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Herbs, Spices, and Supplements

Some herbs and herbal supplements:

Aloe Vera
Study: Here we show that AE [aloe-emodin], a hydroxyanthraquinone present in Aloe vera leaves, selectively inhibits human neuroectodermal tumor cell growth in tissue cultures and in animal models. Neuroblastoma, pPNET, and Ewing’s sarcoma cells were found highly susceptible to AE..

Ashwaganda (Withaferin A)
This study says Withaferin A induces cell death (apoptosis/necrosis) in multiple types of tumor cells.

Astragalus (Huang Qi)
See Milk Vetch

Berberis Family
Berberine is the key bioactive ingredient of Berberis vulgaris
See Berberine

Bupleurum (Thorowax, or Hares ear)
Preclinical studies suggest that bupleurum has antiviral hepatoprotective anti-inflammatory immune-modulating antiproliferative and chemopreventive properties. Experiments suggest bupleurum might exert some influence over multidrug resistance in drug-resistant cells. Source: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre

Black Pepper
Piperine (Food sources: Black Pepper)
The treatment of colon cancer cells with piperine has been shown to reduce the ability of the cells to form non-adherent spheres and colonies, suggesting the inhibiting effect of piperine on cancer stem cells, says this study

Cayenne Pepper
Capsiacin (Cayenne Pepper)
Food sources: Cayenne, green or red chili, spur or tabasco peppers
This study review says: Capsaicin exhibits strong anticancer activity through targeting multiple signaling pathways and cancer-associated genes in different tumor stages including initiation, promotion, progression and metastasis.

Study: Exposure of chamomile extracts caused minimal growth inhibitory responses in normal cells, whereas a significant decrease in cell viability was observed in various human cancer cell lines. Chamomile exposure resulted in differential apoptosis in cancer cells but not in normal cells at similar doses.

See Echinacea

Feverfew and Green Chirayta (plant extracts)
This review says “the compound parthenolide, which is derived from the medicinal plant feverfew, has recently been shown to preferentially induce acute myelogenous leukaemia (AMLstem cells to undergo apoptosis. Importantly, parthenolide had no discernable effect on normal blood cells.”

This study shows that feverfew plant extract and Green chirayta plant extract are highly effective anti-myeloma cancer stem cell agents, with Green chirayta plant extract displaying increased selectivity for myeloma cancer stem cells compared to feverfew plant extract. The data presented here constitute the first report of natural products with anti-Cancer Stem Cell activity in myeloma cancer

See Ginseng
As a well-known herbal immune stimulant, hundreds of studies have extensively reported the anti-cancer or chemopreventive effects of ginseng. The anti-cancer effects of ginseng are mainly through the improvements in cell-mediated immunity consisting of cytotoxic T cells and NK cells, while other mechanisms such as oxidative stress, apoptosis, and angiogenesis are also involved, according to this study.

American, Panax, and Siberian ginseng all have estrogenic effects; therefore, women with hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid these herbs (Eagon et al., 2000).

Milk thistle
Silibinin (Milk Thistle seed extract)
Recent preclinical studies have shown strong efficacy of silibinin to target cancer cell’s migratory and invasive characteristics as well as their ability to metastasize to distant organs, according to this study

Note: The estrogenic effects suggest that women with hormone sensitive cancers should avoid this herb.

The authors of this study say their data provide sufficient evidence that silibinin has dual efficacy against both bulk colorectal cancer cells cells and colon cancer stem cells.

This study says: In vitro treatment with Naturin, a new Chinese medical herb, significantly restored lymphocyte proliferation and NK cell activity that were suppressed in cancer patients (Shen et al., 1996). In vivo, Naturin was reported to have significantly improved symptoms of cancer patients including leukemia and lung cancers (Mori et al., 1988).

Study: Our findings suggest that oregano amounts found in the Mediterranean diet can exert proapoptotic effects, which are selective for cancer cells. Moreover, whole extract, instead of a specific component, can be responsible for the observed cytotoxic effects.

Passion Fruit Leaf Extract (PaLE)
This 2020 study says:
Our outcomes corroborate the conclusion that PaLE has antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo with low toxicity.

This 2020 Review states: Various extracts, fruit juice and isolated compounds showed a wide range of health effects and biological activities such as antioxidant, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumor, antidiabetic, hypolipidemic activities, and so forth.
Passionflower was shown to enhance the potency of St. John’s wort.

