Risks of using herbal medicines in cancer patients

A study published in the journal of Cancer found that herbal remedies and supplements such as turmeric can increase the toxic effects of certain chemotherapies. Similarly, they found that green teas and gingko biloba can increase the risk of bleeding in these cancer patients.

The study was focused on cancer patients in the Middle East since herbs are commonly used as traditional medicine. The study found that nearly two-thirds of the herbal medicines that cancer patients in the Middle East used pose potential health risks.

I think this study is very important because a lot of people tend to think that anything that is over-the-counter or natural is safe. This is why it is important for patients to inform all of their healthcare providers about all of the over-the-counter medicines and supplements they take. My questions for the class are: What do you think of herbal medicines and how safe do you think they are for the average person?


Eran Ben-Arye, Noah Samuels, Lee Hilary Goldstein, Kamer Mutafoglu, Suha Omran, Elad Schiff, Haris Charalambous, Tahani Dweikat, Ibtisam Ghrayeb, Gil Bar-Sela, Ibrahim Turker, Azza Hassan, Esmat Hassan, Bashar Saad, Omar Nimri, Rejin Kebudi, Michael Silbermann. Potential risks associated with traditional herbal medicine use in cancer care: A study of Middle Eastern oncology health care professionals. Cancer, 2016; 122 (4): 598 DOI:10.1002/cncr.29796

1 thought on “Risks of using herbal medicines in cancer patients”

  1. I find this article extremely applicable as we move into our Standardized Patient finals. While practicing with one of the standardized patients, I was called out by her for not asking her about additional over-the-counter medications or herbal products, something that had completely passed my mind while counseling her on a new medication. Asking patients about their non-prescribed medications is so important because many drug-drug interactions can occur between herbals or over-the-counters and prescription medications. Although I do think they can have their benefits if used correctly, herbals need to be addressed during patient interactions to ensure a negative interaction is not underway. It is quite unfortunate to hear about the negative effects they have caused in combination with chemotherapy and this certainly makes me hope that in the future chemotherapy patients will be asked about their medication list, both prescribed and non-prescribed.

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