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Medicine » Complementary and Alternative Medicine » "Complementary Therapies for the Body, Mind and Soul", book edited by Marcelo Saad , ISBN 978-953-51-2158-9, Published: September 2, 2015 under CC BY 3.0 license. © The Author(s).

Chapter 5

Anticancer Plants in Islamic Traditional Medicine

By Behjat Javadi, Milad Iranshahy and Seyed Ahmad Emami
DOI: 10.5772/61111

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Anticancer Plants in Islamic Traditional Medicine

Behjat Javadi1, Milad Iranshahy2 and Seyed Ahmad Emami2

1. Introduction

Islamic Traditional Medicine (ITM) is a holistic system of medicine which flourished during the Islamic Golden Age (750-1258 AD). It was practiced and taught throughout the Islamic territory. In that era, Muslim and non-Muslim medical scholars, especially Iranian physicians and pharmacists, translated the scientific knowledge which they inherited from ancient Greece and Iran. They endeavored to revive and develop this medical knowledge, remove superstitious ideas and faults from it, and establish an authentic medical school. Although most ITM scientists were not Arabs, the majority of their books are written in Arabic, the lingua franca of the Islamic civilization. Razi (Razhes; 865-925 AD), Ahwazi (Haly Abbas; 930-994 AD), Avicenna (980-1037AD), Jorjani (1042-1136 AD), and Aqili Khorasani (18th century) are eminent Iranian physicians who had the most contributions to ITM promotion.

Although significant progress has been made in cancer control in the last few decades, the effectiveness of modern therapeutic approach is often limited by toxic effects on other organs. Moreover, a large number of people in the world have limited or no access to cancer treatment services. Accordingly, utilizing information from traditional medicine systems to identify alternative methods to prevent and control cancer would be desirable. Furthermore, use of traditional medicine can lead to the discovery of new bioactive compounds as well as available, safe and affordable drugs.

In Islamic medicine, cancer was a known disease with many options for treatment. In the majority of ITM textbooks there is a chapter dedicated to cancer definition, symptoms, etiology, diagnosis, prevention, and management.

In this chapter we will discuss cancer, its etiology and management in the view of Islamic Traditional Medicine. In addition, ITM medicinal plants used to treat different types of cancers and modern pharmacological data confirming their traditional usage will be inserted in tables.

2. Cancer definition from ITM point of view

ITM is based on the theory of humorism which posits that the human body consists of four basic fluids, namely humors. The four humors are blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile and each one corresponds to paired qualities: blood is hot and wet, phlegm is cold and wet, yellow bile is hot and dry, and black bile is cold and dry. A proper balance between humors is essential to maintaining health. Accordingly, all diseases and disabilities including cancer result from an excess or putridity of these humors.

According to ITM, cancer is a kind of black bile swelling which is accompanied by pain, pulsation, inflammation, and angiogenesis [1]. Blood vessels surrounding a tumor are overfilled and stiff and contain a dark and black blood [2]. The reason for the appellation “cancer” is due to the similarity between the shape of a cancerous tumor affecting an organ and a crab grasping its prey. It may also due to the spherical shape and darkness of tumor and origination of blood vessels from its milieu which resembles crab’s feet [3]. Cancer frequently affects soft and porous organs and for this reason, it mainly involves breast and innervated organs (such as uterus) in females, and throat, larynx, testicles and penis in males [1].

Initially, cancer is the size of a broad bean or smaller, hard, spherical, mobile, dark, and slightly warm [3]. It will then begin to grow gradually and reach to the size of a walnut or larger. It might be curable during its early stages of development, but diagnosis is difficult in these stages. On the other hand, upon progression and appearance of clinical manifestations, treatment of cancer would be difficult or even impossible [1].

Ocular, nasal cavity, breast, uterine, liver, and other visceral organs and skin cancers are among the most frequently mentioned cancers in ITM texts. Cancers are divided into two main types: ulcerative and nonulcerative cancers.

Some cancerous tumors are easily ulcerated but some others are not. Cancerous wounds usually spread centripetally and their discharges are purulent. Use of appropriate medications can prevent the ulceration of susceptible tumors. In contrast, some cancerous tumors that are not prone to ulceration would be ulcerated following the administration of improper drugs [1].

Advanced and large tumors are very sensitive and painful, with a distinctive red to yellow color and a caustic and burning pain. Such tumors might erupt spontaneously and a purulent and bloody discharge may appear on wound surface. The resulting wounds are very sensitive and can produce corrosion in surrounding tissues [2].

