Chemotherapy and Complementary Medicine


Cancer, is a common diagnosis in New Zealand toady. When faced with such a diagnosis many people will consider using natural therapies to help on the path back to health.


Naturopathy may be included even if you are incorporating conventional treatments

It is important to remember when considering natural approaches that a natural approach may be included even if you are incorporating conventional treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and vice versa.  Complementary medicine will site you at the centre of all treatment options; treatment will be based on whatever your needs and choices are, so treatment may or may not include conventional approaches as well as natural interventions to support all your health needs.

A registered naturopath will include aim to protect healthy cells from the toxic effects of  radiation, anticancer drugs (as used in chemotherapy), or carcinogens present in the environment[1]. Antioxidants in foods and supplements, herbal medicines, are used in this way.

Natural therapies help protect the healthy cells  during chemotherapy,and limit the side effects

If you make a choice for example to undergo chemotherapy natural therapies can not only help protect the healthy cells from the toxic drugs used in chemotherapy, but limit the side effects.

Ginger helps decrease the side effect of nausea and vommitting during chemothrapy

A major side effect of chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting.

This can occur within 24 hours of the start of chemotherapy (acute) or can be delayed taking place and happen after the chemotherapy has finished.

A study last year explored the use of ginger root capsules with 60 people with bone cancer undergoing chemotherapy. All the people in the study continued to take medication to stop nausea and vomiting. One group took ginger capsules as well as the medication to stop nausea and vomiting, the other group only took the medication to stop nausea and vomiting.

This study first explored how often acute nausea and vomiting occurred.

Almost all (93.3%) of the group who took medication alone had nausea, and the majority (76.7%) also had vomiting.

By comparison a little more than half (55.6%) of the group taking the ginger capsules had nausea, and only a third (33.33%) had vomiting.

Next the study explored how often delayed nausea and vomiting occurred.

The majority of people in the medication only group (73.3%) had nausea, but in the group that had the ginger only a quarter suffered (25.9%) nausea.

Delayed vomiting happened to almost half of the medication only group (46.67%) but very few (14.81%) of the people taking ginger as well as medication.[2]

Dietary supplements help when taken during chemotherapy

Dietary supplements such as vitamin C[3] [4], Vitamin E[3, 5, 6], vitamin A[7] (best taken as natural beta-carotene[3]),selenium [6] and Coenzyme Q10[6]   have been found by research to help when taken during chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy More Effective with  vitamin C, Vitamin E, and natural beta-carotene

When vitamin C, Vitamin E, and natural beta-carotene  were used alongside radiation therapy and chemotherapy the treatment was more effective which may be due reduced toxicity and the treatment having a greater effect on the tumour. The scientist who conducted this study suggested continuing the nutritional supplements, although at a lower dose together with modification in diet and lifestyle, may reduce the risk of recurrence of the original tumour and development of a second cancer among survivors [3].

 Vitamin E and a Multivitamin and mineral decreases unwanted toxicity during chemothrapy

Another study found women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy who took vitamin E and a multivitamin and mineral had signs of lower toxicity than those who did not. The same study warned that very high doses of folic acid might be unhelpful[5].

Antioxidants: vitamin E, selenium, coenzyme Q10 taken during chemotherapy may reduce toxicity

One of the concerns about using natural medicines with chemotherapy is that it may make chemothrapy less effective for cancer treatment. A large review of the last 40 years (1966-October 2007 ) of research to evaluate the effects of use of antioxidants such as vitamin E, selenium, Coenzyme Q10 and an antioxidant mixture with chemotherapy found that antioxidant supplementation during chemotherapy holds potential for reducing toxicity[6]. In addition animal studies showed Vitamin C [4] and vitamin A.[7] [4] give a distinct chemotherapy-potentiating effect[4].

During a naturopathic consultation advice is given on diet, lifestyle, and relaxation techniques. When treatment includes nutritional supplements I recommend the Entire Katoa Food State range for the optimum absorption, low dose and low toxicity), treament may also include herbal medicine, homeopathy, Bach flower remedies, and deep tissue massage.

Contact Jaine Kirtley for more information, and to book your consultation.




1.         Jena G, Vikram A, Durga Nand Tripathi, Ramarao P: Use of Chemoprotectants in Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy: The Challenges of Selecting an Appropriate Agent. Integrative Cancer Therapies 2010, 9(3):253-258.

2.         Pillai AK, Sharma KK, Gupta YK, Bakhshi S: Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy. Pediatric Blood & Cancer 2010:n/a-n/a.

3.         Prasad KN: Multiple Dietary Antioxidants Enhance the Efficacy of Standard and Experimental Cancer Therapies and Decrease Their Toxicity. Integrative Cancer Therapies 2004, 3(4):310-322.

4.         Taper HS, De Gerlache J, Lans M, Roberfroid M: Non-toxic potentiation of cancer chemotherapy by combined C and K3 vitamin pre-treatment. International Journal of Cancer 1987, 40(4):575-579.

5.         Branda RF, Naud SJ, Brooks EM, Chen Z, Muss H: Effect of vitamin B12, folate, and dietary supplements on breast carcinoma chemotherapyinduced mucositis and neutropenia. Cancer 2004, 101(5):1058-1064.

6.         Block KI, Koch AC, Mead MN, Tothy PK, Newman RA, Gyllenhaal C: Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic toxicity: A systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. International Journal of Cancer 2008, 123(6):1227-1239.

7.         Nagai Y, Horie T, Awazu S: Vitamin A, a Useful Biochemical Modulator Capable of Preventing Intestinal Damage during Methotrexate Treatment. Pharmacology & Toxicology 1993, 73(2):69-74.