The Use of Natural Compounds as Potential and Alternative Treatment for Cancers

Review Article

J Drug Discov Develop and Deliv. 2016; 3(2): 1025.

The Use of Natural Compounds as Potential and Alternative Treatment for Cancers

Sulaiman Rahman H1, 2, 3*

¹Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Komar University of Science and Technology, Northern Iraq

²Department of Clinic and Internal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Sulaimani, Northern Iraq

3Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

*Corresponding author: Heshu Sulaiman Rahman, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

Received: July 12, 2016; Accepted: November 29, 2016; Published: December 05, 2016


It has long been established that a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains and legumes and antioxidants and other beneficial compounds may help prevent cancer. However diet is not a cure for cancer, but it may help prevent some cancers as well as heart disease and it can help the body overcome the effects of conventional treatments.

Keywords: Natural compounds; Treatment; Cancer


According to the National Cancer Institute, a significant body of laboratory evidence demonstrates that antioxidants may slow or possibly prevent the development of cancer. Antioxidant activity may be beneficial as it neutralizes the destructive effects of free radicals. Using natural compounds through a healthy diet and supplements is not a substitute for regular medical care and the more scientifically established benefits of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but it is worth considering as a complementary form of medicine [1,2].

The search for natural compounds effective against cancers is an exhaustive and ongoing effort. Natural compounds are not only serve as drug or template for drugs but in many instances had been a source of discovery of novel biology that provided better understanding of target and pathway involved in the diseases processes as well as involved in the majority of cancer-fighting drugs used today. Organisms from plants to fungi to bacteria to marine animals have been investigated for their potential antitumor properties [3].

There are natural compounds used for the treatment of cancer and over 60- 75% of drugs currently used to fight cancer are derived from them.

In addition, drugs derived from natural compounds work better for cancer patients than do drugs manufactured synthetically [2].

About 70% of the species likely to contain chemicals with anticancer properties are located in the world’s rain forests, but only a fraction of these plants have been analyzed.

Several natural compounds are currently used in cancer treatment, in which the most significant examples are vica alkaloid, vinblastine and vincristine which are isolated from the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). Although these compounds are mainly used for the treatment of diabetes, but they can also increase the cure rates of leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma, advanced testicular cancer, breast and lung cancers. Another example of a highly active agent derived from a natural product is etoposide (epipodophyllotoxin), which is derived from the mandrake plant (Podophullum) and is used in the treatment of lymphomas and bronchial cancers. On the other hand, taxane, paclitaxel (Taxol) also is another example in this field, which is initially isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia nutt) and has an impressive anti-tumor activity against breast and ovarian cancers [4].

Additionally, among main important natural compounds that boost the immune system to recognize the cancer cells or even might restrict blood supplies to a tumor cells [3] are: ginger, astragalus (Chinese herb), bee propolis, burdock seed, curcumin (turmeric), flaxseed (linseed), garlic, mushroom, ginseng, lemonene, glutamine, melatonin, parthenolide, reservatrol (from red grape), carotenoids (pigments in vegetables), indole-3-carbinol, Vitamin D, emodin, Vitamin E, genistein (from red clover), proanthocyanides (from grape seed and pine bark), flavonoids (from tea family and berry family).


Ginger is an herb with white or yellow flowers and dark green leaves and a thick root. The word ginger comes from the Latin name Zingiber which is derived from the Sanskrit word Sringavera (meaning the rhizomes look like deer’s antlers). The term ginger itself only refers to Zingiber officiale (the English botanist William Roscoe (1753-1831) gave the plant this name), which belongs to the botanical family of the Zingiberaceae, and not to any related species. The closely related species are Zingiber montanum and Zingiber zerumbet. The common cooking ginger originated in tropical Asia (50% of worldwide ginger production is in India), but is now grown as a commercial crop for the ginger root in Latin America and Africa as well as South East Asia.

The underground stem is the active part used (rhizomes are knobby and fleshy, covered in ring-like scars) and important part for food and medicine. Although the rhizomes grow underground, they are swollen stems, not roots. This is why fresh ginger is often referred to as stem ginger [5].

The origin of ginger

The plant is said to originate from India, China and java, yet is also native of Africa. It is now cultivated in great quantities in Jamaica, and the best types of root is from the West Indies. However African and Cochin ginger yield the most resin and volatile oil. It was most likely brought to Europe between the 10th and 15th century as a condiment and spice. Ginger root is widely used around the world as a spice or food additive [6]. However, Malaysia has more than 1200 ginger plant species in 53 genera.

The production trends of ginger

India is the 1st country in the world with over 30% production, followed by China (~20.5%), Indonesia (~12.7%), then Nepal (~11.5%) and Nigeria (~10%).

The chemistry of the ginger

The characteristic odor and flavor of ginger is caused by a mixture of volatile oils (ginger oil) which are zingerone, shogaols and gingerols, that compose 1-3% of the weight of fresh ginger.

The constitution of fragrant essential oil are sesquiterpenoids with (-)-zingiberene as the main component, but smaller amounts of other sesquiterpenoids (β-sesquiphellandrene, bisabolene and farnrsene) and a small monoterpenoid fraction (β- cineol, and citral) have also been identified. The presence of nonvolatile phenylpropanoid derived compounds (especially gingerols and shogaols) make the pungent taste of ginger [6].

Active components of ginger

Ginger oil considered as the most potential part of the plant that is obtained from the unpeeled or dried, ground up root (rhizome) of the herb (about 2-4% oil) by steam distillation (Table 1). However, pungent phenol compounds such as gingerols and shogaols are also considered as active components. The oil blends well with many other essential oils including lemon, cedarwood, lime, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, rosemary, sandalwood, patchouli, myrtle, bergamot, rosewood, neroli, orange and ylang-ylang (Figure 1). Additionally a mixture of honey and ginger together is well known worldwide for relieving of respiratory problems.

Citation: Sulaiman Rahman H. The Use of Natural Compounds as Potential and Alternative Treatment for Cancers. J Drug Discov Develop and Deliv. 2016; 3(2): 1025. ISSN : 2471-0288