A Review on - Herbs in Anticancer


Miss. Rutuja Sawant*, Miss. Aloka Baghkar, Miss. Sanjukta Jagtap, Miss. Lina Harad, Miss. Anagha Chavan, Mrs. Nilofar A. Khan, Mrs. Rupali P. Yevale, Dr. Mohan K. Kale

Konkan Gyanpeeth Rahul Dharkar College of Pharmacy and Research Institute, Karjat

*Corresponding Author E-mail: rutu0712@gmail.com



Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in our bodies that can lead to death. Cancer is a leading cause of mortality in the world and it’s the cause of more than 20% of all deaths. The major problem in the cancer chemotherapy is the toxicity of the established drugs. Some of the natural product extracts are capable of preventing or inhibiting the process of carcinogenesis.Thousands of herbal and traditional compounds are being examine by many searchers worldwide to validate their use as anti-cancerous drugs. Medicinal plants and their use in various traditional systems of medicine are indeed awe-inspiring. General public consider herbal remedies to be safe, as it causes less side-effects and less likely to cause dependency.Various dietary agents that interfere with these stages of cancer, thus blocking malignancy and thus Cancer induction,growth, and progression are multi-step events and numerous studies have beendemonstrated. Fruits and vegetables contains untapped reservoir ofvarious nutritive and non-nutritive phytochemicals with potential cancer chemo-preventiveactivity. Plants have been used for treating diseases since time immemorial. More than 50% of modern drugs in clinical use are of natural products.Study is required to determine the efficacy of these plant products in treating cancers in humans.


KEYWORDS: Cancer, Medicinal plants, Traditional systems.




Cancer has been a constant battle globally with a lot of development in cures and preventative therapies. The disease is characterised by cells in the human body continually multiplying with the inability to be controlled or stopped. Consequently, forming tumours of malignant cells with the potential to be metastatic.[1]. one of the recent developments is the highly automated bioassay screening method based on colorimetric assays, which quantify the proliferation of cell cultures[2,3].


Natural Products obtained from plants, have been used for the treatment of various diseases for thousands of years. Plants have been used as medicines from ancient time and number of modern drugs have been derived from them. The first written records on medicinal plants appeared in about 2600 BC from the Sumerians and Akkadians[4]. Plants have been used for treating various diseases. They boost immunity of individuals, and also cure diseases, including cancer without causing toxicity [5,6]. The anticancer activity of medicinal plants is due to the presence of antioxidants agents present in them. In fact, the plants are easily available, cheaper and products obtained from them possess no toxicity as compared to the modern (allopathic) drugs[7]. The development of novel plant derived natural products and their analogues for anticancer activity efforts to synthesize new derivatives based on bioactivity and mechanism of action directed isolation and characterization coupled with rational drug design based modification[8]. Because of high death rate associated with cancer and because of the serious side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, many cancer patients go for treatments which are less harmful[9]. Herbal products obtained from herbs, herbal substances and extract, plants or a combination of plants before the discovery of new drugs have being used for more than thousands of years. With the advent of the Industrial revolution and the introduction of new industrial medicine herbs using was forgotten for a long period of time[10]. A significant problem in the treatment of cancer using allopathy or established medicineis due to the toxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs. Various therapies used plant-derived products for the treatment of cancer. The plant-derived anticancer agents are classified into 4 groups, the vinca alkaloids (vinblastine, vincristine and vindesine), the epipodophyllotoxins (etoposide and teniposide), thetaxanes (paclitaxel and docetaxel) and the camptothecin derivatives (camptotecin andirinotecan)[11]. They maintain the health and vitality of individuals, and alsocure diseases, including cancer without causing toxicity. More than 50% of all modern drugs are obtained naturally, many of such drugs have the ability to control cancer cells[12]. according to World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of people in the world using traditional treatment methods [13]. Sixtypercent of the global medicines approved by food and agriculture organization of united nation (FAO), between 1984 to1994 have been extracted from natural ingredients especially herbs[14]. Among the 121 medicines, 90 medicines have been extracted from medicinal plants for treating cancer. 65 new drugs are reported between 1981 and 2002.48 drugs arederived from natural products, including: vinca alkaloid (vincristine-vinblastine-vindesine-vinorelbine), taxans compounds (paclitaxel-docetaxel), podophyllotoxin and compounds derived from it (topotecan-irinotecan), antracyclines compounds (doxorubicin-daunorubicin-epirubicin-idarubicin)[15,16].


