Natural Products and Other Therapies
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.
Adding natural products and supplements to the mix of prescription drugs and other therapies being used requires thought and caution, as some of these could result in serious interactions, either making prescription drugs less effective or increasing side effects and adverse drug reactions.1
Please talk with your physician or pharmacist if you're thinking about taking supplements and natural products.
When thinking about natural products and supplements, these points are important:
Many people with cancer, plus their caregivers and healthcare providers, are looking for natural products and other therapies. Finding credible information on therapies can be difficult.
Our Search Therapies section provides evidence-based or evidence-informed summaries on therapies that we believe merit consideration in integrative cancer care.
We don't recommend therapies but present what we've found regarding uses, cautions, professional opinions and more.
As in all aspects of medical care, each therapy needs to be considered in the context of your situation:
- Your cancer disease state
- Your physical condition: fitness, nutritional status, stress levels and resilience
- Other medical conditions present: allergies, diabetes or heart disease, for example
- Your available financial, emotional and logistical support
- All the other therapies you are using or plan to use
Integrative oncologists and naturopathic physicians are trained in considering the full context of your situation in recommending therapies. We encourage you to work with a healthcare team who can evaluate therapies in light of your personal context.
We also realize that not everyone has access to an integrative oncologist or naturopathic physician. You can access insights and guidance from some of the leaders in this field through their published programs, protocols and approaches. See our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.
- Hodges PJ, Kam PC. The peri-operative implications of herbal medicines. Anaesthesia. 2002 Sep;57(9):889-99.
- University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine: Introduction to Integrative Oncology (2019-2021)
- Dr. Michael Ruscio: Dwight McKee Podcast