One of my favourites which many people have heard about now is Turmeric. The active component of turmeric that makes it so useful in chemotherapy is 'curcumin' - the part of turmeric that makes it yellow. How does curcumin help with chemotherapy and cancer? Here are some points that I find really helpful:
- Curcumin has been shown in studies http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22753715 to sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy. This essentially makes the chemotherapy work better at killing cancer cells. Sometimes cancer cells become resistant to certain types of chemotherapy so it's particularly useful here
- It sensitizes the cancer to chemo while protecting vital organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart. My heart sings at this point. What a beautiful plant.
- Curcumin helps cancer cells to 'die' when they are supposed to. All healthy cells have an ability to do this - i.e. something is going slightly wrong and the cell innately knows this and triggers 'apoptosis' (cell death). In cancer cells, due to inflammation and mitochondrial disfunction, the cells do not know any more when to trigger cell death and so they keep growing and spreading as cancer cells.
- Curcumin is also anti-inflammatory and can be used in a wide variety of inflammatory conditions from inflammatory bowel disorders to cancer to stop the inflammatory process. This is important as inflammation is shown to promote cancer growth and also has a wide variety of other implications such as fatigue, nutrient malabsorption and depression.
You need quite high doses of curcumin for the benefits to take place. But clinically relevant trials show 8-10g of curcumin/day can be effective in improving chemo sensitivity. Only a qualified practitioner can prescribe these high doses that may cause mild gastrointestinal upset in some people.
Naturopaths like myself help patients undergoing chemotherapy while working directly and communicating effectively with qualified specialists and doctors to work together for the best patient outcome. Always see a qualified Naturopath.
Yours in health