The Top 6 Herbal Supplements for Colon Cancer

May 14, 2018 · 5 min read
“Garlic vegetables” by Matthew Pilachowski on Unsplash

Herbs and spices have been used for centuries as food flavoring and as medicine.[1] While plenty of herbs have mild benefits, others have actually been proven to either treat or even prevent certain types of cancer. Colorectal cancer is second leading cause of cancer death in the Western world and the third most common cancer in the world.[2] Chemotherapy has always been associated with harmful side effects that not only can worsen a patient’s quality of life, but can also cause patients to refuse further chemotherapy. In this article, we will go over the top six safe herbal supplements that have evidence to support their use in treating or preventing colon cancer. If you are at an increased risk of getting colon cancer, like if you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease or a family member who has had colon cancer, or if you currently are battling colon cancer, some of the following may be good for you.


Curcumin inhibits the growth of human colon cancer cells and causes apoptosis (cell death) according to at least one study.[3] Curcumin also increases the production of a tumor suppressor gene which could also be involved in the inhibitory effect of curcumin on human colon cancer cells.[4]


An ingredient in ginger, 6-gingerol, has been shown to prevent the growth of colon cancer cells and cause apoptosis of the cancerous cells but not the normal cells.[5] In one study in people who were at an increased risk of colorectal cancer, ginger reduces the erosion of the colorectal lining. Ginger also decreases the concentration of a chemical that is elevated in the early stages of colon cancer, PGE-2.[6][7]

Green Tea Extract

Drinking ten cups of green tea a day was shown to delay the onset of cancer among the general population. Green tea delayed the onset of cancer by 7.3 years in women and by 3.2 years in men in a study conducted in Japan.[8] Another study added green tea extract tablets to 10 cups of green tea daily and found that green tea reduced the recurrence of colorectal tumors by 51.6%.[9]


Garlic contains a compound called se-methyl-L-selenocysteine (MseC) that causes an 80% rate of apoptosis in colon cancer cells.[10] Garlic also suppresses the proliferative activities (rapid growth in cell number) of tumor cells.[11] Certain ingredients in green tea also boost the effectiveness of certain anticancer drugs.[12]


Ginseng induces apoptosis and also inhibits angiogenesis in colon cancer cells (production of new blood vessels).[13] A study conducted in Korea showed a reduced risk of colon cancer, along with several other types of cancer, when ginseng was consumed as part of the subjects’ regular diet.[14]

Turkey tail mushrooms

Trials have been conducted in Japan that demonstrated that Turkey tail mushroom, Coriolus versicolor, significantly extends survival at five years for certain types of cancer, including colorectal and stomach cancers. Two ingredients extracted from Coriolus versicolor, PSP and PSK, have also been shown to boost immune cell production, alleviate chemotherapy symptoms, and enhance the ability of your body’s immune system to get inside the tumors to destroy them.[15] Another study showed that PSK exhibits antitumor effects by restoring the immune system that is depressed by the presence of a tumor.[16]

Before starting any herbal supplement, consult your pharmacist or physician.


  1. Zheng J, et al. Spices for Prevention and Treatment of Cancers. Nutrients. 2016 Aug 12;8(8). pii: E495. doi: 10.3390/nu8080495. Review. PubMed PMID: 27529277; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4997408.
  2. Vayghan HJ, Ghadimi SS, Nourazarian AR. Preventive and therapeutic roles of ginseng — focus on colon cancer. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(2):585–8. Review. PubMed PMID: 24568461.
  3. Manikandan R, et al. Synergistic anticancer activity of curcumin and catechin: an in vitro study using human cancer cell lines. Microsc Res Tech. 2012 Feb;75(2):112–6. doi: 10.1002/jemt.21032. Epub 2011 Jul 21. PubMed PMID: 21780253.
  4. Guo Y, Shu L, Zhang C, Su ZY, Kong AN. Curcumin inhibits anchorage-independent growth of HT29 human colon cancer cells by targeting epigenetic restoration of the tumor suppressor gene DLEC1. Biochem Pharmacol. 2015 Mar 15;94(2):69–78. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2015.01.009. Epub 2015 Jan 29. PubMed PMID: 25640947; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4524742.
  5. Radhakrishnan EK, et al. [6]-Gingerol induces caspase-dependent apoptosis and prevents PMA-induced proliferation in colon cancer cells by inhibiting MAPK/AP-1 signaling. PLoS One. 2014 Aug 26;9(8):e104401. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104401. eCollection 2014. PubMed PMID: 25157570; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4144808.
  6. Zick SM, et al. Pilot clinical study of the effects of ginger root extract on eicosanoids in colonic mucosa of subjects at increased risk for colorectal cancer. Mol Carcinog. 2015 Sep;54(9):908–15. doi: 10.1002/mc.22163. Epub 2014 Apr 24. PubMed PMID: 24760534; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4208969.
  7. Jiang Y, et al. Effect of ginger root on cyclooxygenase-1 and 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase expression in colonic mucosa of humans at normal and increased risk for colorectal cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013 Sep;22(5):455–60. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e32835c829b. PubMed PMID: 23222413; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3720765.
  8. Nakachi K, Matsuyama S, Miyake S, Suganuma M, Imai K. Preventive effects of drinking green tea on cancer and cardiovascular disease: epidemiological evidence for multiple targeting prevention. Biofactors. 2000;13(1–4):49–54. PubMed PMID: 11237198.
  9. Shimizu M, et al. Green tea extracts for the prevention of metachronous colorectal adenomas: a pilot study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Nov;17(11):3020–5. doi: 10.1158/1055–9965.EPI-08–0528. PubMed PMID: 18990744.
  10. Tung YC, et al. Se-Methyl-L-selenocysteine Induces Apoptosis via Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and the Death Receptor Pathway in Human Colon Adenocarcinoma COLO 205 Cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2015 May 27;63(20):5008–16. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b01779. Epub 2015 May 13. PubMed PMID: 25943382.
  11. Jikihara H, et al. Aged garlic extract inhibits 1,2-dimethylhydrazine-induced colon tumor development by suppressing cell proliferation. Oncol Rep. 2015 Mar;33(3):1131–40. doi: 10.3892/or.2014.3705. Epub 2014 Dec 30. PubMed PMID: 25573280.
  12. Fujiki H, Sueoka E, Watanabe T, Suganuma M. Primary cancer prevention by green tea, and tertiary cancer prevention by the combination of green tea catechins and anticancer compounds. J Cancer Prev. 2015 Mar;20(1):1–4. doi: 10.15430/JCP.2015.20.1.1. Review. PubMed PMID: 25853098; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4384709.
  13. Vayghan HJ, Ghadimi SS, Nourazarian AR. Preventive and therapeutic roles of ginseng — focus on colon cancer. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(2):585–8. Review. PubMed PMID: 24568461.
  14. Yun TK, Choi SY. Preventive effect of ginseng intake against various human cancers: a case-control study on 1987 pairs. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1995 Jun;4(4):401–8. PubMed PMID: 7655337.
  15. Kidd PM. The use of mushroom glucans and proteoglycans in cancer treatment. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Feb;5(1):4–27. Review. PubMed PMID: 10696116.
  16. Matsunaga K, et al. [Restoration of immunologic responsiveness by PSK in tumor-bearing animals]. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho. 1986 Dec;13(12):3468–75. Japanese. PubMed PMID: 3789758.

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