Alternative Approaches to Internal Ionizing Radiation Protection
Dr. Hamid R. Bafandeh
Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, USA
Certified Natural Health Consultant and Herbalist, Canada
Radiation is a very general term and can be categorized as non-ionizing and ionizing form. Light, sound, microwaves and radio waves are all examples of non-ionizing radiation.
Ionizing radiation is the radiation that can disrupt the atoms and molecules within the body. Radiation's effects on humans can best be understood by first examining the effect of radiation on atoms, the basic building blocks of matter.
What is Ionization? 10, 13, 14, 44
What are the basic types of ionizing radiation?
Ionizing radiation is any form of radiation that has sufficient energy to knock electrons out of atoms or molecules, creating ions. It may be referred to simply as radiation. There are many types of ionizing radiation, but the most familiar are alpha, beta, neutron, and gamma/x-ray radiation and background radiation. Background radiation comes from many different sources.
We are continually irradiated from cosmic rays, naturally occurring radioactive materials sources in the earth such as soils and rocks around us (uranium, radium, carbon-14, potassium-40, radon-222, etc.), nuclear power plants, fallout from atomic weapons and other radioactive man-made sources.
Cosmic radiation increases with altitude and so airline pilots receive a high exposure from this source. The dose rate at 12,000 meters is about 150 times the sea level dose.
The terrestrial radiation comes from naturally occurring radioisotopes of potassium and rubidium and from decay products of uranium and thorium. On average two thirds of the dose people receive comes from terrestrial sources. Most of this dose comes from the gas, radon-222. It is one of products in the radioactive decay series that originates with uranium. Radon gas can diffuse out of the ground to mix with the air and may be trapped in the lungs of people during breathing the air. The result is a lung dose from alpha and beta radiation emitted by the radon progeny. Radon contributes a high proportion of background dose because it emanates from the soil and tends to concentrate in buildings.
The main sources of the natural background Ionizing radiation are the radioactive substances in the earth's crust, the emanation of radioactive gas from the earth, trace amounts of radioactivity in the body and cosmic rays from outer space, passing through the earth’s atmosphere.
Alpha particles are identical to the nuclei of atoms of helium. Compared with other forms of radiation, these are very heavy particles. After hydrogen, it is the second lightest and second most common element in the universe. They cannot even penetrate a piece of paper or the layer of dead cells at the surface of our skin. If released within the body from a radioactive atom inside or near a cell, as they travel along, these large and heavy particles frequently interact with the electrons of atoms, rapidly losing their energy. Alpha particles can do great damage as they ionize atoms, disrupting living cells. Radium and plutonium are two examples of alpha emitters.
Alpha particles may be visualized as bowling balls and beta particles as golf balls; photons of gamma and x-radiation are like weightless bullets moving at the speed of light.
Neutrons, along with protons, are one of the components of the atomic nucleus. Like protons, they have a large mass; unlike protons, they have no electric charge, allowing them to slip more easily between atoms. High-energy neutrons can travel farther into the body, past the protective outer layer of the skin, before delivering their energy and causing ionization.
Beta particles are electrons traveling at very high energies. They travel farther than alpha particles and, depending on their energies may do as much damage. Some beta-emitting radioisotopes, such as iodine 131, are administered internally to patients to diagnose and treat disease. Beta particles normally are present in fission products produced in nuclear reactors and nuclear explosions.
Gamma and x-ray:
Gamma and x-ray radiation consists of packets of energy known as photons. Photons have no mass or charge, and they travel in straight lines. The visible light seen by our eyes is also made up of photons, but at lower energies. The energy of a gamma ray is typically greater than 100000 electron volts per photon. That is more than 200,000 times the energy of visible light (0.5 ev). Photons are classified according to their origin.
X-rays are photons that usually originate from energy transitions of the electrons of an atom. X- Rays are produced artificially by bombarding appropriate atoms with high-energy electrons as in the classic x-ray tube.
In most cases, the benefits of radiation therapy outweigh the risks to the patient’s health. Radiation is also used in medical diagnosis. X-ray imaging and radioactive tracer studies provide information useful in treating patients.
Both x-rays and gamma rays, depends on their energy can penetrate deeply into the human body, creating tens of thousands of ions.
Background radiation is another source of concern. It comes from the cosmic rays, Natural radioactive elements such as radon-222, and solar radiation. The amount of exposure to this natural radiation depends on a number of factors, such as geographic location, house construction materials, etc.
Who is at risk?
Life on earth is protected from solar radiation by our atmosphere. The density of the atmosphere decreases by half for every 6500 feet of altitude. Airplanes typically fly above 30,000 feet where the atmosphere is only about 3% as protective as at sea level. A frequent flight passenger receives some dose of radiation. Flight in a commercial airliner increases it 150 times by lifting us above 80% of that atmosphere. Astronauts are unavoidably exposed to ionizing radiation in space, which represents increased risk in getting cancer.
Radiation workers, doctors, nurses and others, who work with radiation equipment and radioisotopes, will receive x-ray and gamma rays. The patients are exposed to products or substances containing radiation, such as radioisotopes, accelerators and x-ray machines, for the diagnostic or therapy purposes will receive radiation doses.
The general public is receiving radiation, mostly from background radiation, which may cause illness and premature ageing. Cancer associated with pancreas, lung, large intestine, thyroid, liver, and breast; anemia and other blood abnormalities, benign tumors, cataracts, and lowered fertility are other random effects attributed to radiation exposure.
No amount of radiation is perfectly safe. It is reasonable to presume that any amount of ionizing radiation will produce some damage. Radiation doesn't have to be strong to do harm. Even one destroyed molecule in 100 million can nevertheless trigger free radical chain reactions capable of killing the entire cell.
Charged particles transfer their energy via ionization and excitation interactions. Gamma or x-rays are mass less and charge-less. They must first interact with some atom in the cell and transfer energy to an electron, which then causes ionizations and excitations within the materials surrounding them.
