One of the oldest traditional herbal medicines, the cancer bush is a possible cure for tuberculosis
11/09/2018 // RJ Jhonson // Views

The cancer bush (Sutherlandia frutescens) was used in traditional African medicine as a treatment for tuberculosis (TB). Researchers, in a study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, investigated the plant's potential as a treatment for TB.

The cancer bush has a long history in African medicine. As the authors put it, the plant “formed the basis of primary health care systems since the earliest days,” thanks in part to its use as a treatment for tuberculosis, itself an ancient disease.

Today, cancer bush is still in use. It has been approved in Africa as an immune system booster for people living with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The plant is also prescribed for other diseases, including diabetes, depression, and cancer. Although scientific inquiries have confirmed the presence of essential bioactive compounds in the plant, its potential as a treatment for tuberculosis has yet to be fully explored.

Treating tuberculosis by targeting enzymes

TB is a deadly disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It kills millions of people in developing countries, making it one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. Its impact is not as great as it once had been, but the possibility of deadlier and hardier drug-resistant TB strains is ever-present, thanks in large part to the liberal use of antibiotics to treat the disease.

To prevent the problem of cross-resistance, researchers are looking at new treatments with novel mechanisms of action. Experts are looking at targeting enzymes in pathogens that, when inhibited, can kill the bacteria and shorten the period of therapy needed to cure the disease.

In the case of M. tuberculosis, one potential treatment target is the enzyme shikimate kinase. Suppressing this enzyme has been shown to stunt the growth of M. tuberculosis. Furthermore, it is part of a protein chain that is found only in microbes and certain plants, but not in mammals. A treatment targeting the shikimate kinase would, therefore, have low chances of causing adverse effects on humans.

That said, the researchers extracted cancer bush with ethanol, dichloromethane: methanol, and water – all extracts were tested for their ability to inhibit shikimate kinase (MtbSK) using the MtbSK inhibition assay. They also isolated its active compounds through high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). (Related: The effectiveness of tuberculosis drugs dramatically increases when taken with vitamin C.)

Analysis revealed that among the extracts gathered, the dichloromethane: methanol extract demonstrated the greatest ability to inhibit the shikimate kinase. This was attributed to the presence of an alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) compound in the extract. The researchers concluded that shikimate kinase is indeed a good target for tuberculosis treatment and that it can be inhibited by ALA in cancer bush.

Home treatments for tuberculosis

Tuberculosis can also be treated using home remedies, such as the following:

  • Milk – This dairy product contains plenty of calcium, a nutrient essential for fighting the bacterial effects of the disease. Not only does it boost the immune system, but it also relieves inflammation and problems with the respiratory system.
  • Bananas – This fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that treat inflammation, excessive mucus production, and other symptoms of the disease.
  • Garlic – The sulfuric acid in garlic is effective at countering the mycobacteria that cause tuberculosis. Garlic can be steeped in water and then drunk or it can be added to dishes one eats. Consuming garlic also boosts the immune system and helps lower the risk of contracting the disease.
  • Mint – Aside from being an effective breath freshener, mint is also a potent treatment for TB. It loosens up the respiratory tracts and helps break down mucus, while its antioxidants help protect the body from infections and the damage they cause.

Find natural treatments for tuberculosis and similar diseases at

Sources include:

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