3. Cancer etiology

According to ITM, excessive accumulation of abnormal black bile in a body site is the main cause of cancer. Aging, prolonged stress exposure, consuming cold and dry food items and hardwork are leading causes of increasing black bile production [1]. In some cases, hemorrhage (such as menstruation, abnormal uterine hemorrhage, or hemorrhoids bleeding) is a defending mechanism against the accumulation of bad humors in the body. Therefore, completely stopping the bleeding by surgical procedures and other medications can result in a black bile accretion and consequently increasing the risk of cancer and other diseases originating from excessive black bile (including cancer, melancholia, liver problems, psoriasis, etc.) [2].

4. Cancer management

Islamic traditional medicine suggested multiple strategies to the control and treatment of cancer. Surgical manipulation, venesection, diet adjustment, and use of natural medicines including solid, semisolid, and liquid dosage forms with oral and external route of administration are among these methods.

4.1. Surgery and manipulation

Surgery is used to eradicate tumors in their early stages of development. Small tumors which are distant from vital organs are good candidates for surgery. The tumor should be cut from its origin and some parts of adjacent nonaffected tissues should be excised as well. In addition, bleeding should be allowed until large blood volumes come out and surrounding tissue should be pressed in order to expel blood mixed with black bile thoroughly. Afterwards, the injured site should be salved or cauterized. However, if the cancerous tumor is located in the vicinity of sensitive and vital organs, surgical procedure and cauterization would be very dangerous and may change the cancer to a nonhealing ulcer [2, 4].

Regular venesection is also suggested during the initial phases of cancer, to withdraw black bile blood from body.

4.2. Nutrition therapy

In Islamic traditional medicine, dietary recommendations have been proposed to slow the progression of advanced tumors that cannot be manipulated due to metastasis concerns. In these cases, nutritional care would increase the longevity of patients. Food items with wet temperament which produce high-quality blood like beer, almond oil, fresh small fishes, soft-boiled egg yolk, lamb, bird meat, ripe and sweet apples, sweet plums, bananas, raisin, black gram (Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper), spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.), pumpkin, light wine, and fresh cow’s milk and dough are administered [1]. On the other hand, excessive intake of foodstuffs which induce black bile production in the body (such as eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), lentil (Lens esculenta Moench), date (Phoenix dactylifera L.), cabbage (Brassica oleracea L.), beef, black and thick wine, and salt-cured meat) is severely restricted [5].

4.3. Pharmacotherapy

As mentioned above, from the Islamic Traditional Medicine point of view, an excess of abnormal black bile in various body sites can lead to cancer formation. In order to treat cancer, black bile should be expelled from the body by using an appropriate purgative, and then preventing the generation and accumulation of black bile in vessels as far as possible [2]. For this purpose, many single and compound medications of herbal, animal, and mineral origin have been recommended.

The essential point in pharmacotherapy of cancers and tumors is avoiding the use of caustic and irritant medications to prevent further stimulation and ulceration [2].

Cancer medications can be administered internally (oral, enemas, vaginal douches, etc.) or applied topically (cataplasms, topical oils, liniments, lotions, dusting powders, etc.) [1, 3]. Administration of local anticancer drugs has the following purposes: cancer eradication, metastasis prevention, preventing ulceration, and healing ulcerated tumors.

5. Mechanisms of action of anticancer drugs

Anticancer drugs act through different mechanisms:

  1. Black bile purgatives are common anticancer drugs which can facilitate elimination of abnormal black bile from whole body. Purgatives should be administered frequently. From the ITM point of view, clover dodder (Cuscuta epithymum Murr.) is the most valuable black bile purgative, which is commonly used to treat diseases caused by a surplus or imbalance of this humor such as all types of cancer, melancholia, leprosy, vitiligo, etc. For this purpose, a mixture of clover dodder with cheese whey or hydromel should be administered frequently. A decoction of the plant in oxymel is also prescribed [3]. Common polypody (Polypodium vulgare L.), French lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.), colocynth [Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad.], and black hellebore (Helleborus niger L.) are other potent black bile purgatives.

  2. Antiulcer drugs can inhibit ulceration of tumors. Urtica pilulifera L. and Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f. are examples of such plants.

  3. Wound-healing medications accelerate healing of cancerous wounds. Althaea officinalis L., Brassica oleracea L., and Viola odorata L. have wound-healing activity.