Radiation risk in perspective - Scenarios with one in a million chance of death:
Cause of Death
A 5 hour flight by jet aircraft
Cancer (Cosmic Rays)
Living for 2 weeks in a granite building
Traveling 100 km by car
Traveling 1,000 km by air
Smoking 1 - 3 cigarettes
Cancer & Lung Disease
Drinking a half bottle of wine
Liver & Other Disease
Working as a Radiographer for 1 month
Working as a Radiologist for 2 weeks
BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF RADIATION 10, 13, 24, 26, 27, 45
How Radiation Affects Biological Organisms:
In order to understand the potential injury to the cellular structure of the human body by electromagnetic waves and charged particles, it is necessary to have a least a basic understanding of the mechanisms by which ionizing radiation interacts with matter. It will be helpful to describe in brief, of the mechanism that causes damage to the body’s cellular integrity.
The human body is made up of tiny particles called molecules. Each of the molecules is composed of atoms, and each of the atoms is made up of a nucleus (a center) and electrons spinning around that center (the nucleus) in orbits. This composition keeps the atom and the molecule stable.
Free radicals are molecules which lose one of its electrons, or get an extra one and become unbalanced and highly reactive which induce injuries and other complications within our bodies.
Exposure to UV light results in sunburn. This physical damage to the skin results in mild inflammation. Sunburn is effectively causing an irritant effect. Excessive UV light exposure also increases the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer. Ionizing radiation damages stable molecules and subsequently creates free radicals.
Radiation damage may cause cancer, chromosome aberration, birth defects, suppress the immunity system and other serious health problems. Ionizing radiation will cause oxidation, free radical formation. Some energized atoms and molecules can dissipate their energy by becoming free radicals and other excited molecules. These free radicals are known to cause abnormal chemical reactions in living substances, such as suppressing the immune system, chromosome aberration and cancer.
Living tissue contains a large amount of water. When the body is irradiated, a majority of these interactions occur primary in water molecules, causing oxidation and formation of highly charged, highly unstable, highly reactive particles, which we know as free radicals. HO- (a strong reducing agent) and OHO- (a strong oxidizing agent); are the primary free radicals formed in the water molecules of the body and causing indirect hits to the molecules.
Direct "hits" on solute molecules most likely occurs, but this is a very small portion versus the indirect effects from free radicals. Understanding where they come from, and why and how they do so much damage, requires a brief lesson in biochemistry. They'll oxidize just about anything that gets in their way by punching holes in cell membranes, destroying key enzymes and fracturing DNA.
One free radical may cause a new formation of more free radicals by breaking a stable bond, leaving the two atoms of the formerly stable molecule to share one unpaired electron. Therefore, a chain reaction begins which produces thousands of molecular fragments with unpaired electrons. These free radicals, in turn give rise to many more and all this happens within nanoseconds of interacting with living tissue.
When a radioactive particle or ray strikes a cell, one of at least four things can happen:
- It may damage the cell, but in a way that the cell can recover and repair itself before it divides.
- It may cause chromosomal aberration during cell division.
- It may kill the cell.
- It may pass through the cell without doing any damage.
Chromosomal aberration and the creation of cancerous cells, by far is the main danger from radiation hazards. Once the DNA is damaged, distorted messages can be transmitted to the cell and passed on through reproduction and thousands of mutated clone cells can reproduce themselves, forming the basis for tumors. By the time a tumor can be seen or felt by the touch, it is composed of several million of these abnormal cells. However, the presence of oxygen during irradiation enhances the chemical and biological effects by increasing the number of harmful radicals and/or by blocking the repair of damaged molecules. The multi-target, multi-hit theory describes the phenomenon of more complex biological systems that are irradiated. This theory states that many targets exist and require multiple hits before an effect is realized. Cell death thus depends on factors such as the type of cell and the linear energy transfer (LET) of the particular radiation. LET is the rate that energy is imparted to a medium over a specified distance. The ability of a cell to repair damage done by a given amount of absorbed radiation can be highly variable and dependent on many factors such as LET, dose rate, cellular repair capability, synergistic effects from other metabolic processes and other factors.
The fastest growing tissues are the most vulnerable, because during the growth phase radiation effects will be as much as 3 times. Bone marrow cells that make blood are the fastest growing cells in the body. A fetus in the womb is equally sensitive. The germinal cells in the testes and ovaries are only slightly less sensitive. Brain cells and the lining cells of the body’s skin and intestines are the slowest growing cells; therefore, they are the most resistant cells in the body, against ionizing radiation.
Women are considered twice as sensitive to radiation as men are. This is due to their predominance in contracting breast and thyroid cancers.
In general the higher mitotic rate of the cells will result in higher cell radio sensitivity. The rapidly dividing cancer-producing cells are most susceptible to radiation damage. Thus radiation is used to treat many types of cancer. It has, however, proven most effective against individual tumors. Focused radiation beams can shrink or eliminate cancerous tumors while doing less damage to surrounding tissue.
The radio sensitivity of tissues in animal organism from the most radiosensitive to the least is as follows:
- Embryonic tissue and gonads
- Haematopoietic organs
- Intestinal mucous membrane and epidermis
- Connective tissue and muscle tissue
- Nervous tissue
Initial Physical Interaction
10 -17 - 10 -15
Ionizations and excitations
10 -14 - 10 -3
Creation of free radicals & excited molecules yielding biologically harmful products and damaging chain reactions yielding biologically harmful products and damaging chain reactions
seconds to hours
Damage to proteins, nucleic acids, etc.
hours to decades
Cell death or prevention/delay in cell division; or Permanent modification which can be passed on to daughter cells
Level of Biological Organization
Important Radiation Effects
Damage to enzymes, DNA etc. and interference to biological pathways
Damage to cell membranes, nucleus, chromosomes etc.
