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Herbs and Herbal Remedies

Herbs with anti-cancer properties

Natural herbs had been traditionally in use for cancer therapy in most parts of the world. In this review, we have examined ten commonly used Chinese herbs that have, for centuries, shown effectiveness in treating cancers. They demonstrated the abilities to promote the apoptosis of cancer cells, inhibit their metastasis, activate the patient’s anticancer immunity, and synergistically increase the efficacy of conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy when used in combination. Clinical experiences had proved that these herbs and their bioactive compounds were effective against a plethora of cancers through a variety of mechanisms, effectively improving patients’ quality of life without significant side effects. Source

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…

Here are 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)
The herbal supplement Withaferin A significantly inhibited the tumorigenic potential of isolated cancer stem cells in vitro and significantly reduced its expression in tumors collected from mice, according to this Study

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

Astragalus (Huang Qi)
See Milk Vetch

Berberis Family (e.g. Podophyllum peltanum)

Berberine is the key bioactive ingredient of Berberis vulgaris
See Berberine

Bupleurum (Thorowax, or Hares ear)
Preclinical studies suggest that bupleurum has antiviral (4) (7), hepatoprotective (16), anti-inflammatory (1) (17), immune-modulating (3) (14), antiproliferative (11), and chemopreventive (12) (13) properties. Experiments suggest bupleurum might exert some influence over multidrug resistance in drug-resistant cells (2). Source: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre

Black Pepper
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. Overall, the anticancer mechanisms of capsaicin include activation of apoptosis, cell-growth arrest and inhibition of angiogenesis and metastasis. Capsaicin stimulates the anti-tumorigenic/tumor-suppressive signaling pathway and related transcription factors, whereas it inhibits oncogenic signaling pathways and tumor promoters. In addition, capsaicin interacts with other cancer-preventive agents synergistically, providing the possibility for the potential use of capsaicin in cancer therapy with other chemotherapeutic agents.

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 Ginger Extract
Ginger, a cousin spice of super anti-cancer substance turmeric, is known for its ability to shrink tumors. This study says: The health-promoting perspectives of ginger are well known. It can treat a wide range of diseases via immunonutrition and anti-inflammatory responses…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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Herb-Herb Interaction

Passionflower was shown to enhance the potency of St. John’s wort (18).

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. Moreover, the key saffron compounds crocin and crocetin can have a synergetic effect when used with other conventional anticancer drugs, thus, improving the efficacy of these drugs in cancer therapy. Furthermore, several studies encapsulated crocin, crocetin, or safranal within nanocarriers to enhance their effectiveness in cancer therapy by overcoming physicochemical limitations.

Bhia, M., Rajani, H.F., Mohammadkhani, N., Jafari, S.M. (2021). Saffron (Crocins) Against Cancer. In: Jafari, S.M., Nabavi, S.M., Silva, A.S. (eds) Nutraceuticals and Cancer Signaling. Food Bioactive Ingredients. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74035-1_13

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 (2). A few case reports suggest it may help decrease fatigue in cancer patients (3), 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 Curcumin

See Wheatgrass

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

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.

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

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 [85,86,87,88,89,90].

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 [135,136,137,138,139,140,141,142,143].

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 [183,184,185,186,187,188,189,190,191].

Ginsenosides mainly exert anti-cancer effects in colorectal, breast, liver and lung cancers, through inhibiting cell proliferation and migration, angiogenesis, and reversing drug resistance [7223,224,225,226,227,228,229,230].

Ursolic acid (UA)
It also exerts anti-cancer activities in ovarian, breast, gastric, prostate, lung, liver, bladder, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers [273,274,275,276,277,278,279,280,281].

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 [318,319,320,321,322,323,324,325,326,327,328].

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 [367,368,369,370,371,372,373,374,375,376,377,378,379].

Tanshinone exhibits anti-cancer activities in stomach, prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancers, through inducing cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, autophagy, and inhibiting cell migration [507,508,509,510,511,512,513,514,515].

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 [543,544,545,546,547,548,549,550,551,552,553,554,555,556,557,558].

It is effective in treating different kinds of cancers, including breast, prostate, ovarian and thyroid cancers, Ewing sarcoma, and myelomonocytic lymphoma [595,596,597,598,599,600].

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 [640,641,642,643,644,645,646].

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 [179669,670,671,672,673,674,675,676,677,678,679].

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 [706,707,708,709,710,711,712,713,714,715,716].

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 [746,747,748,749,750,751,752].

Salvia mitiorrhiza
Lion’s Mane
Turkey Tail mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms

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