Herbs and radiotherapy.
Subject: Cancer (Care and treatment)
Herbs (Health aspects)
Radiotherapy (Health aspects)
Author: Kendon, Ruth
Pub Date: 12/22/2006
Publication: Name: Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism Publisher: National Herbalists Association of Australia Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2006 National Herbalists Association of Australia ISSN: 1033-8330
Issue: Date: Winter, 2006 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 4
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Australia Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia
Accession Number: 174817365
Full Text: Overview

To complete the series of articles on herbal interactions in the treatment of cancer, it is important to consider radiotherapy as well as drug therapy. While this area has been partially covered in previous articles, it is worthwhile having an interaction chart for radiotherapy itself for quick reference.

Cancer patients routinely undergo radiotherapy as part of their treatment. This has a number of side effects including free radical damage, immune suppression, malabsorption due to gastrointestinal atrophy, and perhaps most importantly general debility. This combination can seriously weaken the patient.

Herbal medicine is uniquely placed to offer genuine support by supporting vitality, enhancing resistance and reducing side effects.

Because interactions between radiotherapy and herbal medicines are often based on theory, there are conflicting opinions. In these cases we strongly recommend that individual practitioners refer to the sources cited below and then use their professional judgement.


Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J et el. 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Integrative Medicine Communications.

Bone K. 1996. Clinical applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Warwick: Phytotherapy Press.

Braun L, Cohen M. 2005. Herbs & Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide. Mosby.

Buckle J, 2003: Clinical Aromatherapy, 2nd Edition. Churchill Livingstone.

Cassileth B, Lucarelli C. 2003. Herb-Drug Interactions in Oncology. New York: BC Decker.

Hoffman D, 1990: The New Holistic Herbal, Element Books.

Lininger S, Gaby A, Austin S, Batz F, Yarnell E, Brown D, & Constantine G: 1999; A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin interactions; Health Notes/Three Rivers Press.

Mills S, Bone K. 2005. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Sydney: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.

Murray M, 1999: The Healing Power of Herbs, Prima.

Price S and Price P, 1999: Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, 2nd. Ed. Churchill Livingstone.

Upton R, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Monographs.

Ruth Kendon

PO Box 878 Willoughby NSW 2068

Email ruthkendon@optushome.com.au

Ruth Kendon is a practising naturopath and herbalist based in Sydney. After graduating in 1984 with diplomas in Naturopathy and Botanical Medicine, she has spent the last 20 years in private practice and taught clinical nutrition for 17 years at Sydney naturopathic colleges. For the last 10 years she has been involved in the formulation and design of hundreds of natural health products including foods, herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, homeopathic remedies and essential oils. Her greatest passion is for genuine, high quality herbal and nutritional medicine and for food. Ruth is a Director of the Board of the NHAA.
Proven,           Beneficial
Herb            Botanical name       disproven or      or harmful
                                     theoretical       interaction

Aloe vera       Aloe spp             Some evidence     Beneficial
fresh gel

Astragalus      Astragalus           Proven in         Beneficial
                membranaceus         animals

Ginseng         Panax ginseng        Proven            Beneficial

Korean          Panax ginseng        Proven            Beneficial

Naiouli         Melaleuca            Empirical         Beneficial
essential oil   viridiflora

Reishi          Ganoderma lucidum    Proven            Beneficial

Siberian        Eleutherococcus      Proven in         Beneficial
ginseng         senticosus           animals

Slippery elm    Ulmus rubra          Empirical         Beneficial

Turmeric        Curcuma longa        Proven in vitro   Possibly
                                     and in animals    beneficial

Withania        Withania somnifera   Proven in         Beneficial

Withania        Withania somnifera   Proven in         Beneficial

Herb            Comments

Aloe vera       Relieves pain and promotes
fresh gel       healing of radiation-induced
                burns and eczema.

Astragalus      Restores immune function after

Ginseng         Protects the bone marrow during

Korean          Protects animals against
Ginseng         radiation.

Naiouli         Minimises the severity of
essential oil   burning on the skin.

Reishi          Supports immune resistance in
mushroom        people undergoing radiotherapy.

Siberian        Increases resistance of the
ginseng         organism to radiation.

Slippery elm    Relieves pain and promotes
bark            healing of mouth ulcers and
                gastrointestinal inflammation
                after radiotherapy.

Turmeric        Protects animals against

Withania        Reverses radiation-induced

Withania        Increases antitumour effects of
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.