Researchers discover new cancer treatments in Africa

German researchers recently discovered more medicinal plants in Africa that stop the spread of cancer cells. These plants even appear to thwart the spread of cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy.

I’ll tell you more about that important discovery in a moment. But first, let’s consider why Africa is truly the final frontier of natural medicine.

Since the 16th century’s era of discovery, natural scientists have explored the earth and the oceans. Scientific exploration now even penetrates the solar system. And Voyager, the unmanned spacecraft, is now entering inter-stellar space for the first time.

Yet, only 100 years ago, explorers reached the Antarctic, known as “the last place on earth.”

All along, natural scientists documented plant life. And they noted how indigenous peoples used them for construction materials, dyes, fabrics, foods, and medicines.

Of course, in China and India, native peoples carefully recorded both the origins and preparations of plant remedies. And they passed down this knowledge in medical classics for millennia.

Ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans kept records of European and Mediterranean folk remedies. And then, they passed the knowledge onto medieval Arab and European physicians during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Then came the great age of exploration.

Spanish, French, and British Colonial physicians first encountered Native American remedies during the 16th through 18th centuries. And they incorporated them into their own medical material. They reached everywhere in the Americas then, except the interior of the Amazon-Orinoco River Basins.

Africa is now the last great, unexplored frontier for folk remedies.

In Africa, the indigenous peoples kept no written records of their medicinal folk remedies. They passed them down through oral tradition. Plus, European natural scientists never even got to many parts of Africa to explore indigenous plant remedies.

And by the 20th century, medical science had largely lost interest in natural cures. Instead, scientists began to pursue reductionist studies at the microscopic and sub-microscopic levels.

Amazingly, in the 21st century, we are seeing a resurgence in natural remedies. In fact, today’s cutting-edge molecular geneticists are now studying how nutrients and other plant constituents actually work in the body.

Plus, today there is a lot of new research on old plant remedies. But there are few remaining places to look for entirely new remedies.

And Africa is one of those places.

After learning all about ancient Chinese and Indian herbal remedies and historical European folk remedies and Native American remedies, I began looking to Africa for truly new scientific discoveries about natural remedies. Indeed, this led me to the “Miracle at Red Bush” (Aspalathus linearis) 10 years ago. And more recently, to Sutherlandia frutescens.

That’s also why I wasn’t surprised to learn that German researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University found medicinal plants in Africa that stop the spread of cancer cells. African medicinal plants now under study include giant globe thistle, wild pepper, spear grass, and Ethiopian pepper (originally found in East Africa, like coffee).

Constituents from these plants appear to be “cytotoxic” to cancer cells. This means they target cancer cells and shut them down. Plus, the plants’ constituents even appear to work on cancer cells that are resistant to one or more chemotherapy drugs.

You see, drug resistance is a major problem when treating cancer. And it’s the same reason why certain strains of bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics. When you treat rapidly multiplying cells with a single ingredient, the cells can quickly adapt and develop resistance.

Now we see that many cancer cells have become resistant to chemo drugs. And this is one reason why the German research is so important. These plant constituents appear to thwart even highly resistant cancer cells.

One of the wonders of medicinal plants is that they contain mixtures of many different, but related plant chemicals. And together, the plant chemicals help fight invading bacterial or cancer cells. But they prevent the development of resistance because they contain more than one “active ingredient.”

Thus, for example, the crude extract of cinchona bark treats malaria, which has become resistant to the cinchona-derived drug chloroquine. In fact, in Africa (and in the Amazon), we have worked with the WHO to develop local plant remedies to treat drug-resistant malaria. Since they simply don’t have access to the new, expensive drugs.

Why are plants such great sources of medicine?

As I have written about before, plants developed their own defenses against microbial diseases and predators because they are “sessile” and can’t move away. Plus, they don’t have immune systems. Instead, they manufacture chemicals that are biologically active as protection.

I should note that remedies from the “final frontier” in natural medicine do come with one drawback: They are not always as accessible as herbs from other areas of the world. The herbs in this study are a case in point. However, I will continue my research on them. And you will be the first to know when they do become more widely available and tested.

In the meantime, Cameroonian scientist Victor Kuete led this new research on African plants. Kuete received a prestigious Humboldt Research Fellowship for this study.

The Humboldt Institute is a German natural science research organization. It is named for Alexander von Humboldt, the great German natural scientist.

Humboldt himself came to the United States in 1798 and met with then-Vice President Thomas Jefferson. He explored North America even before later President Jefferson sent out Lewis & Clark. Humboldt then went to South America to explore the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers. He was an early proponent of “vital energy” as critical to life and health.

Charles Wilson Peale’s portrait of Humboldt once hung in my office in Philadelphia. Humboldt met with Jefferson in Philadelphia while the U.S. capitol was still located there in 1798. He was already well known and Peale asked him to sit for a portrait.

I’m glad to see that the Humboldt Institute still supports important natural science research in Africa and South America. Clearly, that is one prestigious research institute that has not forgotten the value of natural science in making new discoveries. Too bad we have to go outside the U.S. to find them.

The herbs I mentioned above certainly aren’t the only promising discoveries to come out of Africa recently. In fact, I’ve worked to make two very exciting African herbs available to my readers: Sutherlandia frutescens and red bush.

Sutherlandia is one of the ingredients in CoreCell Essentials, one of the formulas in my Smart Science line of nutritional supplements. It has shown remarkable potential as an adaptogen, helping your body cope with and avoid damage from any number of stressors.

And Red Bush helps hydrate your body at a cellular level. I’ve been recommending the Red Joe brand of red bush for a while now, and am excited to finally be able to offer it on this website. It should be available within the next few weeks.