Several recent studies have confirmed that an Ayurvedic medicinal herb used for thousands of years has incredible cancer cell-killing potential, and may soon be employed by conventional medicine to treat cancer. The herb is called Piper longum – also called long pepper.
Stopping cancer growth
One of the mysteries of treating cancer with chemotherapy and radiation is that inserting chemicals and treatments that are unhealthy to most of the body can treat a growing cancer malignancy. This occurs through influencing a process called apoptosis, which is the process cells use to self-destruct.
By stimulating this process of self-destruction, primarily through a genetic switch called p53, cancer treatments can invoke the killing of cancer cells before the treatment kills off healthy cells.
The problem of chemotherapy and radiation has been this danger to healthy cells – and the potential negative side effects – of chemotherapy and radiation to the rest of the body. For this reason, many alternative health advocates have protested chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Nobel Laureate Dr. James Watson has recently published a paper showing that antioxidants – known for preventing cancer – will interfere in late-stage cancer treatment because they block the cell death process of chemotherapy and radiation.
At the same time, researchers and clinicians are becoming aware that many cancers are becoming resistant to many chemotherapy agents. This is because the cancer cells can communicate between each other ways to work around the chemotherapy.
Research on long pepper
Enter Ayurveda. A newly emerging anticancer therapy comes from a natural herb that may well be the answer to unhealthy chemotherapy: Piper longum.
The Piper longum herb has shown in a number of studies that it has the capability to kill cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.
In a recent study from Sweden’s Uppsala University Medical College, a constituent of Piper longum called Piperlongumine was tested against cancer in the laboratory. They found that piperlongumine was able to stimulate death of cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
The process Long pepper uses to stimulate cancer cell death has been proposed to be one of stimulating the increase in free radicals that damage the cancer cells. But the Swedish research showed that Piperlongumine is apparently more complex, in that it inhibits a genetic process called ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), and this apparently stimulates the cancer cell death process.
Other research confirms long pepper findings
Another recent study, from Thailand’s Chiang Mai University Medical School, has shown that Piper longum prevents cancer cells from resisting the killing effect of the herb by blocking the ability of cancer cells to talk with each other. The Piper longum was able to shut down telomerase activity – which stimulates the process of cellular communication through the cells’ telomeres.
The researchers observed these effects in human lung cancer cells, proving that Piper longum can inhibit tumor malignancy – which requires the telomere communication. The researchers stated: “In the long-term treatment of A549 lung cancer cells with sub-cytotoxic dose of these perylenes, telomere shortening, reduction of cell proliferation and tumorigenicity, and cell senescence were observed.”
Another recent study has found that yet another Piper longum constituent, called pipernonaline, stops the growth of prostate tumors. Researchers from Korean’s Pusan National University found that pipernonaline stopped both the androgen-dependent and the androgen-independent prostate cancer cells from growing – or metastasizing.
The researchers concluded: “This is the first report of pipernonaline toward the anticancer activity of prostate cancer cells, which provides a role for candidate agent as well as the molecular basis for human prostate cancer.”
A newfound anticancer agent
The scientific community first became aware of the anticancer potential of Piper longum in 2011, after Harvard researchers found in a series of laboratory and animal studies that the herb had the ability to stop cancer growth without hurting healthy cells. These effects were demonstrated among breast cancer tumors.
Piper longum has long been used by Ayurvedic practitioners for a variety of conditions, including bacterial and fungal infections, skin lesions, blood sugar problems, respiratory conditions, muscular pains, viral hepatitis and many others. It is known to stimulate the immune system and it has significant anti-inflammatory capabilities.
This new found ability of Piper longum to stop cancer growth likely doesn’t surprise those Ayurvedic clinicians who have seen Piper longum’s array of healing potential in a variety of conditions.
Another Ayurvedic herb cloves also inhibit the growth of cancer.
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Watson J. Oxidants, antioxidants and the current incurability of metastatic cancers. Open Biol. 2013 Jan 8;3(1):120144.
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Taka T, Huang L, Wongnoppavich A, Tam-Chang SW, Lee TR, Tuntiwechapikul W. Telomere shortening and cell senescence induced by perylene derivatives in A549 human lung cancer cells. Bioorg Med Chem. 2012 Dec 23. doi:pii: S0968-0896(12)00991-1.
Lee W, Kim KY, Yu SN, Kim SH, Chun SS, Ji JH, Yu HS, Ahn SC. Pipernonaline from Piper longum Linn. induces ROS-mediated apoptosis in human prostate cancer PC-3 cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013 Jan 4;430(1):406-12.
Raj L, Ide T, Gurkar AU, Foley M, Schenone M, Li X, Tolliday NJ, Golub TR, Carr SA, Shamji AF, Stern AM, Mandinova A, Schreiber SL, Lee SW. Selective killing of cancer cells by a small molecule targeting the stress response to ROS. Nature. 2011 Jul 13;475(7355):231-4.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.