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Chamomile is an Effective Cancer Fighter

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Chamomile is an Effective Cancer Fighter

Welcome to my first article for 2017! I’ve been taking a wee break to spend time with my lovely grandchildren but it’s time to get back to work. This article is all about the wonderful herb chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and how great it is for killing cancer cells.

Chamomile has centuries of use as a remedy for inducing sleep, fighting the effects of stress and anxiety, and calming digestion. New research indicates that drinking chamomile tea regularly can also assist with many other health issues. Interesting 2015 Greek research found that chamomile tea consumption protected against thyroid cancer. For those who drank the tea two to six times per week, these participants had a much reduced risk of thyroid cancer. For the long-time drinkers of chamomile tea, researchers stated “Thirty years of consumption significantly reduced the risk of thyroid cancer and benign thyroid diseases development by almost 80%.” [1]

Chamomile has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, anti-parasitic, anti-aging, calming, and yes, anti-cancer properties. [2]

We know that antioxidants are important for reducing cancer risk. But that part about anti-inflammation? That’s important too. Chamomile has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Since many disease processes involve inflammation, including breast cancer, this is an important thing to get under control. Prostaglandins and COX-2 enzymes (molecules closely related to the process of inflammation in the body) are higher in tumor tissue than in normal tissue. Many recent studies have confirmed that if the inflammatory process can be stopped, tumorigenesis (the process of the formation of a tumor) stops too. In Germany, chamomile has been approved by the German Commission E for the management of inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, for topical application in the treatment of skin disorders, and for inflammatory disorders. [3]

Chamomile’s Phytochemicals

Chamomile contains some very interesting phytochemicals (plant-based, all natural chemicals) including apigenin, luteolin, terpene compounds, chamazulene, alpha-bisabolol, patuletin, quercetin, myricetin, and rutin.

Apigenin has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Apigenin is a flavone, from the flavonoid family of phytochemicals. Besides chamomile, apigenin is also found in celery, celeriac, onions, grapefruit, oranges, and the herbs thyme, lemon balm and parsley. [4]

Canadian researchers reported in 2014 that apigenin inhibited the proliferation (spread) of four different types of breast cancer:
MDA-MB-231: estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, HER2 negative – also known as triple negative breast cancer, highly metastatic
MDA-MB-468: estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, HER2 negative, adenocarcinoma, metastatic
MCF-7: estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor positive, HER2 negative, infiltrating ductal carcinoma, metastatic
SkBr3: estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, HER2 positive, infiltrating ductal carcinoma with lung metastases

The Canadian researchers stated: “low-dose apigenin has the potential to slow or prevent breast cancer progression.” [5]

Luteolin is also a flavone. Researchers at the University of Missouri in the USA reported late in 2016 that luteolin inhibited cell migration, the spreading of cancer cells to lungs and viability of triple negative breast cancer cells. It also induced apoptosis (programmed cell death, absent in cancer cells), inhibited VEGF secretion. VEGF stands for vascular endothelial growth factor, a protein that plays a critical role in breast tumors by enhancing cell proliferation (rapid growth), invasion (spread), angiogenesis (the ability of a tumor to create new blood vessels to feed itself) and metastasis (spread to other tissues of the body). [6]

Terpene compounds are a class of phytochemicals that are components of the essential oils found in plants. Terpenes have some wonderful characteristics. They are highly antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and pain relieving phytochemicals. The most exciting aspect of terpenes, however, is that they clean off the receptor sites in cells, which helps to increase cellular communication. They have the ability to cross over the blood-brain-barrier separating the brain from the rest of the body. This means they can have direct effects on the brain. They can also erase incorrect coding information in DNA, and they help to reprogram cells with correct coding information to effect deep healing.

Chamazulene is a phytochemical found in chamomile, it has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. [7]

Alpha-bisabolol is one of the terpene compounds referred to above. Namely, it is a sesquiterpene. Italian researchers in 2016 listed five ways alpha-bisabolol worked as an effective cytotoxic (toxic to cancer cells) agent. Researchers stated that alpha-bisabolol acted “on different layers of cell regulation to elicit different concurrent death signals.” [8]

Quercetin, a flavonoid, is a strong antioxidant with anti-cancer effects. A 2013 study demonstrated that quercetin reduced proliferation, promoted apoptosis and decreased levels of survivin in MCF-7 breast cancer cells (described above). [9] See also the role of quercetin in breast cancer resistance protein, discussed below.

