Natural Products, Herbs, Nutrients and Supplements: Introduction

Natural products are effective at optimizing your body terrain, managing symptoms, or reducing your risk of cancer or recurrence.

What are these therapies?

This therapy group includes several types of therapies, all found in nature:

  • Medicinal herbs, mushrooms, and botanicals
  • Components of foods, such as curcumin from turmeric and resveratrol from grapes
  • Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients

What are the benefits of using these therapies?

Several are especially effective at optimizing your body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more, managing symptoms, or reducing your risk of cancer or recurrence. Many of these therapies are readily available at relatively low cost. Specific information about the use, evidence, cost, and more is listed on each therapy review.

Can supplements replace food?

Natural supplements, also called nutraceuticals, are not meant to replace whole foods, which should be your primary source of nutrients. Because supplements often contain isolated nutrients, they do not provide all the benefits of the complex combinations of nutrients found naturally in whole foods.1Multivitamins, supplements are a ‘waste of money’ for most people, study says. Study Finds. June 21, 2022. Viewed June 21, 2022. The way your body recognizes, absorbs, and uses nutrients may depend on other nutrients and components of food that work together within your body. With that understanding, you may find that the wise use of some targeted supplements can help your body achieve better balance and wellness.

Are they safe?

Although these products are often seen as harmless, that may not be the case. Simply because a product is a nutrient or is sourced from nature doesn’t mean that it is completely safe to use. Natural products can affect absorption of other herbs and drugs, and some may reduce your liver’s ability to clear drugs like anesthetics from your body during surgery. Allergic reactions to natural products are possible, and some natural products may be toxic or cause side effects if taken over extended periods or even for short periods at high doses. Some should not be used during chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or when preparing for surgery.

We strongly encourage you to seek guidance from a licensed provider who can help you choose the natural products and supplements that are right for you and that are safe to use with your other therapies.

Also, use caution in choosing supplement brands, as the purity and potency of products can vary widely.

Authors

Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
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Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health.

Maria Williams Research and Communications Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Dr. Ryan is a research associate for CancerChoices. She is a licensed and board certified naturopathic physician and acupuncturist in Oregon. Dr. Ryan is the founder of Gentle Natural Wellness, a clinic specializing in bridging classical Chinese medicine with naturopathic medicine to provide individualized, compassionate care for people in the community. A Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Oriental Medicine with honors from the National University of Natural Medicine, research in medical anthropology at the University of Hawai’i and George Mason University, language and culture programs at Obirin University (Tokyo) and Sogang University (Seoul), and studies of Chinese herbal medicine and qigong in China have provided a diverse background that has helped form a foundation for her community health and healing path.

Emily Ryan, ND, MSOM, LAc Research Associate

Reviewers

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: June 21, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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