herbal remedies to avoid

I came across this warning and thought some of you might be interested in it as there have been a lot of discussions about what is safe to eat. Your choice of course but this is some advice from a USA top BC doc and they are years ahead of us.
‘A recent review from the National Cancer Institute listed specific herbal remedies that should be avoided during chemotherapy. Most relevant to BC patients were garlic, gingko, echinacea, soy, ginseng, St. John’s wort, valerian, kava kava, and grape seed. You can still eat garlic, soy beans and grapes but avoid them in supplements while you’re on chemotherapy.’
Hope this is of interest. I am afraid it did not give reasons for each.
Lily x

will look into remedies the homeopath is giving me tomorrow but unsure about taking them but will see what nurses say. does that mean you can still eat soy sauce do you think? Glad I didnt get my green tea with gingko in it!

Look at the Complementary Therapies forum for recent posts on soy products…quite illuminating. My Onc and gastro told me to not take ANY supplemental remedies, stay absolutely clear of soy, but were supportive in having complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, reflexology etc. as they don’t interfere with chemo and rads, just give you “me time” and help you to relax. I did them, and found them very calming.

I’ve been taking garlic supps which i thought were ok, along with many other vits etc…
Will stop then…oops…

Hi there,
I asked my onc about ecinacea etc and taking naturals boosts to the immune sysyem, and she basically said it would defeat the object, that you have to kinda let you body get as low as it can go!
Aint nobody gonna stop me taking garlic bread though!
Love to all

it was only if taken in supplements and I have no idea why but just wanted to share this as it may help somebody. Eating the foods is fine she said, so you go enjoy the soy sauce and garlic bread, I do when the heartburn doesn’t strangle me!!!

i was told not to take anything like this at all. now and forever whilst having any type of treatment for bc.

I was also told no herbal remedies. I think it is because some of the chemo treatments are derived from herbs. taxotere is from the needles of the yew tree. Not sure about the others. So it would conflict I guess.

i aksed on friday as my friends treated me but was told better to avoid as dont know what reaction can have so I’ll wait until after treatment

i have been told alll the way through not to take anything unless i check with ‘the team’ first because some of the ones Lily named in first post -espec St John’s wort are v strong. I have a friend who is v into homeopathy and she said no good homeopath would suggest taking things unless you agreed to check first with medical people… there is so much our bodies deal with during chemo - i finished mine a few weeks ago… the prob is that we can go into shops and just buy them!

Well I’ve just spent the last 24 hours with my Mum and we did talk about this. I think unless you personally have a good grounding in herbal, homeopathy etc then you really do need to check each thing with both your homeopath and you onc.

The trouble is homeopaths or herbalists are not oncs so don’t know that much about the drugs were given (although 1 of my homeopaths has treated numerous people who are doing chemo so she does know a fair bit.) On the flip side onc don’t know about homeopathy either so aren’t fit to comment on it (although it seems some think they know enough to dismiss it interestingly; )

so neither party has the full picture and we have very little trial data so we have to err on the side of caution.

In the meantime that means we have to suffer the symptoms when maybe we don’t need to which seems a bit harsh.

I demand trials. demand I say, no more theorising on either side (unless it’s a theory to be trialled of course :wink:

I for one will be using homeopathy through my treatment, but not in the few days before or after the FEC infusion is given and only in low dose (30c) there will be no 1m etc homeopathy in me until a month after the end for me.

I’m not a lay person when it comes to homeopathy though, and I have done a hell of a lot of reading on the individual drugs I’ve been given and how they work, when they work etc.

I do wonder why so moany of us trust our oncs so much though, have they earnt your trust more than your homeopath/herbalist/insert other health giver here?

Because I’ve been using homeopathy for a decade and I haven’t actually had a conversation with the onc who designed my plan, or even looked him in the eye I do personally feel that my homeopaths are giving more thought to my overall care than my onc, and this is probably true, they have less patients at least (and most of them are healthy too and not fighting cancer or chemo drugs :slight_smile:

Poor overworked oncs.

Just to be really clear I homeopathy is not the same as herbal remedies. I wouldn’t touch st johns wort etc while doing chemo, but the homeopathic remedy of st johns wort would be different as it would effectively be less than of a drop of the herb infused in a liquid such as water dropped onto a whole bottle of pills. and usually diluted many times over, to the point that most scientists dismiss homeopathy because they cannot measure the substance in the pills at all. This is the main argument for believing it doesn’t work, which would be a very logical conclusion, so it may in fact be a load of rubbish but it certainly is not the same as taking the herb.

I hope that hasn’t just confused people further.

Enjoy the rest of a lovely Sunday (I hope it stays nice)


My hospital trust uses a homeopathist within it’s cancer services and I will asked to be referred next time I go … I guess that as with anything, a proffesional isn’t going to take risks and if they feel it is out of their league they will refuse to treat you…
love Td xx

As some have said, any herbal remedies should only be taken if the onc OKs it. There is a very useful part of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (whose link I hope will be allowed) mskcc.org/mskcc/html/11570.cfm which can be used to look up most herbs, supplements etc and their potential interactions with chemo and Tamoxifen/AIs.

Personally I think that a sticky with this site’s link and a warning about ensuring that supplements are checked with oncs could be helpful in the complementary therapies part of the forum.


Hi Girls,

Just seen your thread and wanted to ask if eating Burgen bread was ok?, I love it as it prevents constipation for me, but thought as it’s soy based so maybe I should not be eating it at all!. I have had a grade 3 ductal carcenoma removed plus 8 lymph nodes ( all clear) and I am on 2nd of 4 EPI and then 6 of CMF, then 3 weeks Rads.

I love all things natural antd try to eat heathily most times, it’s very confusing what you should and should not take, given up all my vitimins etc until I get off chemo though.

Thanks in advance of your thoughts,

Love to all,

Carol xx

Some supplements are intended to boost your immune system. As chemotherapy is trying to kill off cells, it is often contraindicated to take supplements at the same time as chemo, as the two will be battling each other. I agree, contact your medical team before taking ANY supplement. Some supplements may be positvely detrimental. (I read in New Scientist that turmeric can actually encourage some breast tumours to grow.) Do be careful.

The reason no one will do trials into this issue is, of course, money. There is no money to be made by the drug companies from herbal/homeopathic remedies which are not patentable, so no one is going to fund expensive clinical trials.

I began taking all manner of supplements on diagnosis three years ago - it is empowering to think you are doing something positive for yourself (as with dietary issues too) - but now I only take milk thistle as a liver detox, during my week off xeloda. I do this with my oncs knowledge, who initially told to to stay clear away from soya products and most other supplements. What I have since read suggests that unprocessed soya may be OK but I am not going to take that (ER+) risk.

The best advice, I believe, it to try and eat a balanced diet (which should contain all the nutrients you need) and have some treats too. Great medicine!


P.S. I used to work on a scientific Food Technology journal, and contributions came from scientists worldwide - not just the US. I am sorry, but I do resent the implication that our scientists are lagging behind other countries. In the science world, your work is nothing if not peer-reviewed by your contemporaries. It may be true that our treatments are not in line with other countries but this is not due to lack of scientific knowledge.

just bumping this up,