Even though we have a very high tech society, cancer is still a serious issue. We humans still are not entirely capable of fighting cancer.

Radiation and chemotherapy are still considered the best methods for treating it and frequently, even these don't work. And, as for this disease, it is a phenomenon of uncontrolled cell growth that has lead to the death of many people. Within these main two treatments, there is plenty of controversy surrounding applying radiation and chemo in a proper sequence.

However, there are also some different methods known and available on the market to treat cancer. Among them, homeopathic and herbal treatments are the most common. So, my question is, do they really work and is there any scientific evidence of that? If yes then what is it?

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    $\begingroup$ Actually modern treatments do not fail most of the time. They most often fail in metastasized tumors - if you catch the primary tumor early enough it is usually removed and the patient can be completely healed. Additionally there is medicine (everything which has an effect) and there is pseudomedicine (everything which claims to have an effect but cannot proof it. Homeopathy and herbal medicine (unless you isolate some pharmacologically active agent from the plants) belong to the last category and don't have any scientific foundation. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ While the question is not off-topic, you'd probably make a better fit (and get better answers) on skeptics.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 4:53

2 Answers 2


The methodology behind homeopathy is scientific nonsense. If you dilute anything a billion times, it will have no chemical effect, not even if you shake it all the while. So no, homeopathy does nothing for cancer, or any medical condition at all.

Of course plants can have active compounds in them, once scientists have identified those compounds, they can be tweaked to make them act better in the human body, and then manufactured under strict guidelines to ensure purity, and tested to determine the optimum dosage; then it's just medicine. Taxol comes from yew trees, it doesn't mean that native herbalists were successfully treating cancer with it for hundreds of years. Native herbalists were using willow bark, which contains salicylic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties, but chemists improved on it, reducing some of its negative side effects, by modifying it to acetylsalicylic acid.

Millions of people get cancer. Doctors get cancer. Herbalists get cancer. If curing cancer was as easy as mixing some leaves in a poultice, people would do that.

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    $\begingroup$ The worst thing is that a lot of these quack doctors explicitly tell people that the conventional (western) medicine is dangerous and only their medicine works. While a lot of western medicine is pushed to market by profit-driven drug companies, still a significant proportion are actually effective. In contrast, no homeopathic treatment can ever be effective, and herbal treatments are in general less effective than maintaining a healthy lifestyle! $\endgroup$
    – user21820
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 5:42

The short answer: no.

The for-profit pharma companies that so many people love to slam for profiteering? On the other side are insurance companies who want to pay the absolute minimum they can. If there was a cheap plant or mixture of plants that scientifically showed significant success in stopping cancer, the insurance companies would demand its widespread use and stop paying for pharmaceuticals.

Homeopathy is (with few exceptions) ineffective at best and downright dangerous at worst. Most "homeopathic medications" are unregulated (at least in the USA) and unscreened - you have no idea what's going in them, and you have no guarantee that the content is what the bottle says.

A few years ago there was a study done on herbal alternative medicine and the findings were that plenty of these supplements didn't even contain what was advertised. The worst offenders actually substituted known toxic plants for the claimed product.

Even if the product is genuinely what's advertised, there can be processing and purity problems. Recently there was a news article about some people who were severely sickened after drinking improperly processed aconite (wolfsbane) herbal tea bought in a traditional Chinese herbal medicine shop.

The final (rhetorical) question to ask the quacks pushing their homeopathic crap: If ancient medicinal practices are so good, then why was life expectancy back then (and even now the areas where such practices remain in wide use) so low? And if Western medicine's so toxic with all of its side effects, why does the countries that practice Western medicine standards almost always have the best life expectancies?

You can't argue with results - and for all its shortcomings, Western medicine delivers far more than any other known medical practice on the planet.


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