There is Nothing New Under the Sun

The most sophisticated Western medical centers, purveyors of allopathic medicine, spent decades denigrating natural products as “quackery.” Nutritional supplements, antioxidants and natural extracts were viewed as the purview of hippies and nuts. Yet, a brief examination of the most active compounds in cancer therapy today quickly establishes how wrong-headed this mindset was. In addition to the taxanes (extracts of taxus brevifolia and taxus baccata), the camptothecins (extracts of camptotheca acuminata), the vinca alkaloids and the epothilones, are host of simple small molecules like retinoids, platins and arsenic trioxide.

As Western scientists have developed a greater understanding of cellular circuitry and cancer metabolism, they have been dragged, kicking and screaming, to the admission that nature is indeed the best organic chemist.

Recent reports of a Chinese herb combination called PHY906 are but the latest example of this reality. Careful analysis reveals PHY906 — a combination of four herbs — contains 64 compounds including flavonoids, saponins and monoterpenes. As an editor of the Journal of Medicinal Foods, I have published and edited many articles on related topics. The terpenes are among the most important and ubiquitous bioactive compounds found in nature, with effects on cholesterol metabolism, Ras gene signaling, and mitochondrial function.

PHY906 is one more example of the adage that “there is nothing new under the sun.”