Red clover
Genistein has been regarded as the anti-cancer compound in red clover.

Food sources: Soybeans and Soy protein. Inhibits ovarian cancer stem cells says this study

This study analysed 9514 breast cancer survivors with a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer between 1991 and 2006 from 2 US cohorts and 1 Chinese cohort. Soy isoflavone intake (mg/d) was measured with validated food-frequency questionnaires. After a mean follow-up of 7.4 years, postdiagnosis soy food consumption of ≥10 mg isoflavones/day was associated with a nonsignificant reduced risk of breast cancer–specific mortality and a statistically significant reduced risk of recurrence.
See also Haelan 951 (A fermented soybean-derived beverage)

Numerous preclinical studies were performed on cancer animal models and cancerous cell lines which confirmed the favorable anticancer properties of saffron on a variety of cancers. Additionally, saffron has been shown to provide protective effects against toxicities associated with several cancer chemotherapeutic agents.

Sheeps Sorrell
The roots of Sheep sorrel herb (Rumex acetosella) were the key to the success of Rene Caisse’s Essiac Tea therapy

Sutherlandia (Cancer Bush)
Constituents in Sutherlandia have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer properties. A few case reports suggest it may help decrease fatigue in cancer patients, but whether it could be used as a treatment for cancer has not been studied in humans.
Source: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Skullcap (Scutellaria barbata)
Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
An herb commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. A member of the mint family. Available as a supplement.

This study showed results that support the efficacy of Chinese Skullcap as an anticancer agent for glioblastomas multiforme.

Sweet wormwood
See Artemisinin

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
This 2021 study says:
The vast majority of the data reported here suggest that hypericum and its derivatives might be very powerful agents for the treatment of hematologic malignancies. There is the possibility they possess much broader biological activities.

See Wheatgrass

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
This study says: Throughout the 21st century, numerous scientists have begun to administer TCM herbs as an adjunct to radiotherapy/chemotherapy for certain types of cancer…TCM has been shown to exhibit radiomodifying effects on tumors and normal tissues by in vitro and in vivo studies. A number of these agents are able to enhance the therapeutic gain of radiotherapy by acting as radiosensitizers to the tumor cells and/or as radioprotectors to normal cells. Botanical agents are comprised of multiple phytochemical compounds that may work individually or synergistically to not only improve the outcomes of radiotherapy, but also to induce a variety of anticancer effects.

Therapeutic Effects of Ten Commonly Used
Chinese Herbs and
Their Bioactive Compounds on Cancers

This 2019 Review lists Ten Commonly Used Herbs

Oldenlandia diffusa (OD, Bai Hua She She Cao in Chinese)
 It is one of the most well-known Chinese herbs for its anticancer effect.

Curcuma longa (CL, Jiang Huang in Chinese)
In recent years, curcumin has been proved to be an excellent natural compound against cancer, especially in the digestive system. 

Astragalus membranaceus (AM, Huang Qi in Chinese)
In recent years, AM has attracted much attention because of its good anticancer activity. AM has an obvious inhibitory effect on cervical cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia. AM can not only be taken as a single medicine but also used to synergistically enhance the efficacy of cisplatin.

Panax ginseng (PG, Ren Shen in Chinese)
Ginsenoside is the main active ingredient of ginseng…ginsenoside CK also has a good effect in inhibiting breast cancer invasion and metastasis

American, Panax, and Siberian ginseng all have estrogenic effects; therefore, women with hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid these herbs (Eagon et al., 2000).

Ganoderma lucidum – (Reishi mushroom)(GL, Ling Zhi in Chinese)
GL polysaccharides can assist the anticancer effect of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (PTX) and inhibit the cancer metabolic process in the cancer microenvironment [45]. In addition to the direct killing of cancers, GL can also be used in immunotherapy against cancers.

Angelica sinensis (AS, Dang Gui in Chinese)
AS is often used in traditional Chinese medicine for cancer treatment and is an excellent choice for gynecological cancers such as breast cancer.

Panax notoginseng (PN, San Qi in Chinese)
In recent years, more and more studies have confirmed the efficacy of PN in the treatment of cancer, including the improvement of immunity and the destruction of the function of cancer cells. 

Scutellaria barbata D. Don (SB, Ban Zhi Lian in Chinese)
The combination of Scutellaria barbata and Oldenlandia diffusa can enhance the anticancer effect of each other, which is the key point of anticancer herbs. It mainly treats digestive tract cancers, gynecological cancers, lung cancer, bladder cancer, and other cancers.

