Herbal Tea from Pakistan Fights Breast Cancer
It appears an herbal tea used by traditional healers in Pakistan to treat breast cancer may really have some merit. An investigative team composed of researchers from the US and UK report that Fagonia cretica killed breast cancer cells in a laboratory and did not harm healthy breast cells.
Folk medicine fights cancer without side effects
Fagonia cretica, also known as Virgon's Mantlem or Mantle of the Virgin, belongs to the Caltrop family and grows in arid desert areas of Pakistan, India, Africa, and Europe. The small spiny shrub has small, five-petal violet flowers, but it is the leaves that are used by Pakistani women to make a tea called dramah.
Like many folklore remedies, the healing claims made by people who have used Fagonia cretica piqued the interest of scientists, who set out to determine if there is any validity to them. That was the goal of the scientists at Aston University in Birmingham, Alabama, and Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, UK.
The team used plant extracts on two human breast cancer cell lines. Within 5 hours of treatment, they noted inhibited growth of the cell cycle, while apoptosis (cell suicide) was observed within 24 hours. An added benefit was that the herbal extract did not damage normal breast cells.
Among individuals who use Fagonia cretica tea for breast cancer treatment, there are no reports of side effects typically associated with cancer therapy, such as hair loss, diarrhea, and declines in blood cell counts.
Other benefits of Fagonia cretica
Apparently F. cretica has other healing potential as well. In the Journal of Pharmacy Research, scientists published information about the antimicrobial activity of the plant against such common bacteria as E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others. They discovered that extracts of F. cretica showed promise against all the tested bacteria, suggesting the plant should be studied further.
An earlier study in National Products Research reported that the herbal remedy was effective in eliminating and neutralizing the activity of snake venom. While Fagonia cretica has been used by herbalists in the past for snake bites, the authors of the recent study noted that their finding "provides a scientific basis for the use of F cretica in traditional medicine for the treatment of snake bite."
As for the ability of Fagonia cretica to help fight breast cancer, research will continue. According to Professor Helen Griffith of Aston University, "The next steps are to identify which element of the plant is responsible for killing the cancer cells with a view to eventually begin trials with human cancer patients."
Lam M et al. An aqueous extract of Fagonia cretica induces DNA damage, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in breast cancer cells via FOXO3a and p53 expression. PLoS One 2012; 7(6): e40152
Razi MT et a. Antihaemorrhagic potentials of Fagonia cretica against Naja naja karachiensis (black Pakistan cobra) venom. Natural Product Research 2011 Dec; 25(20): 1902-7
Sajid B et al. Phytochemical screening and antimicrobial activity of Gaoia cretica plant extracts against selected microbes. Journal of Pharmacy Research 2011; 4(4)
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