Knowing that an herb or other natural product may be helpful for relieving your symptoms, improving your quality of life or treating your cancer is the first step, but you also need to know how to take the product, how much to take, what to eat or not eat with it, and other details.
Unfortunately, many of these questions cannot easily be answered. Research isn’t far enough along to know for sure how some products may interact with each other or with prescribed drugs, with foods and with other treatments. For many products, optimal doses haven’t been established. Sources vary on the doses they recommend.
BCCT’s Position on Dosing
We understand your frustration, but we can’t provide easy answers for you if the evidence doesn’t exist to support them. For many products, we do provide sources—books and websites we regard as reliable and supported by evidence—where you and your physician can find more information about specific doses. Sometimes the only information available is the doses used in good clinical studies demonstrating safety and effectiveness for your cancer or specific use. This information is listed on each natural product therapy summary.
Having a trained professional monitor your response, look for side effects, and track progress is important for your success and well-being.
It would be irresponsible for BCCT to suggest doses to our readers. We don’t know your health status, allergies, comorbid conditions (such as diabetes or heart disease), all the other products or drugs that you’re using, and so on.
Deciding on your own dosage is not a good idea. Having a trained professional monitor your response, look for side effects, and track progress is important for your success and well-being. We encourage our readers to find guidance from a health professional with training and experience in your cancer type and the natural products you're considering.
You should discuss therapies with your physicians, as contraindications, interactions and side effects must be evaluated. Optimal dosing should be based on your condition, why the natural product is being used, and in the context of other therapies used.
Choosing Therapies Wisely
by Laura Pole, RN, OCNS
I have worked with many people with cancer who have thought that "more is better" when deciding on complementary therapies, including natural products/supplements.
Though it makes sense to integrate a variety of therapies and lifestyle practices, the key is to choose therapies that will complement each other, will target your particular terrain and tumor microenvironment, will not interfere with nor increase toxicity of conventional treatments, and fit your goals. When thinking about natural products and supplements, these points are important:
Finding Professional Guidance
Clinicians who are likely to know about dosing of natural products:
- Integrative allopathic (conventional) oncologists
- Naturopathic oncologists
- Traditional Chinese medicine physicians with training and experience in cancer care using Chinese herbs
- Ayurvedic physicians with training and experience in cancer care using Ayurvedic herbs
- Registered herbalists with training and experience in cancer care
- Anthroposophic medicine physicians
- Functional medicine physicians with experience in cancer care
- Pharmacists knowledgeable about using natural products in cancer care
In the Clinics, Centers and Clinicians section of this site, we provide resources for you to find a practitioner or physician who may be able to help you assess therapies in light of your specific cancer and health status.
Sharing Information with Your Healthcare Team
Some supplements and products can interact with pharmaceutical treatments (decreasing or increasing a drug’s main effects or side effects), surgery (decreasing blood clotting or increasing or decreasing sedative effects of anesthesia), some foods, and other supplements. Disclosing all products you use to your healthcare team is crucial to maximizing your well-being.
Making a list of your supplements and dosing to share with your healthcare team is an excellent idea. Consider taking pictures of the ingredient labels of your supplements, for some may contain a number of ingredients that your doctors might need to know about.
Dosing and Product Strength and Quality
Levels of active ingredients of natural products can vary widely between and even within products. The strength or concentration of active ingredients in products can also vary from one manufacturer to another, from one plant to the next, or from one teacup to the next. See Quality and Sources of Herbs, Supplements and Other Natural Products.