Complementary and Alternative Cancer Treatments (cont.)

Medical Reviewer:

"Few cancer specialists would argue with the use of complementary cancer therapies like meditation, acupuncture, or yoga. They can be used along with accepted treatments to help reduce stress, reduce nausea or improve well-being," says Eric Bernicker, MD, an oncologist at the Houston Methodist Cancer Center.

"We do get upset when alternative cancer treatments take the place of proven cancer treatments. That can be putting yourself in harm's way. The data is lacking for support of any alternative cancer treatments," says Dr. Bernicker.

Herbs for Cancer Treatment Side Effects and Immune Boosters

Some herbal supplements may relieve cancer treatment's side effects, like nausea and vomiting. They might also help reduce pain and fatigue. But no herbal medicine has been found that can cure cancer.

"Lots of real medicines come from plants, but taking an herbal supplement is risky. I don't advise any herbal supplements during cancer treatment. It might interact with your cancer treatment and undercut therapy. After treatment is over, if you want to try an herbal supplement to boost your immune system, I would be less worried," says Bernicker.

One herb that may be helpful for cancer is astragalus. It comes from the root of the astragalus plant and has been used for centuries in China. As a cancer herb, it may boost your immune system and help you fight cancer. Most of the evidence comes from studies done on mice. The American Cancer Society says more studies are needed in people before this herb can be recommended.

Vitamins for Cancer

Vitamin C protected cancer cells more than healthy cells," says Bernicker.

In contrast, one large study of more than 14,000 men found that men who took vitamin and mineral supplements over 11 years reduced their risk of getting cancer by 8 percent compared to men who did not take vitamins and minerals. However, studies on individual vitamins A, C and E have all come up empty on cancer.

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