Herb-Drug Interactions for Cancer
By Narda G. Robinson, DO, DVM, MS, FAAMA
The high-stakes drama in the news this spring told the tale of a teen with cancer leaving town with his mother, who wanted him to have alternative treatment instead of court-ordered chemotherapy.
The panoply of cures peddled for both human and veterinary cancer patients can end up consuming the most limited resources: time and money. People’s allegiance sometimes splits between the tried and true and the too good to –be true. Many pick the middle ground of choosing both, hoping to offset the envisioned misery of chemotherapy with feel-good supplements.
All too often, however, fact-based information about supplements and cancer becomes buried in the chaos of the Internet.
In truth, herbs and supplements can often improve well-being and even outcomes when given appropriately. When administered injudiciously, however, they risk lowering the therapeutic value of chemotherapy and radiation. The oft-touted garlic, for example, induces the P-glycoprotein drug efflux transport system to aid the body in ridding itself of perceived toxins such as chemotherapeutics.
In addition, antioxidants can counter the pro-oxidant effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and plant-derived anticoagulants can predispose patients to unexpected bleeding.