapy, many food items show the ability to help prevent cancer. These products include: anise, artichokes, basil, berries, carrots, cloves, coriander, cruciferous vegetables, fennel, garlic, ginger, pomegranate, red chili, red grapes, fish, rosemary, soybeans, green tea, tomato, turmeric, and oleander. Along with an organic whole foods diet, Seely recommends them to reduce the risk of preventable cancer.


Some herbal products may be used with, but never as a replacement for, conventional therapeutic treatment. Before consuming herbal products, patients must consult with a qualified health care provider. Individuals seeking help from naturopathic-trained physicians specializing in oncology can log on to http://www.oncanp.org, the website for the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Medicine. These practitioners have specialized training in oncology beyond naturopathic medical school required for admission.


The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) was founded in 1985 to provide alternative methods for healing human diseases and disorders than have been traditionally offered in the United States. Members of the AANP must have graduated from one of North America’s six accredited graduate schools of naturopathic medicine and served a clinical residency.

Editor’s Note: To schedule an interview with Dr. Seely, please contact Donna Krupa at 703.527.7357 (office); 703.967.2751 (cell) or djkrupa1@aol.com.

For more information about naturopathic physicians, log on to http://www.naturopathic.org/.