Many of the chemotherapy agents currently being used in hospitals today for the treatment of cancer are derived from or based on cytotoxic chemicals found originally in herbs (e.g. vincristine, etoposide, and taxol). Few people realize that approximately 50% of the drugs that have been approved for the treatment of cancer over the past 30 years come either directly or indirectly from natural products such as plants. Since the 1940’s, of the 175 small molecules that are used in the treatment of cancer in conventional medicine, 85 are natural products or direct derivatives from them. The power of plant-medicine has been down-played or demonized by the media and conventional medicine in part because plants are accessible, affordable, and they can’t be patented. As such, plants have the power to kill Big Profits for Big Pharma.


At AlivenHealthy, we’ve included descriptions of some of the most powerful and well-known herbs that have been used to cure cancer for centuries. To include all of the herbs that have anti-cancer capabilities would take years to complete because there are so many of them. Dr. Jonathon L. Hartwell long-time employee (and possibly one of the founders, according to Ralph Moss) of the National Cancer Institute worked in the Natural Products Section (which he also founded). He studied plant-based cancer treatments and published a book called Plants Used Against Cancer, published by Quarterman Publications in 1981.


Shortly after his book was published, Dr. Hartwell died and Quarterman Publications went out of business.


Unless you’re an herbalist with your own personal experiences working with herbal treatments for various diseases, you might be inclined to believe that plant-based medicines are not as effective as the chemicals offered by conventional medicine. In most of the modern world, this sense that chemicals are more effective than plant-based medicines is easily traceable to political decisions that were made in the 1980’s. What most people believe to be true about plant-based medicines is based on what they’ve been brainwashed to believe.


Anti-plant propaganda is hard to identify because it comes from a variety of sources. Recall the media frenzy over ephedra in the early 2000’s when Korey Stringer from the Minnesota Vikings and Steve Bechler, a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, died of heatstroke that was supposedly brought on by the use of ephedra. Americans are encouraged to “spray for weeds” to nurture green, homogenous lawns that are completely devoid of plants such as red clover (which contains laetrile and is used in several effective herbal cancer treatments). Herbal treatments must all, by law, state that the FDA has not approved them as medicinals. They are merely “supplements”.


Of all the anti-cancer herbs that Americans know about, marijuana is the one that’s gotten the most negative press. It was dubbed a “gateway drug” in the 1990’s and only recently have states begun to recognize its medicinal value. The U.S. federal government is predictably slow at accepting marijuana’s treatment value for cancer as well as other diseases like epilepsy. But the federal government and associated organizations have a vested interest in Big Pharma. Until Big Pharma can develop a synthetic-marijuana-analog to eclipse the use of marijuana-the-plant, there will continue to be plenty of propaganda and naysayers who stand against the medicinal potential of THC and CBD.


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In addition to the anti-plant propaganda that Americans are constantly exposed to, they are also exposed to propaganda extolling the virtues of pharmaceuticals. Television advertisements for pharmaceuticals began in 1983 and since that time, there has been a crescendo in the number and quality of these advertisements. In 1982, just one year before TV advertising of pharmaceuticals began, when Dr. Hartwell published his book, Jim Duke wrote a foreword that offered an important glimpse into the future:


“… I view [Jonathan’s book] as one epitaph to the cancer-screening program involving the National Cancer Institute with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for nearly 25 years. In a blow to natural-products chemistry in the United States, the Board of Scientific Counsellors, Division of Cancer Treatment, National Cancer Institute, voted on October 2, 1981, to abolish the NCI research contract program concerned with the development of antitumor agents from plants. I fear this signals the end of significant government-sponsored research in the United States on medicinal plants, leaving research to the pharmaceutical firms, who have shown relative disinterest in plant products.


According to the OTA (Office of Technology Assessment, 1981) Project Proposal, approved by Congress, Technologies for Sustaining Tropical Forest Resources (p. 15), “The National Cancer Institute has screened about 35,000 higher plants species for activity against cancer; as of 1977 about 3,000 of these had demonstrated reproducible activity; a small fraction were appropriate for screening should perhaps be accelerated.” Apparently, Congress had not anticipated the closing down of the plant screening program. In 1978, as a longtime student of herbal medicine, I changed places with Dr. R.E. Perdue as leader of the Medicinal Plant Resources Laboratory of the USDA. Although no exciting new leads developed during my association with the program, they may well reside untested in the hundreds of plant specimens that came in from Australia, China, Ecuador, Madagascar, and Venezuela after the program was ordered phased out. I fear that the long-range implications are that, as a result of this cutback, some plant species with anticancer activity will suffer extinction before they are ever studied. Some natural drugs that could save thousands of lives and alleviate much suffering will disappear from the face of the earth, irretrievable, without ever being used…”


There have been a number of cases when high-appointed authorities in the NCI would act in concert with certain powerful individuals associated with the pharmaceutical industry to quell a plant-based project that showed great promise in treating cancer. One such project was known as “ammatosin”.


“Ammatosin” was a project that was developed over the course of twenty years by Dr. Wilburn H. Ferguson, a phytopharmacologist. Dr. Ferguson’s work took place in the Amazon jungles of eastern Ecuador where he studied an herbal cure for cancer that had been in use by the Jivaro Indians. The herbal formula was carefully developed and eventually clinical human trials were started. One such trial took place in Pama Valley, California between 1959 and 1960. The herbal formula worked as well as any of the pharmaceutical controls. Dr. Hartwell was notified of the promising results and he began his own investigations. Dr. Ferguson could not secure funding to continue the research however. And Dr. Hartwell was ordered to drop his investigations. Today, members of the Ferguson family use the herbal formula privately but refuse to share it publicly for fear of reprisal by regulatory agencies.


Plant-based medicine is powerful, but understated. Today, phytomedicine operates quietly in the shadows. Information about herbal medicines is available to those who know how to find it buried underneath the propaganda. And in terms of cancer, Dr. Hartwell has published the names of over 3000 species of plants that have anti-cancer properties. This list can be downloaded in a review published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology by Graham, Quin, Fabricant, and Farnsworth (2000) at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037887410000341X.  


Before you continue  take a moment to examine your own beliefs and inclinations about plants and medicine. Many herbalists regard plants as sentient beings with their own consciousness. Since the medicinal behavior of most herbs is relatively mysterious and often not reducible to one molecule in the chemical make-up of the plant, the idea that plants have a consciousness helps to make sense of their special medicinal powers. Herbs can and do behave as healers when we use them as such even despite our inability to understand them fully.


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