Not all medicinal plants have established scientific studies to support their effectiveness beyond limited empirical observations.
However, when it comes to Brucea javanica it is certainly one of those plants for which scientific investigations have provided enough indications to prove that it has an impressive efficacy for the treatment of cervical, bladder and pancreatic cancers. Its selective toxicity has also been found to kill 70% of breast cancer cells!
Oncologists are still at a loss to find methods of selectively killing cancer cells through the standard protocols of treatment in chemotherapy and radiation. While damaging healthy cells is an inevitable process through most cytotoxic drugs, the notorious chemotherapy also triggers them to secrete a protein that sustains tumor growth and resistance to further treatment.
As more knowledge and research is being extended to populations confined to conventional allopathic principles, the broad categories of herbal and plant medicines are finally reaching the mainstream. The effectiveness of medicinal plants and foods to treat cancer is perhaps receiving the most widespread attention. Dietary anti-angiogenic foods alone have sparked so much interest in the cancer community that even veteran physicians are beginning to recommend them to cancer patients.
Facts about the amazing shrub
Brucea javanica is one of those plants that needs far more recognition in this category for its incredible ability to selectively kill cancer cells.
The shrub was originally found in South-east Asia, but it occurs from Sri Lanka and India towards Indo-China, southern China, Taiwan, Thailand and even northern Australia. Brucea javanica has been the subject of hundreds of studies and clinical trials, all of them aimed to better understand 2 main key issues about it: 1.First how effective this plant really is, and
Secondly, if it is so effective, which active constituents are responsible for its anti-cancer properties?
Brucea javanica is a monoecious or dioecious shrub or small tree that can grow up to 10 m tall with soft-haired twigs and leaves. It prefers open localities such as light secondary forests and thickets, forest edges, ridges, and even occurring in sunny places on sandy dunes and on limestone. It grows under both per-humid and seasonal conditions from sea level up to 900m altitude.
For several millennia, herbal preparations and natural remedies from Brucea javanica have been shown to be effective in treating many types of maladies including malaria, and amoebiasis as well as cancer. Approximately half of the drugs currently in clinical use are of natural origin, however many of these drugs become toxic with substantial side effects due to the integration of artificial chemical compounds in their formulas.
Brucea javanica composition
The plant contains alkaloids (brucamarine, yatanine), glycosides/quassinoids (brucealin, yatanoside A and B, kosamine, bruceantin, bruceantarin, bruceantinol), and phenol (brucenol, bruceolic acid). The seeds of Brucea javanica contain brusatol and bruceine. The pulp oil contains fat, oleic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid, and palmitoleic acid. Fruit and leaves contain tannin.
Up to date, 153 compounds have been reported from the seeds and aerial parts of Brucea javanica. Quassinoids are the main constituents of this species. The extract of Brucea javanica and the isolated compounds, specifically quassinoids exhibit various biological properties and are well known for their antitumor effects, especially how they are selectively toxic to cancer cells.
A study in the American Journal of Medical Science demonstrated that the aqueous extract from Brucea javanica and the induction of apoptosis by components of the plant is an indicated mechanism by which it kills cancer cells. The study found that treatment with Brucea javanica lead to 70% cell death in breast cancer cells.
Another study in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine from researchers at the Department of Urology, The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hongzhou, China, found that Brucea javanica oil significantly induces programmed cell death of bladder cancer cells.
A study from the international journal Cancer Letters, researchers showed that brucein D (BD), a quassinoid found abundantly in the Brucea javanica fruit, inhibited the growth of three pancreatic cancer cell lines. They provided experimental evidence to support the traditional use of Brucea javanica fruit in cancer treatment, and render BD a promising candidate for further development into anti-pancreatic cancer agent.
Yet, another study in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine demonstrated the anti-proliferative and apoptotic activities of Brucea javanica along with other herbal traditional Chinese medicines. They concluded that the programmed cell death of cancer cells activated by specific proteins was 5 times higher in cells treated with this plant.
Bruceantin, a contituent of Brucea javanica has also been found to interfere with the growth of leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma cells.
Finally, it’s worth noting that, regardless of centuries of empirical observation, as well as the scientifically documented evidence of Brucea javanica’s bonafide anti-cancer potential, the World Health Organization (WHO), in the Monographs of Selected Medicinal Herbs claims that no medical uses for Brucea javanica are supported by clinical data.
American Journal of Medical Science
American Journal of Chinese Medicine
International Journal of Molecular Medicine