There is nothing like routine to give a person a sense of comfort and stability, but it can also make life boring if daily rituals are not interwoven with a little variety. Therefore, I like to periodically try new things and tweak formulas and practices to see what will happen. That is exactly what occurred as this column was being penned. I was preparing a cup of gold milk (hot milk mixed with turmeric and honey) and began contemplating how a Canadian bank can be fined $1.1 million for money laundering and not be named. I imagine well-known figures such Senator Mike Duffy and radio broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi would give their left tonsil to receive the same treatment.
While wondering about the identity of the bank and its illegal transactions, I was reminded that big money – corporate money in this case – and deep pockets also have a way of tweaking formulas and practices for their own benefit. It’s a sad example of how institutions that should be credible and trustworthy can conduct illegal actions and somehow have their identity protected. You or I would not receive the same treatment if we were charged with a much less severe crime.
I was thinking about such double standards as my golden milk came to a boil and was quickly removed from the stove. Sipping my tea and looking at our back yard, I spied a yellow spring flower and it reminded me that I have never tasted dandelion tea. Since I had collected and ground up a small amount of dandelion root last year for the purpose of making tea, I searched-out the substance and then added a teaspoon of the powder to my hot drink.
My thoughts turned to residents who had contacted me after a couple of columns were published in 2015 regarding Essiac, a mixture of biological products that has been used as a treatment for many types of cancer. Elmer Haux of Shaunavon and Charmaine Wood of Irvine provided me with information about the product which Canadian nurse Rene Caisse used to successfully treat cancer, but it never gained recognition or acceptance in the medical world.
However, there is now a natural cancer-fighting product that is at the clinical test stage and its active ingredients are derived from dandelions! The prolific and annoying little plant appears to have powerful anti-cancer properties which researchers at Windsor, Ont. have been investigating. I wrote about their work and discoveries a few years ago but did not hear any updates until earlier this year. It turns out a Calgary company, AOR Inc., has since developed a specially formulated powder from the plant’s root which is six to 10 times more potent than any dandelion products sold commercially. Phase one clinical trials were approved in 2012, but it has taken time to secure funding, as well as a company to produce a pharmaceutical-grade product. The newly-developed powder is easily dissolved in water and will now be administered to 30 people with end-stage, blood-related cancers. The goal of the study is to determine effective dosages for individuals who have had not had success with conventional treatments for diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma.
It is unfortunate the trial will not include subjects who have cancer and have not received conventional cancer treatments. In my opinion, setting such parameters biases the outcome of the current study. To truly test the product, clinical trials must involve people who have not received chemo or radiation treatments. However, such action will pit botanically-based products and treatments against pharmaceutical protocols and companies with very deep pockets. The problem for people who want an alternative cancer treatment is it’s difficult to patent a living organism, so botanical products are generally not as profitable as pharmaceuticals. Therefore, drug companies have little desire to invest funding and research in any natural product that cannot be patent protected.
The Canadian dandelion trial resulted after a medical oncologist at the Windsor Cancer Centre, Dr. Caroline Hamm, observed some patients improve after consuming tea made from dandelion root powder that was purchased at health food stores. Seeing the encouraging results, she told a biochemist at the University of Winsor about her observations. He was very pessimistic, but agreed to look into it. His research team literally dug up dandelions and ground up the root in a home blender with some water. The dilute solution was filtered and put in petri dishes in which leukemia cells were growing. To the researchers’ surprise, the cancerous cells began dying. They discovered dandelion root caused monocytic myeloid leukemia, an aggressive and drug-resistant form of cancer, to commit suicide (a process known as apoptosis). Furthermore, the team found repeated treatments with a low dose of the extract was effective in killing cancerous cells and was not toxic to healthy cells. It was a very significant finding since we are all aware of the damage conventional cancer treatments can have on DNA and living tissue.
Dr. Siyaram Pandey, the biochemist and lead researcher describes the lab work that was conducted in an 18-minute TEDx video titled Nature, the Best Chemist. He says dandelion root, like other plants that also have anti-cancer properties, contains at least 10 compounds that may fight cancer on many fronts.
The clinical trial that is now under way is the first of its kind in Canada. Let’s hope the small plant most people curse will soon be a huge blessing to the multitude of people whose lives are threatened by cancer.