The FDA is once again cracking down on companies that are making the assertion that their products prevent, treat or cure cancer in people & in pets. Let’s look at why these products were targeted & what to look for on labels. I will also look at individual products that have been around for a long time & continue to be popular.
As an RN, a Reiki Master/Teacher, certified in homeopathy, flower essences & growing/working with medicinal herbs, I want to get my two cents in. The above therapies are legitimate & can boost your immune system, lower your stress & help with side effects of cancer treatment. But they will not “cure” cancer. They can help you to “heal yourself”. “Cure” is a physical outcome. To “heal” is to balance your body, mind & spirit. A cure can take place when you believe 100% + that something will cure you. These are miracles & we all know that they can occur.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, there is a small window of opportunity to start treatment to get the rogue cancer cells under control to effect a cure or to treat the cancer as a chronic disease. If that person goes for the alternative therapy~ claiming a “cancer cure”~ that they heard or read about, & not go for the conventional treatment, then they are putting themselves at risk of the cancer growing larger or spreading. That is not to say that you should not use other treatments of your choice. Get a diagnosis, talk with your oncologist & make decisions together. I have had patients choose other therapies while they were being monitored by their oncologist to see if it was working. Other’s had the conventional treatment while using complementary therapies with the blessing of their health care team. Both scenarios have positive outcomes.
It is ultimately your choice. Be informed.
I will let the FDA tell you in their own words why they review what is being targeted to cancer patients. Products Claiming to “Cure” Cancer Are a Cruel Deception “Anyone who suffers from cancer, or knows someone who does, understands the fear and desperation that can set in,” says Kornspan. “There can be a great temptation to jump at anything that appears to offer a chance for a cure.”
Legitimate medical products such as drugs and devices intended to treat cancer must gain FDA approval or clearance before they are marketed and sold. The agency’s review process helps ensure that these products are safe and effective for their intended uses.
Nevertheless, it’s always possible to find someone or some company hawking bogus cancer “treatments,” which come in many forms, including pills, capsules, powders, creams, teas, oils, and treatment kits. Frequently advertised as “natural” treatments and often falsely labeled as dietary supplements, such products may appear harmless, but may cause harm by delaying or interfering with proven, beneficial treatments. Absent FDA approval or clearance for safety, they could also contain dangerous ingredients.
That holds true for treatments intended for humans and those intended for pets. “Increasingly, bogus remedies claiming to cure cancer in cats and dogs are showing up online,” Kornspan says. “People who cannot afford to spend large sums at the animal hospital to treat cancer in their beloved dogs and cats are searching for less expensive remedies.”
Remember that the word cancer is an umbrella term describing how a rogue cell acts. Each type of cancer is a disease in its own right. Due to our unique health history as an individual, even the same cancer diagnosis does not progress in the same way for each person. Treatments must be individualized. “One size does not fit all.”
FDA: Red Flags “While some fraudulent products claim to cure a variety of diseases and conditions, fraudulent cancer products often use a particular vocabulary, Kornspan says. Consumers should recognize certain phrases as red flags, including:
- Treats all forms of cancer
- Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumors
- Shrinks malignant tumors
- Selectively kills cancer cells
- More effective than chemotherapy
- Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact
- Cures cancer
This is an example of recent headlines. CBS News: FDA cracks down on bogus cancer treatments : Herbal tea remedies, asparagus extract, and a number of topical creams and ointments are among the products that fraudulently claim to prevent, treat or cure cancer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Yesterday, the agency issued warning letters to 14 U.S.-based companies peddling more than 65 of these bogus cancer cures. The products are marketed and sold without FDA approval, most commonly on websites and social media platforms.
“Consumers should not use these or similar unproven products because they may be unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate and potentially life-saving cancer diagnosis or treatment,” Douglas W. Stearn, director of the Office of Enforcement and Import Operations in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, said in a statement. “We encourage people to remain vigilant whether online or in a store, and avoid purchasing products marketed to treat cancer without any proof they will work. Patients should consult a health care professional about proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”
The herbal tea remedies that are usually targeted by the FDA are Essiac & Flor Essence Teas. PubMed has an excellent site about these 2 teas; their history & the results from clinical trials. Essiac/Flor Essence
Essiac Tea is traditionally made with these 4 herbs. My links are to information about each herb at Mountain Rose Herbs. It is a company that I trust & use to purchase herbs for my personal use.
Burdock root. I see this used mostly for skin conditions.
Indian rhubarb root. Turkey Rhubarb Root This is the root used in the Essiac tea later when Rene Caisse, the Canadian public health nurse responsible for the formula, switched the herb because she thought this one more effective & more palatable.
Sheep sorrel. Gaining popularity. It is usually used for diarrhea & inflammation.
Slippery elm (the inner bark). Slippery elm lozenges made from the inner bark are wonderful for GERD or any upset stomach. I use the powder sometimes but it must be used at least an hour before or after you take medications as it slows the absorption.
The problem with these herbs, together & separately, is that they contain tannens & oxalic acid. Both cause permanent kidney & liver damage when taken in large amounts or for long periods of time.
