Traditional Medicinal Plants and Their Therapeutic Potential Against Major Cancer Types

  • Kai Wei Lee
  • Siew Mooi ChingEmail author
  • Fan Kee Hoo
  • Vasudevan Ramachandran
  • Mallappa Kumara Swamy


Cancer is highly prevalent in the world and affects millions of people. Lung, prostate, colorectal, and breast cancers are the most commonly identified among cancer subjects and account for more than half of all cancer deaths. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy are the typical treatments for cancer; however, the side effects of these treatments can be excessive and vary widely according to subject’s health issues. At present, traditional herbal therapy can be used in conjunction with conventional treatments. The use of anticancer plants in medicine is becoming increasingly relevant, as they can reduce the side effects of medical treatments and improve patients’ quality of life. Various traditional medical practices, including Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Kampo, Unani, and Korean medicine, use herbs as major ingredients of their practice, and the effectiveness of these traditional medicines has been acknowledged after modern scientific testing in many cases. The records of traditional anticancer plants used among various tribe, races, and nationalities are abundant. For instance, Liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and snake-needle grass (Oldenlandia diffusa) served with hot water can help patients suffering from lung cancer. Likewise, Astragalus membranaceus, Podophyllum hexandrum, Podophyllum petaton, and Arctium lappa are commonly used all around the world to treat breast cancer. Colorectal cancer is treated with ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), garlic (Allium sativum), and ginger (Zingiber officinale). Therefore, there is an urgent need to document these potential ethnomedicinal plants in terms of anticancer drug discovery research. The scientific justification for these plants having a recuperative function in cancer must also be established. The main objective of this chapter is to provide an overview on anticancer plants used in traditional medicine to treat lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer.


Cancer Drugs Ethnomedicine Herbal therapy Medicinal plants 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Wei Lee
    • 1
  • Siew Mooi Ching
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fan Kee Hoo
    • 2
  • Vasudevan Ramachandran
    • 3
  • Mallappa Kumara Swamy
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSerdangMalaysia
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSerdangMalaysia
  3. 3.Malaysian Research Institute on AgeingUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSerdangMalaysia
  4. 4.Department of Crop Science, Faculty of AgricultureUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSerdangMalaysia
  5. 5.Department of BiotechnologyPadmashree Institute of Management and SciencesBengaluruIndia

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