The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has screened approximately 35,000 plant species for potential anticancer activities. Among them, about 3,000 plant species have demonstrated reproducible anticancer activity
The anticancer characteristics of a number of plants are still being actively researched and some have shown promising results. Following plants and plant products that have shown promise as anticancer agents.
1. Giloy or Gulvel (Tinospora cordifolia )
Tinospora cordifolia, also known as giloy is a bulky, smooth, climbing deciduous shrub lacking bristles. The most commonly used part of the shrub is the stem, but roots are also known to contain important alkaloids.
This shrub is commonly found in India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and China. The term “amrita” is ascribed to this plant due to its ability to impart youthfulness, vitality and longevity.
Giloy effectively kills HeLa cells in vitro, suggesting its potential as an anticancer agent. Its extract showed a dose-dependent increase in tumor-free survival with highest number of survivors observed.
2. Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata )
Andrographis paniculata, commonly known as bhunimba and kalmegha in Sanskritis found in India and Sri Lanka. The parts of the plant generally used for medicinal purposes are the roots and the leaves. The primary medicinal component of Andrographis is the diterpene andrographolide.
Due to its ability to activate both types of immune response, A. paniculata is a potent chemoprotective agent and is effective against a variety of infectious and oncogenic agents. Andrographolide shows cytotoxic activity against a variety of cancer cells.
3. Brahmi (Centella asiatica )
Centella asiatica, known as mandukaparni in Sanskrit, brahmamanduki in Hindi, is another plant that has shown potential as an anticancer agent. This plant is commonly found in India, Australia, Pacific Islands, New Guinea, Malaysia, and Iran. The whole plant or its leaves are being traditionally used for their therapeutic properties.
Oral consumption of leaves of C. asiatica has been shown to provide protection against oxidative damage. C. asiatica is an inhibitor of lipid peroxidation in various organs such as liver, lung, brain, heart, kidney, and spleen as well as in serum.
4. Lakshamana Phal (Annona muricata)
Annona muricata/ atemoya or Lakshamana Phal is a native of Caribbean, Central and South America. It is also commonly grown in South East Asia especially in eastern part of India…
The parts of the plant that are generally used for medicinal purposes are the root, bark, leaf and fruit.
The fruit of Annona , an acetogenin known to have anticancer properties.
5. Kalagaura or Narkya (Mappia foetida)
Mappia foetida/ Nothapodytes foetida is generally found in tropical countries. The medicinal properties of M. foetida have recently gained international attention. The active component of M. foetida tree wood is camptothecin, a potent chemotherapy drug used to treat leukemia.
Recent studies have indicated that an endophytic fungus which grows on this plant also produces the camptothecine. Camptothecines have broad spectrum of antitumor activities both in vitro and in vivo.
6. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Withania somnifera known as ‘ashwagandha’ in Sanskrit and Hindi, winter cherry in English, is a small subtropical shrub. The roots and leaves of W. somnifera have been used in the Indian traditional system of medicine Ayurveda, and the plant is marketed world-wide because of its medicinal properties.
W. somnifera extract is suggested to modulate a variety of biological responses. W. somnifera formulation appears to offer a multi-modal action against cancer disease as evidenced by their current studies. W. somnifera formulation has been shown to induce cell cytotoxicity in several human cancer cell lines.
The anticancer properties of plants have been recognized for centuries. Isolation of lignans from the common mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) ultimately led to the development of drugs used to treat testicular and small cell lung cancer.
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