Ounce of Prevention | Jamaican Herbs that fight Cancer
What Jamaicans call Guinea Hen Weed, garlic weed or gully root is known elsewhere as Anamu. It is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, the Caribbean, and the tropical areas of Africa. Its botanical name is Petiveria alliacea and has a long history of use in herbal medicine in all the countries where it grows. Natural health practitioners traditionally use anamu for many conditions including cancer, arthritis, digestive disorders, infections, diabetes, pain relief and even to induce abortions.
More recently, however, research on anamu has revealed many biologically active compounds in the plant: flavonoids, triterpenes, steroids, and sulphur compounds. Published research on anamu now validates its roles in the treatment of cancer.
- Anamu destroys cancer: Researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago, screened more than 1,400 plants looking for anti-cancer benefits. Anamu was one of only 34 plants identified with significant anti-cancer properties. Two compounds in anamu, astilbin and dibenzyl trisulphide were shown to directly kill cancer cells. These substances were able to selectively kill only cancer cells without harming normal cells.
- Anamu benefits immune function: Anamu also contains other substances that stimulate the immune system to increase its production of lymphocytes and natural killer cells - powerful cancer destroying agents. At the same time, it increases the production of interferon and interleukins - substances made by the immune system for fighting cancers and infections.
Compounds in anamu directly kill and/or inhibits the growth bacteria, viruses and fungi including yeasts. Interestingly medicine experts now recognise that infection plays a major role in causing several cancers.
- Anamu relieves pain: Anamu is a traditional remedy for arthritis and rheumatism and clinical research confirms its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits. This is important as pain relief is a major challenge in cancer management. Anamu extracts can even relieve pain and inflammation when applied topically to the skin.
- Precautions: Anamu use can lead to miscarriages and should not be used by pregnant women. The herb contains small quantities of the blood thinner Coumadin and people with a bleeding disorder or who are on blood thinning medication should consult their health care provider before using anamu.
- Directions for using anamu: I recommend using organically grown anamu herb, free of insecticides, herbicides and other pollution.This is now available locally as tea bags or capsules.
To make your own, use the whole plant: leaves, stems and roots. After sun drying this can be chopped up or made into a fine powder using a powerful blender. One heaping tablespoonful of this powder is diffused in one litre of hot water and the resulting tea is drunk preferably on an empty stomach. An average dose would be one cupful (eight ozs) daily.
This is the South American name for what Jamaicans know as the Sour sop tree (Annona muricata). Scientific studies on this powerful herb confirm several health benefits from chemical compounds called acetogenins found in the leaves, bark, stem and seeds.
Research at Purdue University's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences found that these substances kill many types of cancer cells, without damaging normal healthy cells. These acetogenins are inhibitors of enzymes found only in the membranes of cancer cells. This makes them effective against cancer cells only.
Scientists in Taiwan discovered that the primary acetogenin in graviola, annonacin, destroyed ovarian, bladder, cervical, breast and skin cancers at quite low concentrations. However, these were results from treating cancer cells growing in test tubes, and more research on humans is needed.
- Current Uses: Several drug companies and universities continue to attempt to copy the chemicals in graviola and make new anti-cancer drugs. Only recently have researchers succeeded in reproducing the main anticancer compound in graviola, annonacin. Graviola should not to be used during pregnancy or when breast-feeding.
Ball Moss (Tillandsia recurvateis) another herb found in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean and South America. The plant has been used in folk medicine, but recently.
Dr Henry Lowe and his associates have described its anti-cancer properties and produced a Ball Moss tea that is now commercially available.
Their research suggest that the herb induces cell death in cancer cells while reducing the cancer's ability to produce new blood vessels. It is particularly useful in prostate cancer when used in combination with Guinea Hen weed.
The well-known Jamaican herb ganja (Cannabis sativa) has now been widely researched and found to contain substances called cannabinoids that have multiple medical uses including the treatment of cancer. Every month medical journals now publish studies showing the efficacy of medicinal cannabis. Human and animal research have shown that cannabinoids trigger the death of cancer cells, stop cancer cells from dividing while preventing new blood vessels from growing to feed cancerous tumours. Medicinal cannabis is also very useful in managing cancer pain and the side effects of chemotherapy drugs.
A number of Jamaican doctors have now been trained and registered by our local Ministry of Health to prescribe and treat patients with cannabis.
- Reminders and warnings: Many persons are desperately looking for a quick fix; a magic bullet that will miraculously cure their illness. The reality is that there is no quick fix. Like so many useful herbs, Anamu, Graviola, Cannabis and Ball Mosswill give best results when combined with an optimal diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, detoxification, stress management and adequate restful sleep.
Their use must be a part of an ongoing healthy lifestyle programme. They may also be used alongside conventional cancer treatments without disturbing their effects. If you have cancer, do not self medicate without the assistance and guidance of a qualified health practitioner.
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