Flor Essence uses the same four herbs plus these three:
Watercress. I use it in salads 🙂 It has been used for everything from diarrhea to baldness & coughs. When used medicinally, in small amounts, it is safe, but in larger amounts, or over long periods of time, can cause kidney problems & stomach upsets.
Blessed thistle. Used as an appetite stimulant & supports healthy digestion. I have seen it in Bitters.
Red clover. I see this in menopausal remedies. The profile I linked to has a reference area with NIH clinical research links.
Kelp. Culinary use is the most popular. In teas it is used as a diuretic. Be cautious because it is very high in natural iodine.
These teas are safe to use in moderation, but not when used several times a day over a long period of time. I would also be cautious if you have a history of liver or kidney health issues.
Asparagus extract is another popular one sold as a cancer cure. Asparagus is safe when eaten as a food. There aren’t any studies that I could find that says it is safe as an extract. Extracts, like supplements, are not checked for safety before being sold in the US.
In the past the FDA has tested a few extracts & supplements; they found differing amounts of the product in the extract or pill than what is stated on the label. They also found added ingredients that were not on the label. This is why choosing reputable companies is so important.
Asparagus is one of my favorite foods that I pig out on when they are in season. I can’t wait until our asparagus bed will be ready! They are an antioxidant & full of vitamins & minerals. Asparagus is also a natural diuretic. Eat it!
These are good examples of a food & an over the counter drug that can help cancer patients. Both have research behind them. Notice that they are not labeled as “cancer cures”.
Dr. Weil: Can Medicinal Mushrooms Benefit Cancer Patients? These 4 May “For people with cancer, medicinal mushrooms are one way to help strengthen the body’s defense. This non-toxic therapy can boost immune function – especially important for people going through radiation or chemotherapy. Four mushrooms I have recommended for their proven anti-cancer and immune-enhancing effects are:
- Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor). This common medicinal mushroom is shown to have anti-cancer effects in ongoing research in the United States. I suggest liquid or encapsulated extracts.
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa). This mushroom not only has anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties, but it may also help reduce blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). Animal studies have shown that reishi inhibits the growth of some malignant tumors and improves immune function – it also has natural anti-inflammatory effects as well.
- Agaricus blazei (Agaricus brasiliensis). This mushroom contains beta glucans, a group of polysaccharides (complex sugars) that may be the reason behind its immune-boosting effects. Oncologists in Japan and Brazil use this mushroom in treatment protocols.
When research is done on herbs & plants, they may use the entire plant, a particular part of the plant or an extract. It is important to look at the research to see what was used & how much & for how long. Just to say that reishi mushrooms in ANIMAL studies, inhibits the growth of SOME malignant tumors does not give us enough information. Unlike the fraudulent products, we do know that culinary mushrooms are safe to eat.
Medscape: Aspirin to Prevent Cancer: What to Tell Patients “Patients might be asking you if they should take aspirin to prevent cancer. And depending on their age and health status, the answer may be “yes.” Data show that overall mortality is lowered with regular aspirin use. That benefit is due primarily to reduced death from cancer —in particular, colorectal cancer, as well as breast, prostate, and lung cancer.
Note that the author says it depends on your age & health status. Aspirin is an anti-coagulant, has side effects, and interacts with other drugs, so it is not a particularly safe drug for everyone. If you are interested in adding aspirin to your tool box then make sure you talk with your health care team.
The governmental agency, NCBI, The National Center for Biotechnology Information, has a very interesting site about herbs & spices. Herbs and Spices in Cancer Prevention and Treatment “Today, spices are increasingly revered not only for their culinary properties but also for their potential health benefits. Although the health attributes associated with spice use may arise from their antioxidant properties, their biological effects may arise from their ability to induce changes in a number of cellular processes, including those involved with drug metabolism, cell division, apoptosis, differentiation, and immunocompetence.”
If you are thinking about trying an herb or supplement that claims a “cancer cure”, you can use these links:
- National Institute of Health (NIH)
- National Cancer Institute: Site for information concerning cancer. Includes research information.
- National Center for Alternative & Complementary Medicine: One of my favorite sites for herbal remedies and other complementary modalities.
- Pubmed: Also a part of NIH. Great way to search for publications & research on any medical subject.
- Medline Plus: Great site for patients, their families & friends. Information put in easy to understand terms.
I guess the bottom line would be “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” We need to be vigilant & talk with our health care providers before we try something that may be detrimental to our treatment. I use the word we because there are fraudulent products out there for every disease or health problem.
Until next week…Mary 🙂
New Mediterranean Recipes:
- Chicago Tribune: FDA cracks down on companies peddling fraudulent cancer treatments : The Food and Drug Administration ordered 14 companies to stop making bogus claims about cancer cures – including asparagus extract, exotic teas and topical creams for pets – or face possible product seizures and criminal prosecution.
FDA: Illegally Sold Cancer Treatments : The FDA has issued 14 warning letters and four online advisory letters to companies illegally selling more than 65 products that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure cancer. The products are marketed and sold without FDA approval, most commonly on websites or social media platforms. They have not been reviewed by FDA for safety and efficacy, and can be dangerous to both people and pets.