Licorice (Gan Cao in Chinese)
Licorice is commonly used for cancer therapy of the digestive system, breast cancer, lung cancer, and so on. And it has the advantages of low price and wide distribution.
These estrogenic effects suggest that women with hormone sensitive
cancers should avoid this herb.

Radix Salvia miltiorrhiza (SM, Dan Shen in Chinese)
Studies have shown that ethanol-extracted tanshinone significantly inhibits the activity of gastric adenocarcinoma, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung adenocarcinoma, respectively

Wei Liu, Binbin Yang, Lu Yang, Jasmine Kaur, Calvin Jessop, Rushdi Fadhil, David Good, Guoying Ni, Xiaosong Liu, Tamim Mosaiab, Zhengjun Yi, Ming Q. Wei, “Therapeutic Effects of Ten Commonly Used Chinese Herbs and Their Bioactive Compounds on Cancers”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2019, Article ID 6057837, 10 pages, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/6057837

Studies of Chinese herbal Medicine (CHM)

In this study Nine hundred eighty-five stage IV EC [esophageal cancer] patients were analyzed, including 74 CHM users and 911 non-CHM users. We found the use of CHM was associated with a higher 5-year overall survival rate than CHM nonusers…In addition, the overall median survival time was about 7 months longer among CHM users. Moreover, the lower 1-, 3-, 5-year disease-specific survival rates were higher among CHM users. Additionally, the risk of all-cause mortality was lower among CHM users …CHMs improved health while relieving tumor burden…while Fritillaria thunbergii Miq and Sevilla maindronide Rochebrune were used together to relieve cancer-related gastrointestinal discomfort.

This study says:
A previous clinical study showed that Chinese herbal medicine was an independent protective factor in patients with pancreatic cancer liver metastases. The OS [overall survival] was 5.4 months, and the 1-year survival rate was 21.9% for the TCM group, compared with a median survival of 3.9 months and 1-year survival rate of 4.8% for the non-TCM group.15 In our study, TCM herbal treatment did improve the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer. The patients in the TCM group had a longer median OS [overall survival] (19 months) than those in the non-TCM group (8 months; P < 0.001). In addition, the 1- and 2-year survival rates for the 2 groups were 54.9%, 38.2% and 30.4%, 6.6%, respectively. Remarkably, the 3-year survival rate of the TCM group was 24.4%, while no one in the non-TCM group survived over 3 years. These results suggested the survival benefit of TCM treatment in patients with pancreatic cancer.

According to this 2015 article published in Journal of Restorative Medicine numerous lines of inquiry demonstrate synergistic and additive effects among and between medicinal herbs…Another type of synergy is reduction of toxicity of one herb by another…

This 2019 Review in Chinese herbal medicine and cancer focuses on summarizing experimental results and conclusions from English literatures reported since 2011.

Numerous studies have shown that curcumin and its preparations can inhibit tumors in almost all parts of the body, including head and neck, ovarian, skin and gastric cancers [15,16,17,18,19,20].

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
It is reported to present anti-cancer effects in variety of cancer cells, including lung, colorectal, prostate, stomach, liver, cervical, breast, leukemia, gastric, bladder cancers.

It exhibits significant anti-cancer effects in a wide spectrum of cancers including ovarian, breast, esophageal, and thyroid cancers, leukemia, multiple myeloma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and neuroblastoma, through inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, inhibiting metastasis and angiogenesis.

The anti-cancer effects of ARTs [artemisinin and its derivatives] are demonstrated in a broad spectrum of cancer cells including lung, liver, pancreatic, colorectal, esophageal, breast, ovarian, cervical, head and neck, and prostate cancers.

Ginsenosides mainly exert anti-cancer effects in colorectal, breast, liver and lung cancers, through inhibiting cell proliferation and migration, angiogenesis, and reversing drug resistance .

Ursolic acid (UA)
It also exerts anti-cancer activities in ovarian, breast, gastric, prostate, lung, liver, bladder, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers.

Previous studies have reported that silibinin exerts remarkable effects in numerous cancers such as renal, hepatocellular and pancreatic carcinoma, bladder, breast, colorectal, ovarian, lung, salivary gland, prostate and gastric cancers, through the induction of apoptosis, inhibition of tumor growth, metastasis and angiogenesis.

