Chemotherapy and Herbs
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Annie
Posted on: May 9, 2003

I recently went to a pharmacist who suggested I take to prevent hair loss with my chemotherapy (Cytoxan): horsetail (aerial part) 150 mg and certified potency horsetail (aerial part), extract standardized for 10% silicic acid equivalent to 7.7% silica . I can’t find anything at all about this. Is this safe?? Will this interfere with my chemo treatments? My doctor does not want me taking any herbs without proper documentation. She does not know the reaction and how it will assimilate with chemo.

I also have scleroderma (immune deficiency disease) and I take Protonix (acid reflux reliever) for indigestion. My pharmacist gave me pancreatin to use instead. He also suggested PBGS+ an antioxidant producing oligomeric proanthocyandiin (OPC) from pine bark and grape seed. I can’t find anything about this either.

Actions of horsetail (Equisetum arvense) include: arrests bleeding internally and externally, coagulant, astringent, diuretic, immune enhancer, white blood cell stimulator. Horsetail contains silica, which helps with the repair of tissue and the growth of hair and nails. Because it has a very high mineral content, it should not be taken continuously. Continuous ingestion can cause kidney strain. Because of this precaution, it should only be used in consultation with a natural health practitioner. Check that the scientific name is Equisetum arvense. Other species of equisetum may be harmful unless taken as homeopathic preparations.

Regarding pine bark and grape seed, the OPCs in pine bark and grape seed are antioxidant, protecting against free radical damage. A problem with grape seed extracts can be the method of extraction used to make the product. Hexane, a harmful chemical, is used in the extraction process in producing many products, and these products cannot be recommended.

Neither of these products is natural. Both use chemical processes that change the natural plant to produce the product. Extracts that are standardized to a particular percentage of certain plant constituents, change the natural balance of the plant constituents. The natural remedies that most herbalists work with have been proven effective and safe with thousands of years of use. It is impossible to know the safety and side effects of new products until they have been used for many years.

Susun Weed, in "Breast Cancer? Breast Health!" (Ash Tree Publishing), a well referenced book, recommends the following for preventing hair loss or encouraging new growth after chemotherapy:

Nettle infusion: place 30 grams/one ounce of crushed, dried nettle leaf in a quart/liter jar and fill to the top with boiling water. Cap tightly and let sit at least four hours. Strain, and drink the remaining fluid. Start with 4 ounces a day, increasing slowly up to one liter/quart. Use this infusion also as a final hair rinse, leaving it in the hair. Nettle is immune enhancing, promotes hair growth, builds blood and improves blood clotting and thyroid function.

Infused burdock seed oil: rub generously into scalp; cover hair and head closely with a towel; shampoo an hour or so later.

Seaweeds nourish the hair follicles: include seaweeds in the diet every other day as a vegetable, or cooked into beans, soups or rice.

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