Inhibition of cell division, cell death, transformation to a malignant state
Disruption to central nervous system, bone marrow, intestinal tract. Induction of cancer
Death; 'radiation life-shortening'
Changes in the genetic characteristics of individual members
These effects of radiation on human beings can be classified into two main categories:
If the damage occurs in the testes or ovaries, then hereditary effects in descendents may become apparent. Genetic effects do not show up until subsequent generations are born. Abnormalities passed on from generation to generation as a result of a parent’s exposure and the risk can multiply enormously through time. For example, a single exposed radiation worker produces two children, who in turn have two children each, and so on through the generations, by the twentieth generation there may be as many as 2,097,152 human beings put at risk from the single exposed worker.
Natural background radiation contributes some genetic mutations, and has been labeled by some as a factor in the evolutionary process. Some inherited mutations change a plant or animal so that it is better equipped to live in its surroundings. For the general population, the risk of serious hereditary ill health as a result of radiation exposure is highest in the first two generations.
Somatic effects are those experienced by the exposed individual and it depends on many factors. It may appear as immediate effects (observable soon after a large dose), or delayed effects (that may occur years after an exposure). Long-term somatic effects are accompanied by the following signs and symptoms, which can occur immediately or appear months or years later.
- Malaise, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, fever, headache; with bleeding and complications affecting the digestive system, nervous system, heart, and lungs
- Central nervous system diseases
- Kidney, liver or gastrointestinal problems
- Poor growth in children
- Skin conditions
- Pericardium inflammation
- Lung infections or respiratory failure conditions
- Vision impairment; cataracts
- Dysfunction of the reproductive organs
Alternative approach against radiation damage 38, 39, 40
Radiation may damage the body's immune system and cause a general degeneration in the health of the cell structures. Healthy immune systems can often isolate and remove damaged cells before malignancies develop. Every time cells are stressed, they can be more prone to break. The repaired cell may not react to disease or physical injury as well as an undamaged cell; when it reproduces, this defect may be passed on.
In conventional methods, protection against radiation hazards can be achieved by means of time, distance and external shielding. This method actually works when we are aware of the exact location of the external radiation source.
Alternative approaches that may synergistically work with conventional methods, is to increase the protection against ionizing radiation by the use of Herbs and Supplements .
Ionizing radiation will cause oxidation, free radical formation, chromosome aberration, suppressed immune system, and induce cancer.
If we address those supplements and herbs that are most effective to combat those phenomena, then our body’s immune system will perform effectively against those damages and act as a true radiation shield against radiation hazards.
Treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy is known to increase the risk of developing a new cancer called "secondary cancers”, which may occur as a late complication of high-dose chemotherapy. The longer patients survive after high-dose chemotherapy, the greater the risk of developing a secondary cancer.
Patients treated with total body irradiation appear to be more likely to develop new cancer than those treated with lower radiation dose or high-dose chemotherapy. High-dose chemotherapy is increasingly used to treat certain cancers because it improves cure rates. Patients should be aware of the risk of secondary cancer following high-dose chemotherapy treatment and discuss the benefits and risks of high-dose chemotherapy with their physician . Ionizing radiation and ultraviolet light, similar to other physical agents and chemicals such as medicines, will act as mutagens.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), botanical medicine, homeopathy and other supplement therapies, all can contribute to either protecting, or recovery from, the damage of radiation injuries. Depending on the vulnerability and sensitivity of the individual organs in the body, we may address some specific herbs and/or supplements that might works more effectively and heal more rapidly the effected organ.
For simplicity, based on the effect of the radiation interaction with biological cells, we may categorize those supplements and herbs, into six major groups with the following properties:
- Anti-oxidant action,
- Anti-tumor and Anti-cancer action
- Immune Enhancers
- Adaptogenic action
The blood nutrient levels, anti-oxidants and other minerals and vitamins, will decrease in all patients undergoing radiation therapy. Therefore the nutrients, anti-oxidants and herbs improve the general sense of health and well-being and can prevent the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Vitamins and minerals 8, 9, 27
Vitamin A, especially beta-carotene, will help the growth and maintenance of the epithelial cells and the mucus membrane of the intestines during radiation therapy.
Vitamin E (tocopherol and tocotrienols) acts as a powerful anti-oxidant. The natural form of vitamin E is derived from plants oils and is the sub-families of d-alpha, d-beta, d-gamma, and d-delta substances. Recent research shows that gamma tocopherol is superior to alpha tocopherol in the detoxification of nitrogen dioxide (NO 2),which is a highly reactive free radical that has been linked to increased cancer risk in humans. Vitamin E may improve mucositis, lessening alopecia induced by chemotherapy and reversing certain pre-cancerous conditions.
Vitamin E will protect red and white blood cells of the body and will help to recover from post-irradiation anemia. The synthetic forms of vitamin E such as dl forms of tocopherols are much less active than the natural d forms.
It is important to supplement with the gamma – not just the alpha form of vitamin E.
The trace element selenium acts as an anti-oxidant and has a protective effect against mercury. Mercury can inhibit or modify the usage of calcium, zinc, selenium, rubidium, and vitamins A and C in the body and therefore will helps to protect against radiation effects. Bone is weakened during radiation therapy. This would normally indicate that calcium supplementation would be necessary. In some cases which decreasing calcium intake is recommended, silica is a good replacement to prevent calcium deficiency. Iodine affects a large number of the body's metabolic processes and deficiency may occur as a result of radiotherapy.
Amino acids 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57
Radiation to the abdominal and pelvic areas of patients who undergo radiation therapy, may injure the mucus membrane and crypt cells, shorten villous height and ulceration and necrosis of the gastro-intestinal epithelium. The patient may suffer abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, malabsorption and/or bacterial translocation, obstructions, perforations and fistula formation.
The sulfur-containing amino acids such as methionine, cysteine, glutathione, and taurine may play major roles as anti-oxidants and protective agents in the body.
Methionine is an essential amino acid that is precursor of other sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and glutathione; it brings methyl groups and sulfur into the body. It is required for the formation of body tissues, carbohydrate metabolism, detoxification and protecting cells against ionizing radiation effects on skin and mucous membranes.
Current scientific evidence reveals that L-cysteine, in conjunction with vitamin B1 and C will protect cells from the tobacco smoke’s toxicity, rancid fats, ionizing radiation, and capable of chelating toxic levels of heavy metals such as lead from the body.