Medicinal Plants and Cancer:


Garlic (Allium sativum L.) has long been used as a culinary spice and medicinal herb. For more than 5,000years, garlic has been cultivated in the Middle East and wasfirst mentioned in Chinese medicine in 510 A.D. Early trialssuggested the potential of garlic to lower cholesterol andtriglyceride levels in serum,[17,18] but a recent trial has shownalmost no benefit[19]. the chemo preventive activity of garlic can be demonstrated by using differentgarlic preparations including fresh garlic extract, aged garlic, garlic oil and a number of organosulfurcompounds derived from garlic. The chemo preventive activity is due to thepresence of organosulfur compounds in garlic. however, it not understood, but several modes ofaction this is achieved is not fully understood, butseveral modes of action have been proposed like its effect on drug metabolizing enzymes, antioxidant properties and tumor growth inhibition[20]. Effects of garlic on drug-metabolizing enzymes. Allicin, a sulfur compound and the active ingredient in garlic, isproduced from alliin in the presence of the enzyme alliinasewhen fresh garlic is crushed or chewed. This also producesother sulfur compounds likealoene, allyl sulfides, and vinyldithiins[21]. The major compounds in aged garlic, S-allylcysteine and S-allylmercapto-Lcysteine had the highest radical scavenging activity. in several animal models S-allylcysteine shows the ability to retard the growth of chemically induced and transplantable tumors. Therefore, intake of garlic may provide some kind of protection from cancer development[20]. In vitro studies have shown that garlic constituents modulate the activity of various CYP isozymes. Extracts of fresh garlic, garlic oil, and freeze-dried garlicexhibit an inhibitory effect on CYP2C9*1, CYP2C19, CYP3A4, CYP3A5, and CYP3A7 metabolism, whereas no effect on CYP2D6 was observed.[22,23]Rats treated with diallyl sulfide, diallyl disulfide, allylmethylsulfide and allyl mercaptan had a suppression of CYP2E1 activity as a result of competitive inhibition.[24-31] In addition, diallyl sulfone is known to be a suicide inhibitor of CYP2E1, forming a complex leading to autocatalytic destruction.[32] However, long-term administration (e.g., >6 weeks) led to enhanced activity and increased expression of CYP1A, CYP2B,[26,33,34] and CYP3A.[35] Studies using in vitro and in vivo animal models have also indicated that various garlic constituents used at very high concentrations can induce the activity of CYP3A4[36] and conjugating enzymes such as glutathione S-transferases and quinone reductases[30,37-39].



Curcumin is the main active flavonoid derived from the rhizome of Curcuma longa (Turmeric), with its dry herb weight consisting of up to 3.08% curcumin[40].Turmeric is used for both cancer prevention and treatment[41]. The anticancer potential of curcumin is associated with its ability to inhibit proliferation in a wide variety of tumor cell types[42,43]. Curcumin binds to more than 30 different protein targets, including transcript factors (NF-kB and activator protein-1), growth factor receptors [epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)], kinases [mitogen-activated protein kinase(MAPK), PKC and protein kinase A (PKA)], inflammatory cytokines [tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukins], cell cycle-related proteins, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and urokinase plasminogen activators (u-PA)[44,45,46]. Curcumin induces non-apoptotic cell death, such as autophagic cell death, which involves the lysosomal machinery to degrade the cell’s own components[46]. In addition to its antitumor effects in vitro, curcumin has been shown to preventcolon and gastric cancers in rodents[54]. It is suggested that the mechanism underlying the protective effect ofcurcumin is due to its ability to inhibit the growth of several tumorassociatedand angiogenesis-associated genes[47–53].


Green tea:

Since tea is the most consumed beverage worldwide, with 3,362,000 tonnes black tea and 884,000 tonnes green tea production in 2006 [55], health effects of tea and tea extracts have attracted considerable interest; since 1991. In general, or mechanistic aspects of carcinogenesis, only a few reviews focused on the prevention of specific cancer types like lung cancer[56–58], breast cancer[59,60], colon cancer [61], prostate cancer [66,62–64] and gastric cancer [65]. The green tea catechins mainly consist of (-)-epicatechin (EC), (-)-epigallocatechin (EGC), (-)-epicatechin gallate (ECG) and (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), of which EGCG may be the most effective chemopreventive agent and has been extensively studied with different human cancer cell lines and several cancer animal models. It has been revealed that EGCG inhibited carcinogenesis in a variety of tissues including lung, bladder, skin, small intestine, prostate and breast[67-71].



Ginseng (Panax ginseng), it is traditionally usedin different parts of the world as a remedy forvarious diseases including cancer[72]. The components likeginsenosides, polysaccharides, flavonoids, volatile oils, polyacetylenes, amino acid, and vitamins are present in ginseng, of which ginsenosides and polysaccharides have anticancer effect[73]. Ginsenosides can be classified into three groups based on the chemical structure of aglycones:

1)  Protopanaxadiol group (PPD) or diols [e.g. Rb1, Rb2, Rb3, Rc, Rd, Rg3, and Rh2];

2) Protopanaxatriol group (PPT) or triols [e.g. Re, Rf, Rg1, Rg2, and Rh1];

3) Oleanane group: only Ro (0.6% of all ginsenosides) [75,76].