Myricetin, also a flavonoid, increases antioxidant levels in the body. In 2014, Indian researchers investigated its effects in a small animal trial. Rats were given a specific drug to promote breast cancer and for those who received myricetin, there was a significant protective effect. [10]
2016 research also found myricetin to have anti-cancer properties. It arrests the telomeres in the DNA of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. [11] Scientists have been investigating the use of small molecules to arrest something called the G-quadruplex structure. This has become a potential strategy for the development and design of a new class of anti-cancer therapeutics. While I’m not a scientist and I don’t understand this research sufficiently to be able to explain it to you in layman terms, I do know that telomeres play an important role in cancer and anti-aging. The article at [12] below may help to clarify matters for you.

Rutin is a flavonoid present in chamomile. In 2013, Chinese researchers investigated the role of rutin for neuroblastoma, a particularly lethal form of childhood cancer. Rutin was found to have potent anti-cancer effects on neuroblastoma cells. It induced cell cycle arrest, induced apoptosis, as well as regulating the expression of the gene related to apoptosis. [13]

Breast Cancer Resistance Protein

Doctors and researchers have been stymied in recent years by tumors that increasingly have a resistance to the chemotherapeutic drugs being used to battle the cancer. Identified in 1998, breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP), is a gene found in diverse cancer cells which appear to cause multidrug resistance. BCRP appears to function as part of a self-defense mechanism for the cancer – it enhances elimination of toxic substances (ie most chemotherapy drugs) and harmful agents in the gut and through the blood-brain, placental, and possibly even blood-testis barriers. BCRP expression in cancer cells operates by recognizing and transporting out of the body numerous anti-cancer drugs including conventional chemotherapeutic and targeted drugs. BCRP is also a known stem cell marker, its presence in cancer cells usually indicates drug resistance, self-renewal, and invasiveness and, consequently, poor prognosis. [14]

I’m sharing all of this with you because chamomile, and more specifically, quercitin has been found, in a brand new 2017 study from researchers in the UK, to down-regulate the expression of BCRP, without the neurotoxicity shown by other drugs designed to modulate BCRP. [15]

Curcumin was also mentioned as a down-regulator of the BCRP gene. See my article Harvest the Power of Curcumin to Kill Breast Cancer Cells

So which form of chamomile is best? Both Roman chamomile and German chamomile contain the potent phytochemicals mentioned in this article. Whether you drink the herbal tea or use the essential oil, chamomile is bad news for cancer cells.

References:

[1] The Effect of Greek Herbal Tea Consumption on Thyroid Cancer: a Case-control Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25842380

[2] A Review of the Bioactivity and Potential Health Benefits of Chamomile Tea (Matricaria Recutita L.) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16628544

[3] Chamomile, a Novel and Selective COX-2 Inhibitor with Anti-inflammatory Activity – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2784024/

[4] Apigenin and Breast Cancers: From Chemistry to Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25738871

[5] Exposure of Breast Cancer Cells to a Subcytotoxic Dose of Apigenin Causes Growth Inhibition, Oxidative Stress, and Hypophosphorylation of Akt – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25019465

[6] Luteolin Inhibits Lung Metastasis, Cell Migration, and Viability of Triple-negative Breast Cancer Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5207335/

[7] Rapid Evaluation and Comparison of Natural Products and Antioxidant Activity in Calendula, Feverfew, and German Chamomile Extracts – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25666499

[8] The Antineoplastic Agent A-bisabolol Promotes Cell Death by Inducing Pores in Mitochondria and Lysosomes – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27278818

[9] Effects of Quercetin on the Proliferation of Breast Cancer Cells and Expression of Survivin in Vitro – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820718/

[10] Evaluation of Protective Effect of Myricetin, a Bioflavonoid in Dimethyl Benzanthracene-induced Breast Cancer in Female Wistar Rats – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014640/

[11] Myricetin arrests human telomeric G-quadruplex structure: a new mechanistic approach as an anticancer agent – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27249025

[12] http://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/Telomeres-and-Cancer.aspx

[13] Anti-Tumor Effect of Rutin on Human Neuroblastoma Cell Lines through Inducing G2/M Cell Cycle Arrest and Promoting Apoptosis – https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2013/269165/

[14] Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (Bcrp/abcg2): its Role in Multidrug Resistance and Regulation of its Gene Expression – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777471/

[15] Phytochemical Mediated-modulation of the Expression and Transporter Function of Breast Cancer Resistance Protein at the Blood-brain Barrier: an In-vitro Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27771282

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