Beyond limited empirical observations, not all medicinal plants have established scientific studies to support their effectiveness. However, in the case of Brucea javanica, it is one of those plants in which scientific investigations have provided enough evidence to prove that it has an impressive efficacy for the treatment of cervical, bladder and pancreatic cancers. Its selective toxicity has also been found to kill 70% of breast cancer cells.
Oncologists are still at a loss to find methods of selectively killing cancer cells through the standard protocols of treatment in chemotherapy and radiation. While damaging healthy cells is an inevitable process through most cytotoxic drugs, chemotherapy also triggers them to secrete a protein that sustains tumour growth and resistance to further treatment.
As more knowledge and research is being extended to populations confined to conventional allopathic principles, the broad categories of herbal and plant medicines are finally reaching the mainstream. The effectiveness of medicinal plants and foods to treat cancer is perhaps receiving the most widespread attention. Dietary anti-angiogenic foods alone have sparked so much interest in the cancer community, that even veteran Physicians are beginning to recommend them to cancer patients.
Brucea javanica (Brucea javanica (L.) Merr) is one of those plants that needs far more recognition in this category for its incredible ability to selectively kill cancer cells.
A shrub original from South-east Asia, and occurs from Sri Lanka and India towards Indo-China, southern China, Taiwan, Thailand and even northern Australia, B. javanica has been the subject of hundreds of studies and clinical trials, all of them aimed to better understand two main key issues: First how effective this plant really is; and secondly, if it is so effective, which active constituents are responsible for its anti-cancer properties.
B. javanica is a monoecious or dioecious shrub or small tree that can grow up to 10 m tall with soft-haired twigs and leaves. It prefers open localities such as light secondary forests and thickets, forest edges, ridges, and even occurring in sunny places on sandy dunes and on limestone. It grows under both per-humid and seasonal conditions from sea level up to 900 m altitude.
For several millennia, herbal preparations and natural remedies from B. javanica have been shown to be effective in treating many types of maladies including malaria, and amoebiasis as well as cancer. Approximately half of the drugs currently in clinical use are of natural origin, however many of these drugs become toxic with substantial side effects due to the integration of artificial chemical compounds in their formulas.
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