  4. Analgesic drugs relieve cancer pain. Parietaria officinalis L. and Solanum nigrum L. are plants with analgesic effect.

6. Anticancer plants

One hundred and seven plant species from 53 families have been mentioned to be effective in the management and curing of different types of cancers. Plants Latin and Arabic names, their families, medicinal parts, dosage forms, and routes of administration are given in Table 1.

Scientific name Family Arabic common
Part used Cancer type Administration and locality Ref.
Acacia nilotica (L.) Delile
syn. Acacia arabica (Lam.) Willd.
FabaceaesamghGeyeocular suppository[3]
Allium ampeloprasum L.
syn. Allium porrum L.
LiliaceaekorrathLeall typesdecoction(O)[6]
Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f.Liliaceaesabr Sauterus
ulcerating tumor
internal organs
[1, 3]
Alpinia officinarum HanceZingiberaceaekhawlanjanRhall typeselectuary(O)[8, 9]
Althaea officinalis L.MalvaceaekhatmiRall types
vaginal bath
[1, 3]
[2, 7]
Alyssum homalocarpum (Fisch. & C. A.Mey.) Boiss.Brassicaceaetudari
Seinternal organs
cataplasm[2, 5, 9-11]
Amaranthus blitum L. Amaranthaceae baghlat al-yamaaniahAputeruscataplasm[7]
Anchusa azurea Mill.
syn. Anchusa italica Retz.
Boraginaceaelesan al-thawrLeall typessyrup [7]
Anethum graveolens L.ApiaceaeshebethAp uterusunguent
topical oil
[1, 3]
Beta vulgris L.ChenopodiaceaesalqLeall typesdecoction(O)[6]
Boswellia sacra Flueck.
syn. Boswellia carteri Birdw.
BurseraceaekondorOgreyecondensed smoke as collyrium[2, 3, 5,
8, 9]
Brassica oleracea L.BrassicaceaekarnabLe
all types
vaginal bath
cooked (E)
[1, 3, 7]
[6, 8, 9]
Capparis spinosa L.CapparaceaekabarRbuterus
all types
[1, 5]
Carthamus tinctorius L.AsteraceaemoasfarSeall typesraw seeds(O)[6]
Carum carvi L.ApiaceaekerawiaSeall typesraw seeds(O)[6]
Cassia fistula L.Fabaceaekhiar shanbarLgtongue
ulcerated cancer
extract (E)[3]
Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All. syn. Anthemis nobilis L.AsteraceaebabunajFl uterusunguent
topical oil
[1, 3, 7, 12]
Cicer arietinum L.FabaceaehomsSeskin
all types
ulcerating tumor
[8, 9]
Cichorium intybus L.AsteraceaehindebaLeuterus
all types
ulcerating tumor
[1, 6, 8]
Cinnamomum cassia (L.)
Cistus creticus L.
syn. Cistus ladaniferus Curtis
CistaceaeladanFlall typesoil (E)[3]
Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad.CucurbitaceaehanzalFrinternal organsdecoction(O)
Commiphora mukul (Hook. ex Stocks) Engl.BurseraceaemoqlOgruterusunguent [1, 3, 7]
Convolvulus pseudoscammonia C. KochConvolvulaceaesaqmuniaRdjinternal organsdecoction(O)
Cordia myxa L.BoraginaceaedebghFruterine cancerdecoction(O)[12]
Coriandrum sativum L.ApiaceaekozborahLe
all types
vaginal douche
extract (E)
[1, 3]
[2, 7, 9]
[8, 9]
[6, 7]
Crocus sativus L.Iridaceaeza`afaranSteye
metastatic ulcerating tumor
[1, 2, 11, 13]
Cucurbita maxima Duchartre,
Cucurbita pepo L.
Cucurbitaceaeqar`aFrinternal organscooked (O)
extract lotion
[1, 6-8]
