Herbal Helpers

While alternative medicine advocates tout the powerful benefits of herbs, research shows otherwise: Most herbs have little or no effect on cancer, although they might be beneficial for other reasons — and a few could be dangerous. This isn't to say that future research won't turn up some winners. After all, the potent anti-cancer drug taxol comes from the bark of the yew tree.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't require testing for herbs and supplements as it does for conventional drugs, so be cautious in the largely unregulated world of herbal medicines. While some may help, others could be worthless or dangerous. Always check with your doctor before consuming an unfamiliar herb.

The Controversy Over Herbs

New studies show anti-cancer effects in ginger, tea made from a Chinese herb called barbed skullcap, and the more traditional green tea.

The National Cancer Institute continues to study what — if any — effect green tea has on cancer. In the meantime, drinking a few cups of the antioxidant-rich brew each day certainly won't do any harm, but don't overdo it. Consuming too much green tea could cause nausea and diarrhea.

However, beware that many herbs that allegedly help prevent or cure cancer have little or no proven benefits, and may have dangerous side effects. To be safe, consult your physician before experimenting with any herbal cancer remedies.

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