Friday, December 02, 2005


Many of fondly remember Bloody Mary in the musical, South Pacific, who was always chewing betel nuts. Today, if she did that, she might not be as happy because might develop oral cancer.

Betel “nuts” also called betel quid, contains fresh, dried or cured areca nut, catechu, slaked lime and flavoring ingredients wrapped in betel leaf. Areca nut is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances with several hundred million users worldwide, predominantly in southern Asia. Areca nut can be chewed alone or in a variety of ways that differ by region. Tobacco is often added. Many people in these regions chew areca nut, with a somewhat higher usage among women. Since the 1980s, the use of industrially manufactured products, often containing tobacco, has increased, especially among children and adolescents.

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported previously that betel-quid and areca-nut chewing along with tobacco was cancer causing but that chewing betel quid alone was not proven. The just released new IARC report, however, says many studies now provide evidence that betel quid without tobacco can cause oral cancers.

California is a state that has pioneered the identification of cancer-causing ingredients for consumers. The California office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) proposes to list areca nut and betel quid as chemicals known to cause cancer.The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has filed comments with OEHHA objecting to the Environmental Agency’s objecting to this proposal.AHPA claims that the ability of Bloody Marys and other betel nut lovers would be prevented from chewing the compounds by “a small group of private individuals selected by a quasi-governmental international organization." In addition, the AHPA requested that, if the proposal goes through, the OEHHA qualify the listing to exclude areca husk and include only products made from the substances intended for chewing, as the study cited by OEHHA exclusively examined such products.

A “Natural Indian” Remedy and Prostate Cancer

Another “natural” product has been cited as preventing cancer rather than being a culprit in its development. An olive-oil based herbal extract preparation called Zyflamend reportedly suppresses the growth of prostate cancer cells and induces prostate cancer cells to self-destruct, according to a new study.

Zyflamend has the ability, in culture at least, to reduce prostate cancer cell growth by as much as 78 percent and induce cancer cell death or “apoptosis,” scientists report in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.

“Together, these results suggest that Zyflamend might have some chemopreventive utility against prostate cancer in men,” according to lead investigator Dr. Debra L. Bemis of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

Zyflamend has both COX-1 and COX-2 anti-inflammatory effects, although its anti-cancer effects against prostate cancer are independent of COX-2 inhibition. COX inhibitors have shown value for prostate cancer patients, but data from recent trials of selective COX-2 inhibitors suggest that use of these drugs might have adverse effects on the heart.

Aspirin, a non-selective COX inhibitor, is not associated with these side effects and, instead, has well established benefits in people with heart disease. Zyflamend has a biochemical action profile similar to aspirin.

Zyflamend is on the market as an anti-inflammatory and recommended by the popular author, Dr. Andrew Weil. The compound is an Indian medicine which also contains a number of herbal ingredients including holy basil, green tea, rosemary and ginger.