Cuscuta epithymum (L.) L.CuscutaceaeaftimunApall types
ulcerating tumor
[1-4, 6, 8-10]
Cymbopogon schoenanthus (L.) Spreng. PoaceaeezkherFlliverelectuary[2]
Cynara scolymus L.AsteraceaekankarzadGcataplasm[2]
Dorema ammoniacum D. DonApiaceaeoshaqOgrall typesunguent[3, 8, 14]
Dracunculus vulgaris Schott syn. Arum dracunculus L.Araceaeluf al-hayyahBe
[2, 3, 5, 8-10]
Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich.Cucurbitaceaeqetha al-hemarFrall typesliniment(E) [1, 3]
Erysimum × cheiri (L.) Crantz
syn. Cheiranthus ×cheiri L.
BrassicaceaekheiriFlall types
oil(E)[3, 7]
Ferula gummosa Boiss. ApiaceaeghennahOgrall typesunguent [8]
Ficus carica L.MoraceaeteenFrtongue
all types
ulcerating tumor
cooked (O)
[12, 13]
Glycyrrhiza glabra L.FabaceaesousRall types
vaginal douche
[7, 15]
Helleborus niger L.Ranunculaceaekharbaq aswadRinternal organsdecoction(O)
[1, 7, 10]
Hordeum vulgare L.Poaceaesha`eerSeall typesdecoction(O)[1, 3, 6, 7]
Inula helenium L. AsteraceaerasanRskinlotion[14]
Iris × germanica L.
syn. Iris ×florentina L.
Jasminum sambac (L.) Aiton
Aegle marmelos (L.) Corrêa ex Roxb.
razeqiFl uterusunguent
topical oil
Juglans regia L. Juglandaceae JawzGulcerating tumor dusting powder(E) [2, 14]
Lactuca sativa (L.) Mill.AsteraceaekhasLeall types
[1, 3]
[6, 7]
Laurus nobilis L.Lauraceaehab al-gharSetongue
[1, 3]
Lavandula stoechas L.LamiaceaeostokhoddusApinternal organsdecoction(O)
Lawsonia inermis LLythraceaehennaLeuterusunguent
Lens culinaris Medik.
syn. Lens esculenta Moench
ulcerating tumor
vaginal douche
Lilium candidum L.LiliaceaesusanFluterusunguent
oil (E)
[1, 3]
Linum usitatissimum L.LinaceaekatanSe
all types
oil (E)
vaginal bath
decoction (E)
[1, 2, 7]
Liquidambar orientalis Mill.Altingiaceaemi`aBaall typesunguent[3]
Lycium afrum LSolanaceaehozozLe
vaginal douche
Malva pusilla Sm.
syn. Malva rotundifolia L.
Malvaceaekhabaazi Fluterusvaginal bath
Melilotus officinalis (L.) Pall.Fabaceaeeklil al-malekpodeye
cataplasm[1, 3]
Melissa officinalis L.LamiaceaebadranjbuyehLeall typessyrup[7]
Myrtus communis L.MyrtaceaeasSe
all typestopical oil
extract enema
Narcissus tazetta L.AmaryllidaceaenarjesFluterusunguent
topical oil
[1, 3]
Olea europaea L.OleaceaezeytunFruterus
metastatic cancerous wounds
topical oil
oil sediment (E)
[1, 3]
Opopanax chironium W.D.J.KochApiaceaejawshirOgrall typesunguent[3, 14]
Origanum syriacum L.
syn. Origanum maru L.
LamiaceaemormahurApmetastatic cancerous woundscataplasm[13]
Papaver somniferum L. var. album (Mill.) M.A. VeselovskayaPapaveraceaekhashkhashSe
ocular suppository
[1-3, 5, 12]
Parietaria officinalis
Urticaceaehashishatah al-zojajLeall typesextract(E)[5]
Phoenix dactylifera L.ArecaceaetamrFrtonguedecoction(E)[3]
Physalis alkekengi LSolanaceaekaknajFrall types
Pinus gerardiana Wall. ex D.DonPinaceaejalghuzahNall types[6]
Pinus spp.PinaceaeratinajReuteruscataplasm[7]
Pistacia atlantica Desf.
Pistacia terebinthus L.
Anacardiaceaeelk al-anbatOgruterus
all types
unguent [1, 3, 6, 8]
