When it comes to fighting cancer, the world’s most widely used herb medicines might seem to be a long way off.
But the use of some medicinal herbs, such as cannabis and peyote, may be making a big difference in the fight against it.
The Irish Independent has reported that in a recent survey of doctors, herbalists and naturopaths, nearly half of them said they are using herbal medicine to treat cancer.
And a growing number of people have been prescribing these medicines to themselves and family members.
The survey also found that almost one in five doctors said they had treated patients with herbs in the last year, up from one in 10 a decade ago.
“The number of doctors using herbs to treat patients has increased dramatically over the past decade,” said Dr Francesco Santamaria, who conducted the survey.
He said the number of patients in Ireland using herbal medicines rose from around 10,000 in the early 1990s to more than 40,000 today.
The rise is partly attributed to the growing number the Irish public is seeing, he said.
“We are seeing a lot more people using these medicines,” Dr Santamari said.
“I am seeing a huge increase in patients using them.”‘
Herb medicine is a new frontier’Despite the increasing number of medicines being prescribed, it’s not clear how much of the growth in use is down to the new medicine or whether there is a real appetite for it among the population.
The new medicines can be found in prescription form, such a cannabis or peyotecanib and have also been used by a growing percentage of people.
Dr Santamarie said the growth of use was not limited to those in Ireland.
“In Australia, in a sense we have seen an increase in use of herbal medicines over the last decade,” he said, adding that there was a “growing recognition” in Ireland that “herb medicine can be a viable option for treating cancer.”
The survey found that of the doctors who used the herbs in question, almost half used cannabis.
The use of peyothecaine and cannabis was higher in England than in Ireland, where cannabis is the most commonly prescribed herb.
“The use of cannabis for cancer treatment has been increasing, especially in the United States,” said Prof David Kavanagh, a naturopathic doctor and head of the cancer and herbal medicine department at the University of Liverpool.
“It is now common to see patients with cancer in England who have had cannabis taken.”
What is interesting is that many of these people are also taking these herbs to improve their symptoms and reduce their symptoms.””
Dr Santamy said the use among doctors was not surprising, given that the “real goal of most of these treatments is to improve patients’ quality of life and reduce the impact on the planet”.””
There is also concern about the potential to harm the immune system of patients.”
Dr Santamy said the use among doctors was not surprising, given that the “real goal of most of these treatments is to improve patients’ quality of life and reduce the impact on the planet”.
“We have a lot of anecdotal evidence of the health benefits of these medicines, but it is also important to look at their scientific research,” he explained.
The number one cause of cancer deaths in the world is the over-use of prescription medicines.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 5.5 and 9.5 million people die each year from cancer, and more than half of those die from cancer.
Dr Kavanagh said the increase in people using herbal remedies for cancer could have a positive impact.
“Herbal medicines have the potential, if we take a long-term view, to help patients to make healthier choices, and that can help to reduce their cancer risk,” he noted.
Dr David Kvanagh is an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicine at the Liverpool School of Medicine.