Herbal medicines and chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN): A critical literature review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Apr 13;57(6):1107-1118. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2014.889081.


Background: Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy [CIPN] is a common significant and debilitating side-effect resulting from the administration of neurotoxic chemotherapeutic agents. These pharmaco-chemotherapeutics can include taxanes, vinca alkaloids, platinum analogues, and others. Moderate to severe CIPN significantly decreases the quality of life and physical abilities of cancer patients and current pharmacotherapy for CIPN e.g. Amifostine, and antidepressants have had limited efficacy and may themselves induce adverse side-effects.

Methods: To determine the potential use of herbal medicines as adjuvants in cancer treatments, a critical literature review was conducted by electronic and manual search on nine databases. These include PubMed, the Cochrane Library, Science Direct, Scopus, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Google Scholar, and two Chinese databases CNKI and CINAHL. Thirty-four studies were selected from 5614 studies assessed and comprising animal studies, case reports, retrospective studies, and minimal randomized clinical trials investigating the anti-CIPN effect of herbal medicines as the adjuvant intervention in patients administered chemotherapy. The thirty-four studies were assessed on methodological quality and limitations identified.

Results: Studies were mixed in their recommendations for herbal medicines as an adjuvant treatment for CIPN.

Conclusion: Currently no agent has shown solid beneficial evidence to be recommended for the treatment or prophylaxis of CIPN. Given that the number of cancer survivors is increasing, the long-term side effects of cancer treatment, is of major importance.

Keywords: Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy; herbal medicines; herbs; peripheral neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Plant Preparations