Pistacia lentiscus L.AnacardiaceaemastakiOgr all typesunguent
[1, 3]
Plantago indica L.
syn. Plantago psyllium L.
Plantaginaceaebazr qotunaSe
ulcerating tumor
all types
[3, 8]
Plantago major L.Plantaginaceaelesan al-hamalSe
ulcerating tumor
vaginal douche
[1-3, 7, 12]
Plantago ovata Forssk.
syn, Plantago ispaghula Roxb. ex Fleming
all types
vaginal douche[1, 6]
Platanus orientalis L.PlantanaceaedolbLeskindecoction (E)
vaginal bath
Polygonum aviculare LPolygonaceaeasa al-ra`eeAputerusunguent
extract (E)
[7, 15]
Polypodium vulgare L.PolypodiaceaebasfayajRhinternal organsdecoction(O)
[1, 7]
Polyporus officinalis (Vill.) Fr.Polyporaceaeghariqunall typesdecoction(O)[4, 7]
Portulaca oleracea L.PortulaceaerejlahLeulcerating tumor
all types
extract liniment enema
[3, 8]
Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A.WebbRosaceaesamgh al-llawzG
all types
oil (O)
[1, 3, 6, 12]
Punica granatum L.PunicaceaerommanFr
ulcerating tumor
Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus (L.) Domin
syn. Raphanus sativus L.
Brassicaceaefojltroall typesdecoction(O)[6]
Rhus coriaria L. Anacardiaceaesumaagh
Ricinus communis L.Euphorbiaceaekherwa`aSeuterusunguent
oil (E)
[1, 3]
Rosa × damascena Herrm.RosaceaewardFleye
ulcerating tumor
vaginal douche
[2, 3, 7, 12]
Salix aegyptiaca L.SalicaceaekhelafWskindusting powder(E)[2]
Sempervivum tectorum L. Crassulaceaehay al-alamFlall typesextract
[3, 7]
Sesbania bispinosa
(Jacq.) W. Wight
Sisymbrium officinale (L.) Scop.
syn. Erysimum officinale L.
Brassicaceaearismun, khabbeSehard swelling cancer nonulcerating tumor
[8, 9]
Smilax china
Smilacaceaekhashab siniRskindecoction(O)[8]
Solanum americanum Mill.
syn. Solanum nigrum L.
Solanaceaeenab al-tha`alabLeuterus
all types
[1-3, 6, 7]
[5, 8-10]
Spinacia oleracea L.ChenopodiaceaeesfanakhLeinternal organscooked (O)[1, 6]
Tamarix gallica L.TamaricaceaetarfaLe
all types
Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Sch.Bip.AsteraceaeoqhowanFlskin
extract cataplasm
[1, 3]
Terminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb.CombretaceaeamolajFrall typesliniment[7]
Terminalia chebula Retz.Combretaceaeehalilaj kaboliFrinternal organsdecoction(O)
Trigonella foenum-graecum L.FabaceaeholbahSe
all types
[1, 6, 7]
Triticum spelta L.PoaceaekhondorusSeall typesbaked(O)[6]
Urtica pilulifera L.UrticaceaeanjorahSe
all types
ulcerating tumor
ash dusting powder(E)
[3, 8, 9, 11, 13]
Valeriana celtica L.ValerianaceaesonbolRliverelectuary[2]
Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper syn. Phaseolus mungo L.FabaceaemaashSeinternal organscooked(O)[1, 6]
Viola odorata L.ViolaceaebanafsajAputerusdecoction(E)
vaginal bath
[7, 15]
Vitis vinifera L.VitaceaeenabUrf verjuice
all types
all types
ulcerating tumor uterine cancer
concentrated juice(O)
raw Fr(O)
[3, 6, 7]
[6, 10]
Zingiber officinale RoscoeZingiberaceaezanjabilRhliver
Ziziphus jujuba Mill.
syn. Ziziphus vulgaris Lam.
RhamnaceaeonnabFrulcerating tumor

