Flynn's Harp: Growing acceptance for 'the other medicine' (6-13-12)
Posted on 6/14/2012 by Mike Flynn
The personal quest for information on how best to deal with cancer inevitably leads to discovery of “the other medicine.”
And in reaching out over a period of months for information to help me make the best decision on how to deal with a fortunately slow-growing cancer, I learned that some who practice traditional medicine have only a vague awareness of what’s emerging in that other medicine.
The growing acceptance of nature’s role in helping combat serious illness isn’t surprising to those aware that an estimated 70 percent of new drugs originate from natural sources.
Two of nature’s cancer fighters in particular got my attention in my search. One, mushrooms, are being seen in a new light. The other, something called artemisinin (to which I’ve introduced some of my healthcare providers) is just coming into the light, though known in China for decades, some suggest centuries.
First about artemisinin, a product of the ancient Chinese herb, Artemisia. It’s only in the last half-dozen years that artemisinin has quickly become the worldwide treatment of choice for malaria. That’s apparently because it becomes highly toxic in the presence of iron, which malaria parasites contain in abundance from the human red-blood cells they consume.
Because cancer cells consume lots of iron, that’s led to testing and research, including at the University of Washington, focusing on artemisinin for treatment of cancer.
The scientific explanation about the “significant anticancer effects” artemisinin is suspected to have is that it contains peroxide and research suggests that when peroxide comes in contact with cells having high iron concentrations, it becomes toxic to those cells. Fortunately, normal cells don’t contain a lot of iron.
I was introduced to artemisinin when a naturopathic doctor at Bastyr recommended it to me and I proceeded to research it to learn what I was getting into. The research proved to be fascinating.
I proceeded to tell each of several doctors I was working with, from primary care to surgeon, about artemisinin and each either went to their laptop to look it up or took notes. It was obvious that they were not letting their egos get in the way of being open to new information, even if from a patient, although one oncologist I told about artemisinin confided that he has prescribed it for one of his breast-cancer patients.
Much more will be heard of artemisinin and I found that the word is already spreading when I called the Bastyr dispensary to get a refill and was told “we just learned from the manufacturer that there won’t be any more until end of June.” They did, however, get a special re-order for me.
Now to mushrooms, which gained fame and somewhat widespread use in certain circles as the late Dr. Timothy Leary promoted to the hippie counterculture the psychedelic experience of the Psilocybin mushrooms he’d discovered in Asia, thus providing many with entry into the psychedelic world.
The memory of those days of “magic mushrooms” lingers strongly enough for some who remember the era that when I mentioned to a friend that I was looking into mushrooms, she asked with a wink: “what kind of mushrooms are we talking about?”
Now their cancer-fighting potential, as well as a growing awareness about other benefits, is emerging into the mainstream such that the most respected cancer hospitals are testing them and entrepreneurs are looking to build new businesses around their appeal.
At City of Hope, the leading-edge cancer-care hospital in Duarte, east of Los Angeles, researchers are speeding findings about mushrooms’ cancer-fighting properties from the lab to clinical trials. After showing that mushroom extract slows breast cancer growth in mice, the team will soon begin human clinical studies involving breast and prostate cancers.
Dr. Michael Friedman, City of Hope CEO whom I met with during my cancer-treatment explorations, says “Our data suggest that white button mushrooms may delay progression of biochemically recurrent prostate cancer in some men. Further studies to clarify the mechanism of action and benefit are warranted.”
And a study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine recently concluded that turkey tail mushrooms improve the immune systems of breast cancer and prostate cancer patients after radiation therapy. The study was conducted jointly by the University of Washington, the respected naturopathic Bastyr University in the Seattle and the University of Minnesota.