Natural remedies and cancer: What’s the truth?

Saturday October 19 2019

Herbal.  A vendor displays packaged herbal

Herbal. A vendor displays packaged herbal medicines that he says cures several ailments, including cancer, at a trade show in Kampala recently. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA.  

By Joan Salmon

Cancer ravages and the need to find a cure or even relief is so strong that we can never rule out natural remedies.
Allen Kanyike, who has suffered several ailments, cancer being the latest, says: “These natural medicines concur with my body and I believe they will correct what has gone wrong with it.”
According to, an online portal, dietary treatments are some of the most usual forms of belief-based treatments used by people with cancer. “Many of them rest on the assumption that certain nutrients are particularly required by cancer cells and should, therefore, be avoided. Also, the notion that a cause of cancer is the accumulation of waste products in the body is reflected in many anticancer diets,” says the portal.
Another online portal,, says herbal medicine is one of the most used complementary and alternative therapies by people with cancer. “Some studies have shown that as many as six out of every 10 people with cancer (60 per cent) use herbal remedies. This is alongside conventional cancer treatments.”
The portal adds that people have used herbal medicine for centuries to treat various ailments because they believe it is a natural way to help one relax and cope with anxiety and depression. Or, to help with other conditions such as hay fever, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual (period) problems and eczema.
Christine Anyumel, a nutritionist and holistic practitioner at Healing Naturally Together (HNT), says: “The best way to deal with cancers is through prevention because when it is there, it gets harder and foods will only prolong your life.”
Anyumel adds that in holistic therapy, the body has living cells and you have to eat foods that promote their growth. “However, when you eat foods that add no nutritional value such as junk, they will only quicken your death because the cells are starved of nutrients. It is such that encourage mutation of our cells hence cancer.”
Cancer diet treatments include juice diets, acid-free diets, and raw food diets.

Prevention of cancer
Prevention is better than cure, and in that light, Anyumel advises that people adopt some habits.

Fruit and vegetables
Lately, many people are eating fast foods, which are unhealthy. It is thus little wonder that we are seeing many people suffer with fibroids, and hormonal imbalance. “It is, therefore, advisable that persons consume lots of fruit and vegetables because they are natural and agree with our body and hormones as they have fresh enzymes, minerals and vitamins which help our bodies live. That way, we will keep cancer at bay,” Anyumel advises.

Balanced diet
While some may eat foods other than junk, she points out that they are non-organic, such as chicken that grows in a few days, and foods that are chemically preserved. “These cause unhealthy alterations in our body, some of which may lead to cancer. However, for a healthy balanced diet, one ought to have 70 per cent of their diet comprise of plant foods, while the 30 per cent has meat products,” she explains.

Anyumel adds that even then, the meat products should be more of white meat taking 20 per cent and the red meat taking the rest. “Ideally, in a week, take a plant diet for five days and for the other two, add the meat products. When taking chicken, take local breeds and if it is milk, take that from local breeds,” she says.
These habits are crucial because some of the common cancers such as ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer are mainly hormonal. “They are thriving because lately, we have reversed the diet, taking 70 per cent meat and 20 per cent being organic foods,” Anyumel expounds on the issue.

Treating cancer
While it may be sounded in some corners that diets are not good enough when dealing with cancer, states that a 2011 study in the UK on people with cancer who use herbal medicines found that most of them used herbal medicines to feel more in control.
“It also helped them feel that they have some responsibility for their treatment and they also felt the therapies wouldn’t cause side effects.”

Anyumel says the prevention regimens are also ideal when one is in the pre-cancer stage, as well as some stage 1 and 2 cancers. “That is because the foods have all the vitamins and minerals in their raw form devoid of any alterations and it is these that build the body’s immunity to fight against disease,” she explains.
However, in advanced stages, she says food cannot work independently. “So we do a combination of alternative and conventional (hospital) medicine to help the patient whereby alternative medicine gives the patient a support system.”
Even when one is in stage one or two but has a tumour, say in the colon, Anyumel advises that they go to the hospital to have it removed while they get support from alternative medicine with immunity boosting.

Apart from diet remedies, Anyumel and her team also use herbs to detox (in prevention and early detection), as well as in treating advanced cancers, where alternative medicine works alongside hospital medication. For example, for stomach cancer, cancer of the rectum, and colon cancer, herbs such as okra and cactus are used, while beetroot, and carrot is used for those with blood cancers, and garlic for those with skin cancers.
“For lung cancer, seeing that it is aggressive, we use both treatments and the herbs here are garlic and moringa,” Anyumel elaborates.


Using herbal medicines safely
Many people assume that products are safe to use when marketed as natural or herbal.
Some herbal medicines might be safe. But others can have severe and dangerous side effects. And, they might interact with other cancer treatments.
As the search for a cure rages on and people are willing to try anything that promises hope, it only remains to be proved how effective natural remedies are in this fight against cancer.