Table 1.

Medicinal plants mentioned in Islamic Traditional Medicine textbooks effective in the management of cancer.

[i] - Use: E = external use, O = oral use. Part used Ap = aerial parts, Ba = balsam, Be = berries, Br = bark, Ff = fresh fruit, Fl = flowers, Fp = fruit pericarp, Fr = fruit, G = gum, Gre = gum resin, Le = leaves, Mu: mucilage, N = nuts, O = oil, Ogr = oleo-gum resin, Ore = oleoresin, R = root, Rb = root bark, Re = resin, Rdj = Root dry juice, Rf = Ripe fruit, Rh = rhizome, Se = seeds, Sh =shoots, So = seed oil, St = stigma, Tap root = Tro, Sa = sap, Urf = Unripe fruit, W = wood, Wp = whole plant.

7. Anticancer and cytotoxic activities of ITM plant species

Many ITM-suggested plants have been shown to exert anticancer activities with different mechanisms such as cytotoxic, antitumor, antiproliferative, cytostatic, and cell-migration-inhibiting effects. Pharmacological data reinterpreting ITM evidence of cancer phytotherapy are given in Table 2.

Species Plant part(s)/compound Solvent Activity Cell line Ref.
Aegle marmelos (L.) Corrêa ex Roxb.Stem barkethanolcytotoxicK-562, Raji, Jurkat, HEL, Colo38, HL-60, CEM, B-16, MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231[16-18]
methanol, ethyl acetate and n-hexaneBrine shrimp[19]
Stem bark, roots and leaves/Zeorin, dustanin, aegeline, epilupeol, lupenone and marmin-CEM-SS[20]
1-hydroxy-5,7-dimethoxy-2-naphthalene- carboxaldehyde (marmelin)-antitumorHCT-116 colon cancer cell tumor xenograft in nude mice[21]
Allium porrum L.Bulbs/12-keto-porrigenin and 2,3-seco-porrigenin-antiproliferativeJ774, WEHI 164, P388 and K3R-1[22]
Bulbs/Porrigenins A and B-IGR-1, J774, WEHI 164 and P388[23]
Saponins-J774 and WEHI 164[24]
Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f.Leavesaqueous ethanolic extract (70%)cytotoxicK562[25]
Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate-K562, HL60 and U937[27]
Aloe-emodin-cytotoxic and antitumorNeuroblastoma cells (IMR-32, IMR-5, AF8, and SJ-N-KP), pPNET cells (TC32) and Ewing’s sarcoma cells (TC106)[28]
U-373MG and U87 glioma cells[31, 32]
T24 human bladder cancer cells[33]
Gastric cancer cells[34]
antitumorEhrlich ascitis carcinoma (EAC)[36]
Anthemis nobilis L.Sesquiterpene lactones-cytotoxicHeLa and KB[37]
Beta vulgris L.Root extract and betaninwatercytotoxic and antitumorMCF-7, PC3 and HepG2[38-41]
Boswellia carteri Birdw.α and β-boswellic acid acetate from resin-

