Herbs and Other Botanicals in Cancer Patient Care
OPINION STATEMENT: Non-prescription herbal remedies are commonly used by cancer patients in efforts to control their disease or to manage symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatments. We address the issues surrounding the use of herbs, herbal compounds, and other botanical agents in the oncology context. Botanicals are biologically active agents that can be useful under appropriate circumstances, but they may be counterproductive when used by patients on chemotherapy or on other prescription medications. Herbs and other botanical agents, despite common public belief, are not benign. They should be understood as unrefined pharmaceuticals, with the capacity to produce physiologic change for better or worse. Indeed, many prescription drugs, chemotherapeutic agents among them, were derived from plants and other natural agents, and the search for additional constituents of plants, animals, and minerals for use as pharmaceutical agents remains an active effort on many fronts. Cautions, appropriate application, and potential utility of botanical agents are discussed below, and sources of reliable information are provided.