Alkoxyglycerols 58, 59, 60, 61
Alkoxyglycerols is a lipid found in mother's milk, bone marrow and spleen tissue, which may play an essential role in the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow, and thought to be a general immune stimulant. Alkoxyglycerols may stimulate the formation of anti-bodies, enhance and activate the body's lymphatic immune defense system by increasing the number of white blood cells and thrombocytes in blood. Other studies have shown that alkoxyglycerols may prevent leucopenia and thrombocytopenia following radiation therapy. A high concentration of active alkoxyglycerols is found in shark liver oil. Alkoxyglycerols can reduce the drop in the white blood cell count accompanying either radiation or chemotherapy if given before, during and after radiation treatment to the patients.
Other useful substances 47, 48, 49, 50, 51
Many medicines, natural chemicals from plants, pesticides, preservatives, ionizing radiation and ultra-violet light, act as mutagens and are potential cancer-causing compounds or may cause mutation and chromosal aberration.
Bioflavinoids, fibers, humic acids, fulvic acids, etc. will act as desmutagens or anti-mutagens. They will either inactivate mutagens (cancer-causing agents) by reacting with them and taking them out of action or bind to mutagen or toxins and heavy metals, then clear out of the body.
Humic and fulvic acids with their chelating, antioxidant and other valuable properties can be an excellent substitute in preventing mutagenesis. Fulvic acid will react quickly with heavy metals and toxins, forming humic acid-mutagen complexes.
Heavy metals accumulating in the body, are usually excreted via keratinized tissue such as hair and nails or gradually concentrating in the liver, kidneys, brain, skeleton. Exposure to heavy metals has been linked to increase free-radical activity and oxidation with developmental retardation, auto-immunity, various cancers, kidney damage, and even death in some instances. Fulvic acids enhance the bioavailability of trace elements; decrease the toxins in the body, either through its anti-oxidant activity or by eliminating them. A proper combination of humic and fulvic acids will capture the large atoms of heavy metals like a magnet, and excreting mostly through the urine. Therefore that may prevent the formation of genotoxic compounds that can do damage the DNA of the cell.
Animal study shows that, when humic acids in its sodium salts were administrated to rats, the survival rate against lethal dose from gamma radiation of Co60, were increased by 50%.
Grape Seed Extract (Vitis vinifera) 2, 15, 17, 19, 21, 31, 37
Is made mainly of mixtures of proanthocyanidins, dimers, trimers, tetramers and other larger molecules which are referred as pro cyanidolic oligomers (PCO’s). The main ingredient, PCOs, extracted from grape seeds, provides superior antioxidant protection, which is 50 times more powerful than vitamin E and 20 times more powerful than vitamin C, and could offer greater protective effects. It may lower blood cholesterol levels and shrink the size of cholesterol deposits in the arteries.
PCOs also may inhibit platelet aggregation and inhibition of angiotensin I-converting enzymes. It will protect cells against free radical attack and support the collagen structure of all the organs in your body. Extensive research suggests that the proanthocyanidins found in grape seed extract may be beneficial in many areas of health due to their anti-oxidant effect. Grape seed extract has the ability to bond with collagen; promote youthful skin, cell health, elasticity and flexibility. Grape seed extract is widely used to:
- Scavenge oxidants and free radicals.
- Decrease the capillary fragility and permeability.
- Prevents atherosclerosis and other related complications.
- Suppress allergies and inflammations.
- Prevents macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy disorder
In terms of toxicity, PCO’s are extremely safe and very well tolerated and exert no side effects.
Soy (Glycinemax (L.)) 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74
Soybeans are classified as legumes and are the only vegetable food high in complete protein with all eight essential amino acids, fiber, saponins, lignans, phytosterols; low in fat and calories with a balanced mineral profile including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and phosphorus. Soybeans contain fair amount of vitamins A, E, K, and B complex, lecithin, and large amounts of linoleic acid, and powerful isoflavones. The ingredients in soy promise to help treat everything from heart health, cancer prevention to protection against radiation exposure.
Genistein and daitzein are the isoflavones found in soy products which have the estrogenic , anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant , and free radical scavenging properties. Genistein has been used as a powerful agent to protect against the effects of ionizing radiation, diabetes, menopause, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, renal disease, and gallstones. Molecular studies have shown that genistein has anti-tumor activity in prostate cancer and can induce apoptosis in prostate cancer cells. Genistein may interfere with tyrosine kinase growth factor, inhibiting angiogenesis, or inducing apoptosis through cell adhesion. Isoflavones may inhibit platelet activating factor and thrombin formation and will decrease LDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol while increase HDL cholesterol.
Bowman-Birk inhibitor (BBI) is a protease inhibitor derived from Soy. Some studies show that BBI can reduce the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation in animals. It may prevent and reverse the effect of the cancerous cells. In order to lower the risk of secondary cancers and reduce the aggressive behavior of the existing disease, it is recommended to be added to a cancer chemotherapy schedule.
Studies have shown that genistein in soy is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and may prevent leukotriene production. The anti-tumor activity of genistein may be due to leukotriene inhibition, which results in less inflammation and stimulation of tumor growth
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) 1, 2, 18, 30, 40, 29, 36
Milk thistle is widely used for hepatic and biliary disorders and nephrotoxicity. It protects the liver from several hepatotoxins, such as alcohol and acetaminophen. It is useful for the treatment of dyspeptic complaints, toxin-induced liver damage, and hepatic cirrhosis and as a supportive therapy for chronic inflammatory liver conditions. It may be used for cancer prevention or as a complementary treatment for cancer. Silybin is the most biologically active component with regard to anti-oxidant and hepatoprotective properties. It has anti-diabetic and pancreatic protective properties.
The most important active constituents are the flavonoid compounds called flavanolignans such as silymarin. It is composed mainly of silybin, with isosilybin, dihydrosilybin, silydianin, silychristin, and in some varieties at least, silandrin, silymonin, silyhermin and neosilyhermin. In milk thistle, the flavonoids, silibin, silydianin and silychristin all will be changed to silymarin.