inhibits cell migration
HCT-8, A2780 and B16F10
cytotoxic HT-1080
Triterpene acids from resinIMR-32, NB-39 and SK-N-SH[43]
Frankincense oilThe bladder carcinoma J82[44]
Brassica oleracea L.Sulforaphane-cytotoxicMDAH 2774 and SkOV-3[46]
ErucinCACO-2, HL60, K562 and LNCaP[47]
Leavesacidified methanolHeLa and HepG2[48]
2-Pyrrolidinone reach extractPC3 and HeLa[49]
Capparis spinosa L.Polysaccharides and alkaloids from fruitswatercytotoxic and antitumorHepG2 and transplanted ascites tumor H22[51, 52]
Carthamus tinctorius L. Carthamus tinctorius and Panax ginseng -cytotoxic and antitumorMDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell and normal human mammary gland cell lines[53]
-antitumorT739 lung cancer and S180 Sarcoma in mice[54]
Not mentionedmethanolcytotoxicHT-29[55]
Carum carvi L.Thymoquinone from seeds-cytotoxicTNBC cells[56]
Cassia fistula L.Rhein from flowers-cytotoxicCOLO 320 DM [57]
Stem barkmethanol[58]
Furanoflavones from stem bark-NB4, A549, SHSY5Y, PC3, and MCF7[59]
Fistulaquinone A from fruitsNB4 and PC3[60]
Cicer arietinum L.C-25 protein-cytotoxicKB cell line[61]
Cichorium intybus L.LeaveschloroformantiproliferativeHeLa, MCF7 and A431[62]
Lactucin and 13,14-seco-stigma 9(11),14(15)-dien-3alpha-ol-cytotoxicA2780[63]
Cinnamomum cassia (L.) J.PreslCinnamaldehyde-cytotoxicHL60[64]
Barkmethanol/hexane/ethyl acetateHeLa, A549, SK-OV-3, SK-MEL-2, XF-498 and HCT-15[65]
2'-Benzoyloxycinnamaldehyde-LNCaP, PC-3 and DU145[67]
Coumacasia HL60 and A549[68]
Cistus creticus L.Labdane-type diterpenoids from leaves-cytotoxicKB, P-388; and NSCLC-N6[69]
CCRF-CEM, MOLT3, H33AJ-JA-13, HUT78, H9, KM3, NAMALWA, JIYOYE, DAUDI, SDK, K562, HL60 and U973[70-72]
ShootethanolHeLa, MDA-MB-453 and FemX[73]
Commiphora mukul Engl.
Guggulsterones-cytotoxicPC3, HL60 and U973[74]
Coriandrum sativum L.Linalool-antitumorSarcoma-180 solid tumor[75]
Crocus sativus L.
StigmaethanolantitumorSarcoma-180 (S-180), Ehrlich ascites Carcinoma (EAC) and Dalton's lymphoma ascites (DLA)[77]
cytotoxicHeLa, A549 and HepG2[78, 79]
Crocin, crocetin, safranal and picrocrocin
-HeLa, MCF-7, PC3, k562 and HepG2[80-86]
CrocinantitumorC26 colon carcinoma[87]
Cucurbita maxima Duchartre,SeedsmethanolcytotoxicBrine shrimp[88]
Aerial partsantitumorEhrlich ascites Carcinoma[89]
Triterpenes-cytotoxicHL60 and P388[90]
Cucurbita pepo L.LeaveshydroalcoholiccytotoxicHepG2 and CT26[91]
Cuscuta epithymum Mur.Aerial partschloroform and hydroalcoholiccytotoxicHeLa, HT29 and MDA-MB-46[92]
Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich.Cucurbitacin E-cytotoxicZR-75-1, COLO 679, OV_95_CC3 and PC-3[93, 94]
FruitswaterAGS and KYSE30[95]
Ficus carica L.Leaves, fruits and latexethanol, ethyl acetate and dichloromethanecytotoxicHeLa[97]
Glycyrrhiza glabra L.Rootcytotoxic4T1 [98]
Inula helenium L. RootmethanolcytotoxicHT-29, MCF-7, Capan-2 and G1[99]
Jasminum sambac (L.) Aiton
Leaves ethanolcytotoxicBrine shrimp[101]
Juglans regia L. Juglanin A and B-cytotoxicHep G2[102]
LeaveschloroformBHY, MCF7,
and HT-29
Juglanones A and B-A549, MCF-7, BEL-7402, HeLa, COLO205, BGC-823, and
5,7-Dihydroxy-3,4′-dimethoxyflavone and regiolone MCF-7 and BHY[105]
Lactuca sativa (L.) Mill.Sesquiterpene lactones-cytotoxicHeLa and HCT-116[106]
Laurus nobilis L.Leavesn-hexanecytotoxicBrine shrimp[107]
Sesquiterpene lactones-Jurkat
, HL-60 and LoVo
A2780 [109]
Essential oil-C32, ACHN, LNCaP, and MCF-7[110]
Lawsonia inermis L.Bicoumarin, biflavonoid, and biquinone compounds from flowers-cytotoxicMCF-7, Hela, HCT-116, and HT-29[111]
Linum usitatissimum L.Secoisolariciresinol and anhydrosecoisolariciresinol -cytotoxicMCF-7 and MDA-MB-231[112]
Melissa officinalis L.Essential oil-cytotoxicA549, MCF-7, Caco-2, HL-60, K562 and B16F10[113]
Aerial partsethanolHCT-116[114]
Leaves watercytotoxic and antitumorMCF-7, MDA-MB-468 and MDA-MB-231; DMBA-induced mammary tumors[115]
Citral and essential oil-cytotoxicGBM[116]
Myrtus communis L.Phloroglucinols
-cytotoxicMT-4 cells,
HepG2 and DU145
Narcissus tazetta L.Alkaloids-[118]
Stems and leavesalkaloid extractioncytotoxicHL-60, K562, KT1/A3, and A3[119]
Olea europaea L.Erythrodiol-cytotoxicHL-60[120]
Hydroxytyrosol rich extract from leavesmethanol/waterMCF-7[121]
Maslinic acid-HT29[122]
