A plant that folk medicine has long recognized as a cancer-fighter may soon be stepping from the shadows. In what may prove one day to be the initial burst of a major health breakthrough, scientists have found that an extract from a common Pakistani plant may help cure breast cancer.
It is botanically known as “Fagonia cretica,” but its everyday name is Virgin’s Mantle. The plant is most commonly consumed in beverage form, as a herbal tea. In Pakistan, traditional healers use it to treat women diagnosed with breast cancer. Until now, it has been regarded as something of a folklore remedy.
But patients in Pakistan who have taken the plant extract have reported that it does not appear to cause common side effects associated with other cancer treatments — like hair loss, blood count drop, or gastrointestinal issues.
So, scientists have undertaken tests of the plant extract and proved that it kills cancer cells without damaging normal breast cells. This was found in laboratory conditions, so of course this would have to be investigated further in animals and, if successful, humans.
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The scientists are hard at work trying to identify which element or elements of the plant is/are responsible for killing the cancer cells. Their goal is trials with human cancer patients.
While Virgin’s Mantle is some time away from solid evidence, discoveries like these are the ones that pave the road into the future. It is important to remember that drugs used to fight cancer (not to mention, almost everything else) are most often derived from plants. Or they are created in a way that mimics a certain natural chemical within a plant.
Virgin’s Mantle is found in arid, desert regions of Pakistan, India, Africa, and parts of Europe.
Breast cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common in America. Though much more common in women, it can strike men as well. It is always good to know signs and symptoms, so here are some to watch for (courtesy of the Mayo Clinic):
— A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
— Bloody discharge from the nipple
— Change in the size or shape of a breast
— Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
— Inverted nipple
— Peeling, scaling or flaking of the nipple or breast skin
— Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.