Counting down the best supplements for cancer treatment
If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, you’re no stranger to combination and complimentary therapies. Along with the remedies mentioned here, other supplements are also being studied to help with the effectiveness and side effects of cancer treatments, such as alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin K and vitamin A.
Remember to talk to your doctor before adding herbs or vitamins to your cancer treatment plan, as they may have adverse interactions with other medications. Supplements that may cause problems include echinacea, licorice, Siberian ginseng and St. John’s Wort. Here are nine recommendations of natural remedies you might want to consider taking during and after your treatment.
1. Astragalus supplements may help rebuild your immune system after cancer treatment
What is astragalus?
For more than 2,000 years, astragalus has been an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine. Because of its powerful ability to stimulate the body’s immune system, this herb is particularly valuable for fighting disease and dealing with the after-effects of cancer treatments.
Botanically, it’s related to licorice and the pea. Medicinally, the herb’s root is its most important part. Astragalus root is loaded with health-promoting substances like polysaccharides, a class of carbohydrates that appears to be responsible for the herb’s immune-boosting effects.
What does astragalus do?
Astragalus may enhance overall health by improving a person’s resistance to disease, increasing stamina and promoting general well-being. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping the body correct or prevent cell damage, and may have antiviral and antibiotic properties as well.
Astragalus is used to rebuild the immune system of people undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for cancer-it increases the body’s production of white blood cells. For this reason, it may be useful in treating patients with low white blood cell counts.
How to take astragalus
- Dried root: 2 to 30 grams a day.
- Liquid extract (1:2): 4.5-8.5 millilitres a day.
- Decoction: 8 to 12 grams divided into two doses and taken on an empty stomach.
- For precise doses, follow the label or consult a health-care practitioner.
- The herb astragalus can be taken at any time during the day with or without food. Allow at least two weeks for positive effects to occur. Astragalus may reduce absorption of medications taken orally, so take these medications and astragalus at different times.
2. Cat’s claw supplements may support cancer treatment
What is cat’s claw?
This herb is thought to boost the immune system. Tea from cat’s claw’s bark has been used to treat wounds, stomach illness, arthritis, cancer and other ailments. Several compounds in cat’s claw may account for its alleged cancer-fighting and immune-boosting effects.
What does cat’s claw do?
Modern scientific studies have identified several active ingredients in cat’s claw that enhance the activity of the immune system and inhibit inflammation. Their presence may help explain why this herb traditionally has been used to fight arthritis, cancer, dysentery, ulcers and other infectious and inflammatory conditions.
Some doctors prescribe cat’s claw to stimulate the immune response in cancer patients, many of whom may be weakened by chemotherapy, radiation or other conventional cancer treatments.
How to take cat’s claw
- Take a standardized extract as directed by a health-care practitioner or following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Pills containing the crude herb (the ground root or inner bark in non-concentrated form) are often available in 500 or 1000-milligram capsules.
- Cat’s claw tea is sold in health food stores. Consult a herbalist or naturopath for a dosage recommendation. You can combine or rotate cat’s claw with other immune-stimulating herbs, such as echinacea, goldenseal, reishi and maitake mushrooms, astragalus or pau d’arco. Cat’s claw may increase the risk of bleeding and should be discontinued two weeks before surgery.