You won’t see any colored ribbons flying when it comes to lung cancer. I’ve written about how little the government-industrial-medical complex has to offer when it comes to this deadly disease, even though it’s the No. 1 cancer killer in the U.S. today (see “The secret killers lurking behind all those pink ribbons” in the November 2013 issue of Insiders’ Cures).
But recently, researchers at the University of Minnesota and Texas Tech University found that an extract of kava root—a South Pacific herb—prevented the formation of lung tumors in 99 percent of laboratory animals they studied.i
That’s an unprecedented result among cancer studies using nutrients and natural products.
So why haven’t you heard about this until now?
There are many reasons why lung cancer doesn’t get the attention of other, less deadly cancers. First of all, nobody is pushing lung cancer screening the way the multimillion-dollar colonoscopy industry is relentlessly pushing an overly costly, dangerous, often unnecessary procedure (see “The hidden, grisly dangers of ‘routine’ colonoscopies” in the September 2013 issue of Insiders’ Cures).
In fact, the “experts” at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have even made light of a new imaging technique for lung cancer screening. Even though this screening method is safe and appears to be at least as effective as the other cancer screening programs they push.
NCI experts claim people at high risk for lung cancer don’t care enough about their health to get cancer screenings (see “How the government could prevent 12,000 lung cancer deaths per year, but won’t” in the March 25, 2013 Daily Dispatch). In fact, lung cancer victims are made to feel guilty and ashamed. And health professionals are often biased against these victims—many of whom have to hide their diagnosis.
All this, of course, because the assumption is that only smokers get lung cancer.
But believe it or not, people who have never smoked a cigarette in their lives also get lung cancer. In fact, according to the NCI itself, nearly a third of all Americans who are diagnosed with lung cancer are nonsmokers.ii So what does the government’s obsessive anti-tobacco campaign for smoking cessation and prevention have to offer them? After all, you can’t quit if you never started (or have already quit).
That’s why it was such a disaster when government scientists made a political decision (which I sadly had to witness) 30 years ago to focus only on “behavioral modification” for misguided smokers. It left real science frozen in the past, with little or no support or interest for developing better lung cancer screening, treatments, and even prevention.
In fact, a recent panel convened by NCI itself concluded that the only real strategy for “controlling cancer” is to finally focus on prevention, since mainstream treatment and screening (early detection) strategies have been such a failure. Cancer screening statistics are routinely trotted out to create the illusion of progress while, in fact, the “war on cancer” is a stalemate reminiscent of the deadly trench warfare of World War I.
Cancer cures hiding in plain sight
The sad truth is that there are many natural products hiding in plain sight that appear to be effective at preventing and treating cancer. Yet they’re ignored by the mainstream for two reasons. First, because they cannot be given as drugs (and rake in massive profits for Big Pharma). And second, because they modify the growth of cancer cells and tumors instead of killing them outright.
You see, when the government screens natural products for “anticancer” activity, it looks only for the ability to kill cancer cells. But unfortunately, chemicals that can kill cancer cells will also kill your normal cells, which has led to the tragic and unnecessary disaster of cancer chemotherapy today.
But there are other important types of anticancer activity, including preventing new blood vessels from supporting the growth of malignant tumors (anti-angiogenesis), boosting the immune system to naturally eliminate cancer cells, transforming cancer cells back to “normal” cells, and other proven mechanisms.
And yet, because of the bias in the cancer industry, natural products that effectively address these issues aren’t able to make the leap from laboratory studies to hugely expensive human cancer treatment trials.
And the new kava study is just one example.
A worry-free treatment for lung cancer
Kava (Piper methysticum) has long been used in Hawaii, Samoa, and other parts of Polynesia as an effective anti-anxiety agent. U.S. presidents ranging from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton have sampled kava drinks during their “goodwill” trips to American Samoa. What’s more, the herb is a member of the pepper family, which is known for its anticancer activities. Piper nigrans, or black pepper, contains piperine, which research has shown to be a very potent anticancer natural ingredient. iii
But kava has met with its share of controversy. About 10 years ago, there was a “scare” about possible liver toxicity associated with the herb. At the time, I was the editor of the medical journal Seminars in Integrative Medicine. So I invited and published an article from my colleague Jorg Gruenwald in Germany that showed there was no real evidence against kava. Instead, Dr. Gruenwald demonstrated that drugs were likely responsible for the cases of liver toxicity originally attributed to kava
For the kava lung cancer study, researchers gave mice a kava-derived dietary supplement on a daily basis. As I noted above, this supplement prevented formation of 99 percent of tumors.
Some mice actually developed no tumors at all. And the type of DNA effects typically associated with heavy tobacco use were also significantly reduced. In addition, there was no liver toxicity in the mice that were given kava.
This lab evidence supports the long-held observation that people living in the South Pacific have dramatically lower rates of lung cancer. Despite comparable rates of tobacco use, incidences of cancer in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Western Samoa are much lower than in countries where the people don’t regularly consume kava. In fact, in Fiji, the rate of lung cancer diagnosis is only 5 to 10 percent of the U.S. rate.i That’s a 10-to-20-time reduction in lung cancer, potentially just from using kava!
The amazing bottom line: Kava can reduce the risk of lung cancer as much or more than cigarette smoking is said to increase it.
A look ahead
The results from the new kava study are so striking that the American Botanical Council (ABC) issued a press release about it in January. Normally, ABC, which is a nonprofit organization devoted to evidence-based herbal medicine, focuses its efforts on educating the media and the public about the results of human clinical trials. But this study was so groundbreaking that ABC made an exception, hoping to focus more human clinical research toward the modern crisis of lung cancer.
Of course, the University of Minnesota research team doesn’t think any of the commercially available kava supplements currently on the market
would be effective against cancer. Although that could have something to do with the fact that they’re working on developing their own (patented) kava-derived drugs.
But there’s no harm in trying kava. To find an appropriate dose for your particular needs, consult a knowledgeable health practitioner who is open to natural approaches.
One thing to note: Kava doesn’t cause liver toxicity as long as it’s not taken with potentially liver-damaging drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol). But it does have a natural relaxing effect. So it’s best to take at night.
I “Kava blocks 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone-induced lung tumorigenesis in association with reducing O6-methylguanine DNA adduct in A/J mice.” Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2014 Jan;7(1):86-96. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-13-0301.
ii National Cancer Institute. Lung Cancer Prevention PDQ. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/lung/HealthProfessional/page2. Accessed February 14, 2014.
iii “Piperine suppresses tumor growth and metastasis in vitro and in vivo in a 4T1 murine breast cancer model.” Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2012;33(4):523-530.