Many studies have shown that emodin can attenuate numerous cancers including nasopharyngeal, gall bladder, lung, liver, colorectal, oral, ovarian, bladder, prostate, breast, stomach and pancreatic cancers, through the inhibition of cell proliferation and growth, metastasis, angiogenesis, and induction of apoptosis.

Tanshinone exhibits anti-cancer activities in stomach, prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancers, through inducing cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, autophagy, and inhibiting cell migration.

As an orally available drug, oridonin is demonstrated to have anti-cancer activities in multiple cancers over the past decades, including leukemia, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, myeloma, uveal melanoma, neuroblastoma, hepatocellular, laryngeal, esophageal, and oral squamous cell carcinoma, lung, colorectal, breast, gastric, pancreatic, and prostatic cancers.

It is effective in treating different kinds of cancers, including breast, prostate, ovarian and thyroid cancers, Ewing sarcoma, and myelomonocytic lymphoma.

Gambogic acid (GA)
Plenty of evidence shows that GA inhibits cell proliferation, invasion, survival, metastasis and chemo-resistance, and induces angiogenesis in many types of cancers such as gastric and prostate cancers, leukemia, multiple myeloma, osteosarcoma, and renal carcinoma through multiple signaling mechanisms.

The anti-cancer effects of artesunate have been demonstrated in bladder, breast, cervical, colorectal, esophageal, gastric, ovarian and prostate cancer, renal carcinoma, leukemia, melanoma and multiple myeloma.

It has various anti-cancer effects in many cancers, including lung, breast, head and neck, gastric and colorectal cancers, glioma, leukemia, lymphoma, and osteosarcoma, through the induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, and inhibition of cell growth, migration, invasion, and angiogenesis.

It exerts anti-cancer effects in many cancers, such as lung, gastric, cervical, breast and bladder cancers, osteosarcoma, through apoptosis, inhibition of cell proliferation, migration and invasion, angiogenesis.

Salvia mitiorrhiza
Lion’s Mane
Turkey Tail mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms


This Review published in the journal Nature concluded:
Several spices have exerted anticancer effects including lung, liver, breast, stomach, colorectum, cervix, and prostate cancers. Direct extract, essential oil, and compounds isolated from spices are commonly studied. Among the mentioned compounds, curcumin is most widely researched in the papers, which might be useful in prevention and treatment of a broad spectrum of cancers, and thymoquinone has attracted wide attention as well. Some spices’ compounds exert anticancer properties in both cells and animal models, suggesting they might be effective in human cancer. Several components of spices (especially ginger and garlic) show their anticancer effects in the digestive system, indicating these spices might be a healthy dietary means to prevent cancer directly. Some spices exerted their anticancer properties by inducing apoptosis, cell death and DNA damage, causing G2/M arrest, inhibiting tumorigenesis, proliferation, invasion, metastasis and migration. In addition, the anticancer properties of spices against breast and prostate cancer are related to regulating hormones or hormone receptors, including estrogen receptor and androgen receptor. Some spices could also sensitize cancer cells to radiotherapy and chemotherapeutic drugs, such as 5-FU and gemcitabine. The doses to achieve equivalent cancer control of radiation or the chemotherapy drugs were lowered by combined treatment of spices, thus minimizing the adverse effects to normal tissues. The efficacy of existing chemotherapeutic agents and radiotherapy were enhanced, indicating that combined treatment is a potential therapeutic strategy for cancers. In a word, spices are promising sources of adjuvant therapy of cancer.

See Ginger Extract
Ginger, a cousin spice of super anti-cancer substance turmeric, is known for its ability to shrink tumors. This study says: …the anticancer potential of ginger is well documented and its functional ingredients like gingerols, shogaol, and paradols are the valuable ingredients which can prevent various cancers, angiogenesis and metastasis, induction of apoptosis.

According to American Institute for Cancer Research, one randomized controlled study of a single garlic-containing meal suggested that about 1½ teaspoons of garlic activated genes related to regulating the self-destruction of abnormal cells and immune function.

Study: The beneficial effects of garlic have been known for centuries, and our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlay these effects is steadily increasing. Here, we show that a homemade garlic extract has anti-cancer activities both in vitro [petri dish] and in vivo [live body], and that the activity is stable for more than six months if stored in a freezer.