Tyrosol estersMCF10A [123]
Papaver somniferum L. var. album (Mill.) M.A.Noscapine-anticancerRefractory Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia[124]
Physalis alkekengi L.5α-Hydroxy-25,27-dihydro-4,7-didehydro-7-deoxyneophysalin A-cytotoxicPC-3 and LNCaP[125]
PhysalinHT1080 and A375-S2[126, 127]
Pistacia atlantica Desf.
Polyphenol-rich extract
Pistacia lentiscus L.Gum extracthexanecytotoxicHCT116[129]
Plantago major L.Leaveshot watercytotoxicAntileukemia and anticarcinoma [130]
Luteolin-7-O-β-glucoside-TK-10, MCF-7 and UACC-62[131]
Platanus orientalis L.Flavonoids-cytotoxicHuman leukemic cell lines and skin cancer cell lines[132-136]
Polygonum aviculare LAerial partsmethanolcytotoxicMCF-7[137]
Portulaca oleracea L.Triterpenoids-cytotoxicHepG2[138]
Not mentionedmethanolCNE-1, HeLa
and HT-29 and MCF-7
Alkaloids-K562, A549, MCF-7 and MDA-MB-435[141]
Punica granatum L.Genistein and extractnot mentionedcytotoxicMCF-7, MMTV-Wnt-1, [142]
Polyphenolsjuicecytotoxic and antitumorBT-474 and MDA-MB-231[143]
Fruit rind extract and fowersmethanolcytotoxicA549 and MCF-7[144-146]
Galactomannan polysaccharide
-cytotoxic and antitumorA375, HCT116, and HepG2; DLA and EAC murine ascites and EAC solid tumor mouse models[147]
Raphanus sativus L.4-(Methylthio)-3-butenyl isothiocyanate-cytotoxicmurine leukaemia cell line (L1210)[148]
4-Methylthio-butanyl derivatives-cytotoxicA549, SK-OV-3, SK-MEL-2, and HCT-15[149]
Ricinus communis L.Leavesvolatile oilcytotoxicSK-MEL-28 and HeLa[150]
Rosa × damascena Mill.Flowersvolatile oilcytotoxicSW742[151]
Smilax china
Phenylpropanoid glycosides-cytotoxic
KB, HeLa, DLD-1, MCF-7, A-549 and Med[152]
Kaempferol-7-O-beta-D-glucoside A375 and HL60 [153]
PolyphenolsMCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 [154]
Solanum nigrum L.Steroidal glycosides
HT-29, HCT-15, LNCaP, PC-3, T47D, HepG2, NCI-H460, MCF-7, SF-268 and MDA-MB-231[155, 156]
Glycoprotein MCF-7, HCT-116 and HT-29[157-160]
Aerial partsmethanolcytotoxicHeLa and Vero[161]
Not mentionedhydro-alcoholicHepG2 and CT26[91]
Polyphenol rich extractwaterPZ-HPV-7[164]
BerriesethanolJurkat and HL-60[165]
Tanacetum parthenium L. Parthenolide-anticancerLeukemia[166]
Terminalia chebula Willd. ex Flem.Tannins-cytotoxicA-549, SK-OV-3, SK-MEL-2, XF-498 and HCT-15[167]
Trigonella foenum-graecum L.SeedswatercytotoxicHL-60
TCP, B-cell lymphomas, FRO and MCF7 [169]
Viola odorata L.Cyclotides-cytotoxicMCF-7 and MCF-7/ADR[170]
Vitis vinifera L.Resveratrol-cytotoxic3T6 and HL60 [171]
Seed extractmethanolKB cells[172]
Viniferin-enriched extractsethanol/waterHCC1954, HCC1500 and MCF7[173, 174]
Zingiber officinale Roscoe[6]-Paradol and structurally related compounds-cytotoxicKB[175]
Gingerols and diarylheptanoids-HL-60, A431, K562, HeLa, HCT-116, HT-29 and K562/ADR[176-181]

Table 2.

Anticancer activities of ITM plant species.

8. Conclusion

Taken together, it can be concluded that what physicians of Islamic medicine used for cancer treatment is proven through modern research. Out of 107 plant species which are introduced in Islamic Iranian medicine for cancer treatment, 59 plants or their chemical compounds have proven to possess cytotoxic and antitumor activity in recent investigations and some have entered clinical trials and their effectiveness has been evaluated on humans.

These findings show the profound insight of Islamic physicians on cancer treatment. In spite of the lack of modern facilities and developed equipment, they introduced anticancer plants that have shown cytotoxic properties in new researches. The correlation between these findings signifies the originality of past experiences and studies, representing a worthwhile fund and valuable science dating back more than twelve centuries. This heritage is based on the experiences of thousands years of Greek, Indian and ancient Iranian physicians and relies on immense number of clinical trials on thousands of people. Furthermore, the application of traditional medicinal knowledge reinterpreted by modern data can lead to more effective and evidence-based use of medicinal plants, which can contribute to therapeutic decisions on different illnesses.


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