Silymarin has a strong liver protective action and has been extensively used in Europe as a pharmaceutical preparation for liver disorders. Clinical trials have shown that silymarin can protect the liver by counteracting a number of toxic substances including, amanita mushroom poison, alcohol, acetaminophen and carbon, tetrachloride. Silymarin actually alters liver cell membranes, which prevents toxins from passing through the cell. It inhibits the release or the synthesis of certain enzymes, which are toxic to liver tissue.
Silymarin is specifically used for protection and enhanced liver regeneration after exposure to heavy metals, radiation or toxic chemicals. The protective effect of milk thistle is mostly attributed to its anti-oxidant and free radical scavenging properties and may be used for skin disease such as erythema, rashes, psoriasis and eczema. Milk thistle is an important part of a therapeutic regime for hepatitis (both chronic and acute) or cirrhosis. Milk thistle also may be used to increase the secretion and flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder.
In general the compounds in milk thistle have two major actions:
- They bind to the liver cell (hepatocyte) membranes and protect them from being injured by foreign chemicals, endogenous and environmental toxins and free radical damage.
- They enter the liver cells and enhance their ability to produce enzymes vital to the liver, speeding recovery from injury to the liver and even stimulating regeneration of liver tissue.
The seeds are also rich in betaine, a proven liver protector, as well as essential fatty acids that may help lower excessive and chronic inflammation in the body. There is evidence that in human ovarian and breast cancer cell lines, silymarin protects human leukocytes against hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage.
Everything that enters the liver through the portal vein must be detoxified and neutralized. Everything we breath, eat and absorb through our skin is purified and refined in the liver. Heavy metals, radiation exposure, metabolite waste products from biochemical reactions, pain killers and most other over the counter drugs, saturated and rancid fats, smoking and alcohol consumption, high protein diets, pesticides and herbicides, stress, etc, are some examples that cause our liver to do some extra work.
All herbal products carry the potential for contamination with other herbal products, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and pharmaceuticals. This is particularly concerning with imports from developing countries. A few cases of allergic reactions to milk thistle have been reported, but it was unclear whether the reaction was to milk thistle or some other ingredient in the capsules.
There are no known long-term risks to adults associated with milk thistle. No known side effect or toxicity in pediatrics, pregnancy and during lactation has been reported
Shiitake, mushrooms (Lentinan edodes) 20, 34
Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) 20, 34
A polysaccharide-rich extract from the shiitake mushroom is currently undergoing trials in Japan and the U.S. to test their effectiveness in treating various forms of cancer. It is not only useful for cancer treatment, but may also prevent the increase of chromosomal damage induced by anti-cancer drugs. Additionally, Shiitake contains all eight essential amino acids in proportions similar to soy beans, meat, milk or eggs as well as a good blend of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, B12, C, D and niacin. The watery extract of the whole mushroom has the ability to reduce platelet-activating factor (PAF) and those who are taking blood thinners should be cautious if they are going to use shiitake or its derivatives for a long period.
Because of its normalizing action reishi is classified as a superior herb. It is defined as one that promotes radiant health and serves to maintain long life, and to cause no major side effects, even when used continuously. Reishi has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells and reduces damage from radiation. It has anti-tumor and immune-enhancing properties along with no toxicity.
Reishi has the ability to fight tumors and viruses and enhance the immune system and has been used to treat cancer, liver disorders, hypertension, arthritis and other degenerative diseases. Reishi acts as an anti-oxidant, which protects against DNA damage from radiation, relieves fatigue, bone marrow suppression and reduces hair loss.
In general reishi and shiitake are pretty safe, but a few cases of mild side effects such as diarrhea, skin rashes and allergic reactions to reishi in some individuals have been reported.
Astragalus ( Astragalus membranaceous) 4, 35, 41, 42, 46
The roots of Astragalus membranaceous have medicinal value. The active chemical constituents of astragalus, such as saponins, flavonoids, polysaccharides and glycosides are several chemical constituents of astragalus which have been identified.
Astragalus is usually used in conjunction with other adaptogenic herbs, such as ginseng, to guard against various internal and external stressors. The synergistic effect of astragalus with chemotherapy has been reported. It is also used as an adjunctive therapy for cancer, HIV and atopic diseases. It boosts the immune system by inducing a substantial amount of interferon production and increased T-cell levels close to normal for some cancer patients with a lower level of the T-Cells.
Astragulus can also stimulate natural killer cell and other anti-tumor activity. Astragalus, ginger, etc. influence the body’s production of interferon. Interferon, are the proteins generated by cells when infected by viruses, and they appear to be part of the body’s ‘broad-spectrum’ anti-viral responses.
Animal studies have shown that astragalus extract is effective in preventing infection of mice by influenza virus, possibly by increasing the phagocytotic activity of the white blood cells of the immune system.
It's a useful long-term tonic for anyone, especially cancer patients and elderly who need extra infection protection during the winter. It stimulates the immune system, provides cancer protection and boosts energy levels.
In terms of toxicity, no allergic reaction or chronic toxicity has been reported. Due to its anti-diabetic, PAF inhibiting and hypotensive effects and concerns about potential synergistic effects, it is not recommended to use for more than three weeks without careful monitoring and possible dosage adjustments for these kinds of medications.
Most raw or lightly cooked green leafy vegetables will provide good quantities of calcium and silica. Plenty of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and the flavonoids are found in orangesanddark green foods such asKamut, red beets, green algae, green tea, basil,carrots, kale, alfalfa, kelp, fennel, gingko biloba, etc. 11,15,39,43 which can protect us from radiation-induced cancers.
Polyphenols in green tea showed "radio protective effects" whether taken before or after exposure to radiation.
Ginkgo biloba was given to Chernobyl recovery workers to help combat radiation sickness. Flavonoids in fruit and vegetable-based supplements are powerful anti-viral agents and increase energy levels. They work with synergistically with vitamin C, to protect and preserve the structure of the blood capillaries. Ginkgo biloba is PAF inhibitor which is used to increase blood flow and helps the brain to protect cells from oxidant damage. It is useful in the treatment of asthma, allergies, eczema, alzheimer, tinnitus and peripheral arterial insufficiency.