Turmeric and Curcumin
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is used as a spice and gives a specific flavor and yellow color in Asian food. Curcumin, a polyphenolic compound, is a secondary metabolite isolated from the rhizomes of turmeric, and exhibits a number of therapeutic effects, including anti-cancer properties, via modulating different molecular regulators.
See Curcumin

Nigella sativa and Thymoquinone
Nigella sativa L., commonly referred as black cumin, is an oriental spice that has been used since the times of ancient Egypt. It is…used as a natural medicine for treatment of many acute as well as chronic conditions ranging from fever to intestinal disturbances to cancer. Thymoquinone is the predominant bioactive constituent isolated from black seeds of Nigella sativa and has been shown to possess antineoplastic activity against multifarious tumors.

Other Allium Genus Spices
Onion and scallion were also included in Allium genus, which showed cancer-preventive effects, attributed to sulfur-containing compounds. Moreover, there are also other constituents in onion, such as quercetin and fisetin, possessing anticancer effects…In addition, red onion might decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.

Saffron (Crocus sativus). A number of studies showed that saffron possessed anticancer effects which was attributed to the bioactive compounds it contained, such as crocin and crocetin. The compounds were abundant in saffron, and they induced apoptosis and inhibited cell proliferation.

Black Pepper and Piperine
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a widely consumed spice, which is also an herb commonly used in folk medicine. Piperine, a major alkaloid constituent of black pepper, exerts antitumor activities in a variety of cancers.

Red Chili Pepper and Capsaicin
Red chili pepper (Capsicum annum) is a widely consumed spice throughout the world. Capsaicin, the most abundant pungent ingredient of red chili peppers, exerts potent anticancer effect in various human malignancies.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a popular spice widely used in Western diets, especially in the “Mediterranean Diet”, which showed preventive effects of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and various solid cancers. Carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmanol may be the active components contained in rosemary responsible for its anti-cancer activity.

Other Spices
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Galangal (Alpinia officinarum)

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Wasabi (Wasabia japonica)

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia

Oregano (Origanum vulgare

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamom)

Side Effects of Active Compounds from Spices
Spices are commonly consumed in human diets, and most varieties at appropriate doses are safe to humans. Purified compounds are separated from spices for treatment of diseases. A few studies reported the side effects of these bioactive compounds when they were used for treatment of cancers. Besides, several compounds with anti-platelet effects from garlic, black cumin, ginger, fenugreek and turmeric might lead to excess bleeding in patients with bone marrow suppression.


Taking supplemental antioxidants during chemo/radiotherapy.

Some oncologists discourage the use of supplemental antioxidants claiming they could interfere with treatment. However, the opposite is actually the case.

For example, this study concluded: 280 peer-reviewed in vitro and in vivo studies, including 50 human studies involving 8,521 patients, 5,081 of whom were given nutrients, have consistently shown that non-prescription antioxidants and other nutrients do not interfere with therapeutic modalities for cancer. Furthermore, they enhance the killing of therapeutic modalities for cancer, decrease their side effects, and protect normal tissue. In 15 human studies, 3,738 patients who took non-prescription antioxidants and other nutrients actually had increased survival.

In their book I have cancer: What should I do? Your Orthomolecular Guide for Cancer Management the authors (including the world’s leading authority on supplements Andrew W Saul Ph.D) recommend the following for cancer patients:

  1. A high potency multivitamin/mineral supplement. It should provide all the recognised nutrients in high doses, such as the B-complex vitamins and minerals like zinc and magnesium, organic selenium, vitamin E as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols, and mixed carotenoids.
  2. Vitamin C. Take 3,000 – 5,000mg daily in divided doses.
  3. Coenzyme Q10. Take the ubiquinol form – 100-300mg daily.
  4. R-Lipoic acid. Take 300mg once or twice daily.
  5. Acetyl-L-carnitine Take 500mg once or twice daily.
  6. Omega-3 fish oil. Take 500mg of EPA and 700mg of DHA three times a day with meals.
  7. Iodine. Take 25mg daily.
  8. High potency digestive enzymes to aid food digestion. Take 2-4 tablets before or after a meal.
  9. Probiotics. Use formulas with multiple strains of friendly bacteria, along with fructooligosaccharides (FOS).
  10. Quercetin. take 200-400mg daily.
  11. Vitamin D. Take 5,000IU daily.
  12. Selenium. Take 200-400 mcg daily
  13. Green tea. Take as desired

Please see their book for more recommendations.

Cancer Survival Tips

Page updated 2023

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