November 16, 2017

GREATER BURDOCK, A PLANT FOR FIGHTING TUMORS

 

Greater burdock (Arctium lappa L.) is a biennial plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. Commonly used in Asian cuisine, the root has been widely utilized in folk medicine as a diuretic, as a detoxifier and to heal skin problems.

 

From the pharmacological point of view, one of the most important constituents of the greater burdock is a lignan (lignans are a large group of polyphenols) called Arctigenin.

Arctigenin is the product of the reaction between Arctiin and a particular enzyme (beta-glucosidase) present in the seed of the plant that has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antitumor properties, all demonstrated by in vitro experiments.

 

Very recent scientific research has finally succeeded in demonstrating the antitumor action of the Arctigenin present in the Greater burdock plant even in living being (through in vivo experiments). Specifically, two experiments were performed: one on prostate cancer and the other on breast cancer.

 

Prostate cancer, one of the main causes of mortality among the male population, can develop silently over a very long period, so much so that many patients die without symptoms and with metastases to the bones and lymph nodes. In one experiment, Arctigenin was administered at very low dose (<2 μM) for a period of six weeks and the result was a 50% reduction in tumor mass. It was also found that by starting the administration two weeks before the onset of the tumor the effect of the active ingredient is much stronger. Arctigenin is able to inhibit the proliferation of diseased cells and leadsthem to death, without affecting healthy cells.

 

Breast cancer is one of the main types of cancer and the second leading cause of death in the world for women. In this type of tumor, as well as in prostate cancer, some types of proteins (called receptors) present on the surface or inside the cells are mutated, or expressed in excessive quantities, causing the cell to behave abnormally. The receptors are stimulated by sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and their abnormal growth can be “regulated” using drugs that simulate the effect of these hormones on the receptor (estrogen tumor / positive progesterone).

There is a type of breast cancer, very aggressive and difficult to treat, called “triple negative“, because the tumor cells do not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone and HER2 (receptor for cell growth factor). In one study in particular, Arctigenin is shown to decrease proliferation and induce the death of triple negative tumor cells even in the absence of receptors, as it acts by inhibiting the gene (STAT3) involved in different cellular functions (growth, division, programmed cell death); in the experiment it acts in synergy with a specific drug used in traditional treatment, but the mechanism has not yet been clarified.

 

All these experiments highlight the ability of Arctigenin to be bioavailable, ie to be present in the blood and tissues in appreciable quantities following administration, 10-20 times more than the polyphenols present in green tea and curcumin. The ability to prevent tumors, to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and their migration within the body, without damaging the healthy cells and, above all, without the side effects of common therapies, make Arctigenin the ideal candidate as a active principle for the development of new drugs, which allow to treat even the most difficult tumors.

 

FEDERICA AIELLO

 

 

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