Cancer is a killer disease. It is the least untoward effect that we can expect from herbal cures. Unfortunately, there are herbs that can be carcinogenic.
Carcinogens refer to any substance that is involved in the formation of cancer. Usual examples of carcinogens are inhaled asbestos, certain dioxins, and tobacco smoke. There are many natural carcinogens; the Aflatoxin B1 for instance is produced by the fungus, Aspergillus flavus. This grows on stored nuts, grains and on peanut butter.
Some medicinal plants can also act as carcinogens. The following some of these carcinogenic herbs that you could be using for some ailments.
Angelica archangelica Linne (Fam Umbelliferae)
Garden Angelica is a flowering plant also known as Holy Ghost, Wild celery, and Norwegian angelica. It is used as an emmenagogue as it regulates the menstrual flow, while easing the menstrual pain. The root stalks, leaves and fruit possess carminative, stimulant, diaphoretic, stomachic and tonic properties. It is also effective against colds, coughs, rheumatism and for treating bacterial, fungal and viral infection. However, it contains a number of furocoumarin – a compound produced by plants that can be carcinogenic.
Euphorbia heterodoxa Mull Arg (Fam Euphorbiaceae)
Aveloz is a Brazilian shrub also known as killwart. It is said to be applied locally as a wart or tumor remover by the Amazonian Indians
As a Euphorbiaceae, it yields latex that is extremely irritating for the skin and mucous membrane. Its latex has been used in folk medicine since 400 BC as an escherotic to treat cancer, tumors and warts. Never the less, they also contain diterpene esters that can also act as tumor promoters or co-carcinogens.
Acorus calamus Linne (Fam Araceae)
The fragrant rhizome of calamus also known as sweet flag is used as a carminative and stomachic. Its oil is being used as a fragrance component in soap and perfume. Unfortunately, the same fragrance component – B-asarone has been sound to promote malignant tumors in rats.
Larrea tridentata (De Candolie) Corille (Fam Zygophyllaceae)
Chaparral also popular as creosote bush, is a strongly scented olive green bush. It grows from California to Texas and Mexico.
Chaparral has been employed in the cure of bronchitis, common colds and in rheumatism. It is an effective antioxidant because of the presence of nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA). This compound is also used as preservative for animal fats. Yet studies revealed that NDGT produced cyst and kidney damage in rodents.
Tussilago farfara Linne (Fam Compositae)
The flowers and leaves of coltsfoot contain a large quantity of mucilage. With this, coltsfoot is usually indicated as a demulcent and expectorant in the treatment of cough. However in the presence of certain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, coltsfoot is said to be carcinogenic. Studies have shown that the young flowers of the plant produced a high incidence of hemangio endothelial sarcoma of the liver after being tested to rats.
Senecio aureus Linne (Fam Compositae)
Liferoot is also known as golden ragroot. This plant is used for menstrual conditions. It is carcinogenic in nature as it contains several toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can be hepatotoxic.
As natural as they can be, some medicinal plants can be hazardous. Just to be safe, check your herbal medicine with your physician.
Pharmacognosy 9th edition