Lung cancer is particularly virulent and noted as having one of the poorest outcomes. Two recent scientific studies, though, have shown that Polygala senega may be able to prevent the disease or limit its virulence.
Polygala senega is a common and easy to grow weed that is occasionally grown domestically. It carries several common names, including snakeroot, seneca (for the Seneca indians, from whom the name is derived), sneka, milkwort, mountain flax, and rattlesnake root. It’s a perennial in all but the coldest climates—and seeds can be purchased readily from internet sources.
The two studies were done by a team in the Cytogenetics and Molecular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Zoology of the University of Kalyani in India. The lead author, Anisur Rahman Khuda-Bukhsh, thanks Boiron Laboratories of France for grants to produce the studies. (Please note that these were not experiments in homeopathy and Boiron did not supply materials.)
The first study, “Anticancer Potentials of Root Extract of Polygala senega and Its PLGA Nanoparticles-Encapsulated Form”, published in the journal Evidence-Based and Complementary Medicine on 1 July 2010, investigated the effects of Polygala senega ethanol-based root extract and on a nano-encapsulated form of it. This was an in vitro study that used lab-grown normal and cancerous human cell lines.
Study results are shown in the graph above. In the control line of normal lung cells, nearly all the cells remained viable after 24 hours. When 100 micrograms (μg) of Polygala senega tincture were added, the number of surviving cells was significantly lower, and apoptosis, the natural self-destruction of cells at the end of their life-cycle, was the reason. Application of 200 μg increased the number of cells subjected to apoptosis. Using the nanoparticle encapsulated form of Polygala senega extract resulted in even greater benefit. In all cases, the amount of necrosis, abnormal cellular death, was minimal in all examples, but slightly higher in the noncancerous control cells.
This study showed no adverse effects on normal lung cells, while demonstrating highly significant destruction of cancerous lung cells.
The second study, “Anticancer potentials of root extract of Polygala senega against benzo［a］pyrene-induced lung cancer in mice”, was published in the Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine in March 2011. It investigated the effects of Polygala senega on lung cancer-induced mice. They did physical and histological examinations of the lungs, analyzed DNA damage, and quantified both antioxidant enzyme activity and the tumor suppressor protein, p53.
The mice were intoxicated with benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) to induce lung cancer. B[a]P is, by the way, well known to be highly carcinogenic; it’s found in coal tar, auto exhaust, and tobacco smoke. All possible variations of toxin, suspension (olive oil & ethanol), and Polygala senega were examined.
Mice were divided into 5 groups, each containing 6 animals:
The table below, reproduced from the study article, shows the percentage of DNA damage. The lower the number, the the less DNA damage there is. Tail length refers to the distance that DNA has moved from the nucleus of a cell to the outer edge of the cell. A shorter tail is better.
|Group||Percent of DNA
|Control (olive oil)||6.35±0.39||12.61±0.84|
|B[a]P & olive oil||27.02±1.52||42.68±2.02|
|B[a]P & olive oil & ethanol||26.08±2.23||43.08±3.05|
|B[a]P & olive oil & EEPS||11.43±0.65||19.38±1.52|
|EEPS (non-intoxicated mice)||6.35±0.56||12.11±0.79|
This following table shows the results of the p53 protein expression. This protein is a tumor suppressor, so the higher the number, the more there is. As a rule, more is better. Notice that only the Polygala senega by itself even approaches the normal expression of of p53.
|Control (olive oil)||1.200±0.058|
|B[a]P & olive oil||0.529±0.005|
|B[a]P & olive oil & ethanol||0.544±0.004|
|B[a]P & olive oil & EEPS||0.606±0.005|
|EEPS (non-intoxicated mice)||1.010±0.044|
If you hope to survive lung cancer, the best approach is prevention. Survival rates after diagnosis are simply dismal. Although Polygala senega shows promise as a treatment for lung cancer, that may not be where it’s best applied. However, anyone who is at particular risk for contracting lung cancer—such as mechanics who are regularly exposed to diesel fumes, people who are or have been heavily exposed to burning coal tar, or people who smoke or once smoked cigarettes from Big Tobacco—might want to seriously consider taking a tincture of this herb to help limit the chances of developing lung cancer.
These studies, though certainly not the final word, may be indicative of a method that, according to both studies, has demonstrated no harmful adverse effects. That, of course, should be taken with caution, as the studies are not long term and there have been no in vivo trials on humans.
Finally, though the authors discussed identifying and isolating an active substance from Polygala senega, one must question their goal. Are they more interested in isolating a single chemical for patenting and turning into a pharmaceutical drug? Or are they truly interested in helping people treat and prevent a horrible disease, one that kills by slow and painful suffocation? These researchers seem to be well on the way to documenting a particularly efficacious method of dealing with lung cancer, one that’s far more promising than any of the drugs in current use. It would be tragic if greed were to lead them to promote a solitary chemical, rather than the symbiotic whole of the plant.
Tagged alternative medicine, cancer, herbal prevention, herbal treatment cancer, lung cancer, lung cancer polygala senega, polygala senega, polygala senega lung cancer, seneca, seneca herb cancer, smoking lung cancer herb, snakeroot, snakeroot herb cancer