Herbal medicine and cancer: an introductory overview

Semin Oncol Nurs. 2005 Aug;21(3):177-83. doi: 10.1016/j.soncn.2005.04.006.


Objectives: To present Western herbal medicine from the perspective of a "food" model of herbs in contrast to the pharmaceutical "drug" model derived from mainstream medicine. Historical, political, and regulatory aspects of herbal medicine in the United States; core principles of herbal medicine in terms of the natural link between food and medicine; dietary chemopreventive plant compounds in the form of herbal medicines; and herb-drug interactions are briefly discussed, with an emphasis on beneficial interactions with conventional chemotherapy.

Data sources: Literature on dietary chemopreventive compounds; phytotherapeutic training and clinical practice.

Conclusion: Botanical medicine, based on dietary chemopreventive compounds plays an important role in integrative cancer treatment.

Implications for nursing practice: Knowledge of the differences between herbal and conventional medicine in terms of a food, medicine, and poison model will help nurses facilitate patient decision-making choices in integrative cancer treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts*
  • United States


  • Plant Extracts