Quercetin is one of the flavonoids in ginkgo biloba. The oxidative effects of ultraviolet A (UVA) light (320-400 nm) and the antioxidant effects of quercetin were examined in rat blood. Quercetin significantly increased antioxidant enzymes diminished by UVA irradiation. In rare cases, ginkgo biloba may cause headache, stomach upset, or an allergic skin reaction.
Fennel is a useful herbal substance and will make you much more comfortable as the radiation accumulates during the progress of treatment and is good for during and after radiotherapy or chemotherapy. These herbs work to support and balance the organs of metabolism involved in nausea including the liver, pancreas, and bile duct.
Kelp (Bladderack) is the single most important herb providing both metabolic support and protection from damage during radiotherapy. Kelp is a specific herb for detoxifying the side effects of radiation. These herbs work to support and balance the organs of metabolism of thyroid. This works well after the treatment for thyroid cancer patients with Iodine-131.
Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) 3, 6, 16, 28, 32, 33
Cat’s claw has been referred to as an adaptogen and anti-oxidant herb and may be used on a daily basis by those seeking to maintain maximum resistance to the stresses and strains of modern life. Cat’s claw is an immune stimulant and has been reported to inhibit the growth of lymphoma and leukemia by helping to prevent the loss of white blood cells and immune damage caused by many chemotherapy drugs.
It is effective in reducing the side effects of both radiation and chemotherapy, (such as hair loss, weight loss, nausea, secondary infections, and skin problems), when used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments. Cat's claw may help in DNA cellular repair and prevent cells from mutating.
Cat’s claw has traditionally been used to treat a wide range of health problems and for many different conditions as follows:
Immune disorders, gastritis, ulcers, cancer, diabetes, liver disorder such as cirrhosis, PMS and other menstrual disorders, arthritis, rheumatic disorders, neuralgia, asthma, chronic inflammation of all kinds, parasites, Sexual transmitted disease (STD), such as gonorrhea and such viral diseases as herpes.
According to ongoing research, cat’s claw possesses a wealth of beneficial phytochemicals including alkaloids, polyphenols, triterpines, glycosides, and phytosterols.
It is believed that these various plant substances are what give the herb it’s powerful anti-microbial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor and adaptogen properties. Other researches concluded that it is an anti-oxidant as well as a remarkably potent inhibitor of TNF alpha production, ( tumor necrosis factor represents a model for tumor growth).
Cat's claw boosts the body's immune system, lowers blood pressure and can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. It can also be used for intestinal problems such as colitis and gastritis because it balances the beneficial microbes in the intestine.
Cat's claw's anti-inflammatory properties are due to its plant sterols (beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol) constituent and antioxidant molecular structures such as catechins and procyanidins.
Due to its anti-fertility, PAF inhibiting and hypotensive effects and concerns about potential synergistic effects, it is not recommended to use for a long period of time without careful monitoring and possible dosage adjustments for these kind of medications. It is also contraindicated before or following any organ or bone marrow transplant or skin graft due to its Immune stimulant effect.
Ginseng extracts 5, 7, 22, 39
Currently there are three major types of Ginseng: Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng), Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng).
Panax quinquefolium will enhance the immune function and works on adrenal and reproductive glands and protect against the effects of radiation exposure. Panax ginseng reduces the general adverse effects of chemotherapy and restores adrenal function and energy.
Trilinolein is a triacylglycerol purified from a commonly used traditional Chinese medicine Panax notoginseng. Trilinolein has been reported to provide a number of beneficial effects including reducing arrhythmia and increasing erythrocyte deformability. American ginseng promotes lymphocyte transformation and restores blood cell development function of bone marrow following chemotherapy.
Siberian ginseng can counteract x-ray radiation damage, and inhibits metastasis. Some study showed that all ginseng species were able to double the life span of rats exposed to up to 7000 rads and if combined with anti-biotics, then the irradiated mouse’s life span increased three times.
Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and has been shown to be a safe and effective stimulant. It reduces stress, improves performance and energy levels, improves memory, and stimulates the immune system. The Chinese believe that health benefits can only be attained by the continuous use of this herb.
Ginseng families are generally considered pretty safe and there are no known drug interactions, contraindications, common allergic reactions or toxicity to siberian ginseng, Panax ginseng or American ginseng. In general, caution is recommended, for individuals with hypertension, as the stimulatory nature of some ginseng preparations have been reported to increase blood pressure and is recommended that a course of treatment with ginseng not exceed three months for those individuals.
Those who are exposed to radiation for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes; such as cardiologists when performing operations such as angiography or angioplasty, radiation workers in hospitals, commercial air travellers, especially air crews and frequent flyers, astronauts and all others who are confronting X-rays or Gamma rays, are all at risk, either due to the effect of chromosome aberration, genetic mutation, free radicals formation or other effects. The following supplements are thought to be effective against radiation-induced damage in human beings and are recommended in normal circumstances, unless other wise monitored as a special case by a health care professional or a physician.
- Most organic forms of orange and dark green foods such as kelp, red beet, green algae, carrots, kale, alfalfa, green tea, etc.
- Organically grown herbs such as, grape seed extract, green tea, gingko biloba, mushrooms, ginseng (panax and Siberian) .
- Isolated soy protein (Non GMO)
- A natural form of multiple vitamins, minerals and enzymes, with optimum levels of vitamin A, D, B complex, C and E( both d-gamma and d-alpha tocopherols, but not the synthetic dl form), and chelated minerals and trace minerals.
- Other supplements such as humic and fulvic acids (Humifulvate), and omega 3 (EPA/DHA) and omega 6 (GLA) essential fatty acids.
- Adverse Reactions Advisory Committee. An Adverse reaction to the herbal medication Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). MJA 1999; 170:218-9.
