The Wellness Library

Naturopathic Therapies for Cancer

by | Jul 2, 2024 | Cancer Care

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Naturopathic Therapies in Cancer Care

Many health professionals may offer supportive naturopathic therapies to help improve their cancer patients’ quality of life. These therapies are used as complementary approaches to conventional cancer treatments. In other words, they are not used to treat cancer, but to support conventional treatments and help patients manage side effects.

Research into these naturopathic therapies includes a variety of modalities such as vitamin C infusions, viscum album injections, modified citrus pectin, and certain homeopathic remedies. Below, I’ve outlined the current evidence and research on treatments I commonly use in practice to help support MIMC’s patients with cancer.

You can learn even more about integrative cancer care with the link provided below:

RELATED: Integrative Cancer Care: Enhancing Healing and Well-Being

1. Vitamin C Infusions

High-dose vitamin C infusions have been studied for their potential role in supporting cancer treatment. Research suggests that at pharmacologic concentrations, vitamin C can have pro-oxidant effects that may damage cancer cells while sparing normal cells. Some studies have also indicated that vitamin C infusions can improve the quality of life and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients when used in complementary naturopathic therapies.

Clinical Evidence: A study published in the journal Antioxidants reported that high-dose intravenous vitamin C might help improve the symptoms and quality of life in patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Mechanism: According to research published in Science Translational Medicine, vitamin C at high concentrations can induce cytotoxicity in cancer cells through the production of hydrogen peroxide, which can damage the cancer cell’s DNA.

2. Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Injections

Viscum album, commonly known as mistletoe, is widely used in Europe as an adjunctive cancer treatment. It is believed to stimulate the immune system and potentially inhibit tumor growth. Mistletoe stimulates the immune system, which is particularly beneficial for patients with neutropenia. It’s also utilized in naturopathic therapies to improve fatigue related to chemotherapy.

Clinical Trials: A review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that mistletoe extracts might improve survival rates, quality of life, and symptom relief in cancer patients.

Mechanism: Research published in PLOS ONE indicates that mistletoe extracts can induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells and enhance the body’s immune response against tumors.

RELATED: Mistletoe and Its Supporting Role in Cancer Care

3. Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP)

MCP is derived from the pith of citrus fruits and is modified to be absorbable in the human digestive tract. It is believed to interfere with cancer cell growth and metastasis, and is therefore utilized in some naturopathic therapies.

Anti-Metastatic Properties: A study in Integrative Cancer Therapies demonstrated that MCP could inhibit the metastasis of prostate cancer cells in animal models.

Immune Modulation: Another study, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that MCP could enhance the activity of natural killer cells, which play a role in the body’s defense against tumors.

4. Homeopathic Medicines

Homeopathy involves the use of highly diluted substances to trigger the body’s natural healing processes. These are an excellent option in naturopathic therapies for cancer care, as the medicines are so diluted that they do not interact with conventional treatments. Some homeopathic remedies, such as Ferrum phosphoricum and Carcinosin, are especially explored for their potential roles in cancer care.

Ferrum Phosphoricum: This homeopathic remedy is traditionally used for conditions involving inflammation and fever. I commonly prescribe this homeopathic medicine to help with fatigue related to anemia. 

Carcinosin: This is a homeopathic remedy made from cancerous tissue. It is used by homeopaths based on the principle of “like cures like,” aiming to stimulate the body’s defense mechanisms. I typically reserve this medicine for late-stage patients, or those with inoperable tumors. 

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Individualized Care and Support

While many of these naturopathic therapies can be helpful for a variety of patients, some conventional treatments, health concerns, or current medications may not be recommended alongside specific supportive therapies. Therefore, you should be sure to work closely with your healthcare team, as those professionals will be sure to thoroughly examine your medical history to determine any conflicts with the above-mentioned supportive treatments.

If you have questions or interest in these therapies, be sure to contact your medical oncologist or other related healthcare providers. At MIMC, we happily work in collaboration with patients’ oncologists to ensure all supportive therapies are aligned with your specific health goals.

RELATED: Introduction to Functional Medicine

References

  1. National Institutes of Health. “Antioxidants in Cancer Therapy.” Antioxidants.
  2. Science Translational Medicine. “Vitamin C pharmacokinetics and its cytotoxic effects.” Science Translational Medicine. 
  3. Kienle GS, Kiene H. “Complementary Cancer Therapy: Mistletoe.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 
  4. Elluru S, Duong Van Huyen JP, et al. “Mistletoe’s Role in Cancer Therapy.” PLOS ONE.
  5. Glinsky VV, Raz A. “Modified Citrus Pectin Antimetastatic Properties.” Integrative Cancer Therapies.
  6. Yan J, Katz A. “Modified Citrus Pectin’s Role in Immune Modulation.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 

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