It washypothesized that by inhibiting insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R)/Akt pathway the ginsenoside Rp1, present in ginseng, reduces cancer cell  proliferation [72]. Ginsenoside Rg3 increases the efficacy of cancer chemotherapy. The susceptibility of colon cancer cells to docetaxel, paclitaxel, cisplatin and doxorubicin is enhance by combined treatments with ginsenoside Rg3; the mechanismof such an enhancement is related to the inhibition of the constitutively activated NF-kB[74]. Rp1 induced cycle arrest and apoptosis mediated cell growth suppression. Rp1 also decreased the stability of the IGF- 1R protein in breast cancer cells. Potential as an anticancer drug is shown by Rp1 and an important target for treatment and prevention of breast cancer is IGF-1R [72].

Grape Seed:

Grape seed composition differs significantly in between different cultivars[77-79], namely when white versus red grapes are considered. Genetic variability, ripeness grade impact of vineyard treatments[80,81], irrigation strategy [82,83] and nitrogen fertilization[84] is shown by these differences. The significant variability in chemical composition is recorded even in seeds obtained from same cultivated plants, and such a result may be likely ascribed to differences in the extraction method[85-87]. Over 2 decades spend on studying about the presence of many potential chemopreventive agents in routinely consumed plant-based diets; mostly, they are non-nutritive phytochemicals spread over different classes based on their chemical structures and include phenolics (tannins, lignans, flavonoids), glucosinolates, terpenoids, carotenoids, and phytoestrogens[88,89]. Grape Seed extract (GSE) shows inhibition of growth and induces apoptosis in human prostate carcinoma cells in culture[90]. It is reported thatwhole black grape (seeds included) extract show the anticancer effects in the cancerous colon tissues of humans by inhibition in DNA turnover enzymes[91]. An ability to inhibit apoptotic process and display a strong anti-oxidant effect on normal cells is observed in GSE and many phytochemicals, meanwhile the opposite is true for cancer cells: neither growth inhibition nor apoptosis have been noticed in normal cells even at higher doses of GSE[92].


Other plants phytochemicals on cancer :

Dendrosicyossocotrana, Withania aduensis, Dracena cinnabari and Buxus hildebrandliim ethanolic extracts exhibited the highest toxicity on all tumor cell lines[93].


Anti-cancer potentials against p-dimethylaminoazobenzene (p-DAB) is shown by Hydrastis canadensis ethanolic extract in inducedhepato carcinogenesis in mice. A critical analysis of results of this investigation shows anti-cancer potentials of the drugis suitable for a supportive complementary medicine in liver cancer.[94].


A natural anthraquinone derivative isolated from Rheum palmatum L. (Zhangyedahuang) i.e. Emodin; dry raw herb consisting of up to 0.20mg/100 mg of emodin[95]. anti-tumoractivity against various human cancers was exerted by Emodin[96]. Emodininduces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells[97-100].


The growth and proliferation of breast, colon, prostate, lung is inhibited by polyphenolic extracts of Vaccinium macrocarpon and other tumorsis inhibited by flavonols, proanthocyanidin, oligomers, and triterpenoids isolated from the fruits of the same[101].


Morindacitrifolia showed of cancer preventive effective on both clinical practice and laboratory animal       models. [102].

Triptolide is a diterpenoid triepoxide and the principal active ingredient of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f. (Leigongteng) used in Chinese medicine to treat inflammation and autoimmune diseases[103]. Triptolide exhibits potent anti-inflammation, immunomodulation and anti-tumor activities[104-108].


Traditionally used fruit of Solanum nigrum L. (SNL) shows anti-tumor properties, although the mechanism for the activity remains to be elucidated. An ethanol extract from ripe fruits of SNL was investigated. the mechanism involved in itis growthinhibitory effect on MCF-7 human breast cancer cells[109].



Herbs have a vital role in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Extract from such herbs and plant are responsible for anticancer activity. In this review some anti-cancer plants and herbs are mentioned. Such herbs and plants possess anticancer activity for various types of cancer. More research on this plants and plant-derived chemicals may result in the discovery of potent anticancer agents.



I would be like to thank our Principal Dr. Mohan Kale and Assistant professor Mrs. Nilofar A. Khan for their motivation and support. Last but not least I would be like to thank all my co-authors for their support and positive involvement.



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Received on 24.05.2018                Modified on 13.09.2018

Accepted on 22.10.2018            © A&V Publications All right reserved

Asian J. Res. Pharm. Sci. 2018; 8(4):179-184.

DOI: 10.5958/2231-5659.2018.00031.0