[New Study] Researchers Identified Three New Plants to Treat Cancer


The knowledge of traditional herbal medicines has been passed on from one generation to another. The information is basically inherited on the basis of experiences of an individual with them that does not have any scientific validation backing them.

As the longevity of life is increasing with medical advancement, the list of diseases and the number of patients are also growing. Cancer is a leading cause of death globally. The number of cancer deaths is projected to rise to 13 million in 2030 from 8 million in 2012 (

Combatting cancer with high-priced drugs is not affordable for all. It raises the fatality of the disease. To expand the range of cancer treatments to weaker economic section, simple and inexpensive to manufacture solutions need to be explored.

After investigating 52 plants, a team of researchers led by Timothy Ravasi and Christian Voolstra from King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia shortlisted 3 plants by their biological potential whose anti-cancer properties could be utilized as an effective herbal medicine to treat cancer.

Juniperus phoenicea

Best Known in Herbal Medicine: Arar or Phoenican juniper

Found in: Mediterranean region like Morocco, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Canary Islands.

Traditionally used for: Edema, diabetes, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, rheumatism, eczema, sunstroke, dysmenorrhea and acute gonorrhea infection treatment.

Potential Treatment: Brain tumor, lung, liver, breast, cervical cancer


Anastatica hierochuntica

Best Known in Herbal Medicine: Kaff Maryam or the Jericho rose (belongs to mustard family)

Found in: the arid areas of the Middle East and the Sahara Desert; Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan

Traditionally used for: asthma, depression, menstrual cramps relief, headache, fatigue, high blood pressure, and infertility problems treatment.

Potential Treatment: Stomach, prostate cancer


Citrullus colocynthis

Best Known in Herbal Medicine: Hanzal, bitter cucumber, bitter apple, wild gourd (belongs to watermelon family)

Found in: Mediterranean basin and Asia

Traditionally used for: diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, high cholesterol, treatment.

Potential Treatment: breast cancer

For the first time, the researchers demonstrated the presence of anti-cancer agent- topoisomerase inhibitors in these 3 plants. Topoisomerase inhibitors inhibit the activity of topoisomerase enzymes which play an important role in controlling the changes in DNA structure.

Topoisomerase inhibitors are used as chemotherapy drugs which work by inducing a break in the DNA of cancer cells, leading to cancer cell death. The well-known chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin, daunorubicin, camptothecin are some examples of topoisomerase inhibitors.

The plant compounds were studied using imaging-based high-content screening to assess anticancer activity in them. The compounds will be further studied and evaluated for better characterization.

Featured image credit: Bigstockphoto (new herbal medicine cancer treatment)

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