- Anderson D, Yu TW, Phillips BJ, Schmezer P. The effect of various antioxidants and other modifying agents on oxygen- radical-generated DNA damage in human lymphocytes in the COMET assay. Mutat Res 1994; 307:261-71.
- Aquino, R., et al. "Plant metabolites. New compounds and anti-inflammatory activity of Uncaria tomentosa." Journal of Natural Products 1991 ; 54: 453-59.
- Astragalus , www.herbalhut.com/astragalus.asp
- Bohn B, Nebe CT, and Birr C: Follow cytometric studies with eleutherocosus extrac as an immunomodulatory agent. Arzneimittel-Forsch 37, 1193-1196, 1987.
- Cat's Claw & Essiac: Mother Nature's Wondrous Healers http://www.blenderculture.co m/article~catclaw.htm
- Chan P, Thomas GN, Tomlinson B.”Protective effects of trilinolein extracted from Panax notoginseng against cardiovascular disease.”
Acta Pharmacol Sin 2002 Dec;23(12):1157-1162
- Singh VN, Gaby SK, Premalignant lesions: role of antioxidant vitamins and beta-carotene in risk reduction and prevention of malignant transformation, Am J Clin Nutr 53:386-3905, 1991
- Wadleigh RG, Vitamin E and chemotherapy induced oral mucositis. Amer J Med 92:481, 1992
- Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiations, National Research Council. Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiations. Washington: National Academy Press; 1990.
- Healing Foods http://w ww.mrbean.net.au/~wlast/contents.html
- Hensley ML, Schuchter LM, Lindley C, et al. “American Society of Clinical Oncology clinical practice guidelines for the use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy protectants.” J Clin Oncol. 1999;17:3333-3355
- Herman Cember “Introduction to Health Physics”, (3rd edition), McGraw-Hill, New York, 1996
- James E. Turner, ”Atoms, Radiation and Radiation Protection (2nd Edition)”, John Wiley & Sons, inc., New York, 1995
- Kahraman A, Inal ME. “Protective effects of quercetin on ultraviolet A light-induced oxidative stress in the blood of rat.” Department of Radiobiology, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal 576 119, India. J Appl Toxicol 2002 Sep-Oct;22(5):303-9
- Keplinger, H., et al. "Oxindole alkaloids having properties stimulating the immunologic system and preparation containing same." United States patent 5,302,611; April 12, 1994.
- Labriola D, Livingston R. “ Possible interactions between dietary antioxidants and chemotherapy.” Oncol. 1999;13:1003-1008.
- Lorenz D, Lucker PW, Mennicke WH, Wetzelsberger N. Pharmacokinetic studies with silymarin in human serum and bile. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 1984; 6:655-61.
- Masquilier J: Procyanidolic oligomers. J Parfums Cosmet Arom 95, 89-97,1990
- Medicinal Mushrooms , http://www.ultimatehealing.com/HerbRefM.htm
- Meunier Mt,at al.: inhibition of angiotensin I converting enzye by flavanolic compounds: in vitro and in vivo studies. Planta Medica 54, 12-15,1987
- Micheal T. Murray, N.D. “Healing Power of Herbs(2nd Edition)” , Prima Health,Inc. 1995
- Planting AS, Catimel G, de Mulder PH, et al.” Randomized study of a short course of weekly cisplatin with or without amifostine in advanced head and neck cancer.” EORTC Head and Neck Cooperative Group. Ann Oncol. 1999;10:693-700.
- Radiation Damage www.healthanage.com/html/res/com/ConsConditions/RadiationDamagecc.html
- Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, ICRP Publication 60 . Annals of the ICRP 21 , p22 (ICRP 1990).
- Rozenfel'd et al., The possibilities of protection against local radiation injuries in ORL-oncologic patients]" "Vestn-Otorinolaringol" 1990 Mar-Apr (2):56-8.
- Benner SE. Vitamin E and oral leukopeakia, JNCI 85:44-46, 1993
- Sandoval, M., et al. "Cat's claw inhibits TNFalpha production and scavenges free radicals: role in cytoprotection." Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2000; 29(1): 71-8.
- Scambia G, De Vincenzo R, Ranelletti FO, Panici PB, Ferrandina G, D'Agostino G, et al, Antiproliferative effect of silybin on gynaecological malignancies: synergism with cisplatin and doxorubicin. Eur J Cancer 1996; 32A:877-82.
- Schwarz RE, Donohue CA, Sadava D, Kane SE.”Pancreatic cancer in vitro toxicity mediated by Chinese herbs SPES and PC-SPES: implications for monotherapy and combination treatment”.
Cancer Lett 2003 Jan 10;189(1):59-68
- Schwitters B, Masquilier J,OPC in Practice: biflavanols and Their Application. Alfa Omega, Rome,1993
- Sheng Y, et al., "Treatment of chemotherapy-induced leukopenia in a rat model with aqueous extract from Uncaria tomentosa.", Phytomedicine 2000;7(2): 137-43.
- Sheng Y, et al., "DNA repair enhancement of aqueous extracts of Uncaria tomentosa in a human volunteer study." Phytomedicine 2001; 8(4): 275-82.
- Shiitake, Hua gu, Lentinan edodes htt p:/ /www.die t-and-health.ne t/Naturopathy/Shiitake.html
- Sinclair S. Chinese herbs: a clinical review of Astragalus, Ligusticum, and Schizandrae. Altern Med Rev. 1998 Oct;3(5):338-44.
- Soose M. Properties of silibinin and of antioxidants against adriamycin cytotoxicity in a unicellular eukaryote, Tetrahymena thermophila. European Journal of Prostistology 1994; 30:394-403.
- Soyeux A , et al,: Endotelon. Diabetic retinopathy and hemorrheology(preliminary study). Bull Soc Ophtalmol Fr.87, 1441-1444,1987.
- Treating the Undesirable Effects of Radiation and Chemotherapy with Chinese Medicine, htt p://acupunctu re.co m/Herbology/Chemo.htm
- Tyler V. The Honest Herbal. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products, 1993.
