The majority of cancer patients use complementary therapies such as herbs and dietary supplements. Although figures differ, surveys indicate that as many as 60 percent of people with cancer take two or more dietary supplements daily.
Determining whether herbs, vitamins, and other over-the-counter dietary supplements would be helpful or harmful to you can be challenging. Will a substance work as the label states it will? Is it likely to interact with your cancer medicines? Is it worth the cost?
Expert advice and information on supplements, integrative medicine treatments, and more.Manage Preferences
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s About Herbs database, a tool for the public as well as healthcare professionals, can help you figure out the value of using common herbs and other dietary supplements.
A pharmacist and botanicals expert manages and continually updates the database with assistance from other MSK Integrative Medicine Service experts, providing you with objective and evidence-based information that can be helpful in judging a product’s:
- traditional and proven uses
- potential benefits
- possible adverse effects
- interactions with other herbs or medicines
Communicate with Us about Using Herbs and Dietary Supplements
It’s important to tell your doctor or another qualified professional that you are using a dietary supplement. The reason for this is that an active ingredient in the product could interact with — increase or lessen — the effect of other medicines you’re taking.
People undergoing treatment for cancer should not receive any dietary supplements unless they’re prescribed by a doctor or given as part of a clinical trial that’s received Institutional Review Board approval.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not evaluate the safety and labeling of dietary supplements before they are sold. Also, the clinical effects of these products are often difficult to predict due to lack of human data. The potencies of herbal supplements are influenced by plants or plant parts used, harvesting and processing methods, and the amounts of active compounds absorbed. We encourage you to discuss any safety concerns with your doctor before using these products.