- Vrinda B, Uma Devi P.”Radiation protection of human lymphocyte chromosomes in vitro by orientin and vicenin.”
Mutat Res 2001 Nov 15;498(1-2):39-46
- Wang Y, Qian XJ, Hadley HR, Lau BH. Phytochemicals potentiate interleukin-2 generated lymphokine-activated killer cell cytotoxicity against murine renal cell carcinoma. Mol Biother. 1992 Sep;4(3):143-6. -K
- Weil, Andrew “Natural Health, Natural Medicine” Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995
- William H. Hallenbeck, Lewis Publishers, Ann Arbor “Radiation Protection”, 1994
- Working with Radiation, Biological Effects of Radiation, htt p :// www.bh.rmit.edu.au/mrs/ DigitalRadiography/DRPapers/BiolEff.html
- Shankel, D.M., et al., Extracellular Interception of Mutagens. Basic Life Science, 1993. 61: p. 65-74.
- Sato, T., et al., Adsorption of mutagens by humic acid. The Science of the Total Environment, 1987. 62: p. 305-310
- Mineralab, I., A Clinician's Guide to Toxic Metals, 1979: Hayward.
- Naményi, Effect of humic acid on the regeneration of the haemopoietic system during and after cobalt gamma radiation: Hungary
- Guzman G et al, Abdominal radiation causes bacterial translocation, J Surg Res 46:104-107, 1989
- Klimberg VS, Souba WW, Dolson DJ, Salloum RM, Hautamaki RD, Plumley DA, et al. Prophylactic glutamine protects the intestinal mucosa from radiation injury. Cancer 1990; 66(1):62-68.
- Klimberg VS, Salloum RM, Kasper M, Plumley DA, Dolson DJ, Hautamaki RD, et al. Oral glutamine accelerates healing of the small intestine and improves outcome after whole abdominal radiation. Arch Surg 1990; 125(8):1040-1045.
- Jensen L.S., and Maurice D.V. Influence of sulphur amino acids in copper toxicity in chicks. J Nutr 1979; 109: 91.
- Lafleur M., Woldhuis J., and Loman H. Effects of sulfhydryl compounds on the radiation damage in biologically active DNA. Int J Radiant Biol 1980; 37(5): 493.
- Chaitow L, Amino acid in Therapy , Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT, 1988.
- Klimberg VS, Salloum RM, Kasper M, Plumley DA, Dolson DJ, Hautamaki RD, et al. Oral glutamine accelerates healing of the small intestine and improves outcome after whole abdominal radiation. Arch Surg 1990; 125(8):1040-1045.
- Boeryd, B. et al, 'Stimulation of Immune Reactivity by Methoxy-substituted Glycerol Ether Incorporated into the feed', European Journal of Immunology, 1978: 8, 678, 680.
- Brohult, A., Alkoxyglycerols and their use in Radiation Treatment, Acta Radio, 1963: Suppl. 223.
- Brohult, A., Brohult, J., and Brohult, S., Biochemical Effects of Alkoxyglycerols and their Use in Cancer Therapy. Acta. Chem. Scand., 1970: 24, 730.
- Brohult A, Brohult J, & Brohult S: Regression of tumour growth after administration of Alkoxyglycerols. ‘Acta. Obstet. Gynecol. Scand’,
1978, 57:1, 79
- Lin RC, Li TK. Effects of isoflavones on alcohol pharmaco-kinetics and alcohol-drinking behavior in rats. Am J Clin Nutr1998;68:1512S-15S.
- Ito A, et al. Effects of soy products in reducing risk of spontaneous and neutron-induced liver tumors in mice. Int J Oncol 1993;2:773-6. 34.
- Walker , M. Soybean isoflavones lower risk of degenerative diseases. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. Aug/Sept. 1994: 374-378.
- Barnes S, Peterson TG, Coward L. Rationale for the use of genistein-containing soy matrices in chemoprevention trials for breast and prostate cancer. J Cell Biochem, 1995; 22: 181-187.
- Papazisis K, Zambouli D, Kimoundri O, et.al.. Protien tyrosine kinase inhibitor, genistein, enhances apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in K562 cells treated with y-irradiation. Cancer Letters. 2000, v.160: 107-113.
- Kyle E, Neckers L, Takimoto C, Curt G, Bergan R. Genistein-induced apoptosis of prostate cancer cells is preceded by a specific decrease in focal adhesion kinase activity. Molecular Pharmacology. 1997 February; 51(2):193-200.
- Fotsis T, Pepper M, Aldercreutz H, et al. Genistein, a dietary ingested isoflavonoid, inhibits cell proliferation and in vitro angiogenesis. J Nutr 1995; 125: S790-S797.
- Peterson G, Barnes S. Genistein and biochanin-A inhibit the growth of human prostate cancer cell lines but not epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine autophosphorylation. Prostate 1993; 22:335-345.
- Barken I, Geller J. The effects of Soy Extract Q-can in patients with relapsed prostate cancer (PSA Relapse) following radiation or radical prostatectomy (unpublished paper, 1999).
- Onozawa M, Fukuda K, Ohtani M, Akaza H, Sugimura T, Wakabayashi K. Effects of soybean isoflavones on cell growth and apoptosis of the human prostatic cancer cell line LNCaP. Japan Journal of Clinical Oncology. 1998 Jun; 28(6):360-3.
- Michael R. Landauer, Thomas M. Seed, V. Srinivasan, Alla Shapiro, Chris H. Takimoto, Peter S. Wang and C. Dahlem Smith . Genistein Protects Mice from Ionizing Radiation Injury *Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, MD and National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD.
- Kennedy , AR , Adjuvant Nutrtion in cancer treatment. Cancer treatment Research Foundation, Arlington aheights, IL 1994.
- Messina m, messina V. The Simple Soybean and Your Health. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing Group, 1994:19.
- Hagmann W. Cell proliferation status, cytokine action and protein tyrosine phosphorylation modulate leukotriene biosynthesis in a basophil leukaemia and a mastocytoma cell line. Biochem J 1994;299:467-472.