Healing Quilts in Medicine

Art Quilts Making a Difference in the Lives of Patients and their Families

 

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Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum): Source of epipodophyllotoxin used to make etoposide, which is used against small-cell lung and testicular cancer as well as lymphomas and leukemia.  Also a source of teniposide, which is used to fight cancers such as brain tumors in adults and neuroblastoma in children. 

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale): Several chemical components of the genus have interested serious researchers. The chemical helenalin for example is a potent anti-inflammatory pain relief medication, anti-tumor agent, & even has a potential for treatment of leukemia [Kasai et al, Journal of Natural Products, 1982]. Unfortunately helenalin has serious toxic side effects that make its use both as an herbal remedy or a pharmaceutical grade extract dangerous especially to the hepatic system. Another isolated chemical, microlenin, has been shown to inhibit cancer growths, & was not as apt to cause cellular damage as was helenalin [Hall et al, The Journal of Pharmacological Science, 1983].

Cone shells are marine snails and are found in reef environments throughout the world. They prey upon other marine organisms, immobilizing them with unique venoms. Upon investigation it was found that the toxins in cone shell venoms possess pharmacological qualities that make them valuable tools in medical research and have great potential for relieving pain. One such product is Ziconontide marketed as PrialtĀ®.

True Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria): The leaflets and branches of the indigo plant yield an exquisite blue dye; people around the globe have used it to color textiles and clothing for centuries. In the traditional medicine of India and China, indigo was used in the treatment of conditions we would now call epilepsy, bronchitis, liver disease, and psychiatric illness.  Based on its traditional use for liver problems, researchers have investigated whether indigo might protect the liver against chemically induced injury. Animal studies do suggest that extracts of the indigo species Indigofera tinctoria protect the liver from damage by toxic chemicals. A chemical compound isolated from indigo, indirubin, is being used in China for treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia, and various synthetic derivatives are in preclinical studies in Europe and the US.

Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas): A potential anticancer agent, ipomeanol is produced only if infected with fungus.  Antioxidants play a role in the prevention of heart disease and cancer, and sweet potatoes supply plenty of the antioxidants, vitamin E and beta-carotene. These substances are effective in neutralizing free radicals, which are responsible for damage to cell walls and cell structures.

(Catharanthus roseus) was once native only to the tropical forests of Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, found off the east coast of Africa, but is now ubiquitous as a beautiful ornamental plant commonly known as Vinca. Rosy periwinkle is a source of vincristine for use against childhood leukemia and vinblastine for use against Hodgkin's disease.  It's also used against bladder and testicular cancer.

Feverfew/Mutterkraut (Tanacetum parthenium) is a member of the Chrysanthemum family, sometimes called bachelor's buttons.  Now scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that an extract of feverfew is effective against a type of human leukemia. Researchers report that feverfew extracts kill malignant stem cells like no other single therapy they have tested. The active ingredient is derived from parthenolide, one of a class of sesquiterpene lactones found in the plant.  Researchers report that animal studies suggest that a more soluble synthetic version is safer and human trials might begin in a year.  

Garlic (Allium sativum): A host of studies provide evidence that garlic and its organic allyl sulfur components are effective inhibitors of the cancer process. The evidence is particularly strong for a link between garlic and prevention of prostate and stomach cancers.

Purple Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) occurs in eastern British Columbia through Alberta and Saskatchewan to Ontario, south through the Missouri River Valley to Louisiana and Texas, and in the Rockies to New Mexico and Arizona. It is quite common on moist to wet prairies, meadows and along creekbanks. It can reach 6 feet tall; with purple-tinged stems branching towards the top into large clumps of soft, almost feathery flowers. The flower heads can be a foot or more long and have no true petals. Male flowers are more fluffy and delicate with long, very obvious stamens. Male and female flowers are generally on separate plants, but occasionally appear on a single plant. Flowers are white with a green tint.

This species is currently being researched because of the presence of the chemical thalicarpine. It has been used successfully with rats in controlling cancer; the research continues with humans. The seeds are the best source of thalicarpine. Research is ongoing in Heidelburg, Germany, on its effects on ovarian cancer cells. Other research shows that thaliblastine, an efflux-blocking drug, might have great potential for pre-clinical development for overcoming multidrug resistance in human malignancies, including leukemia.

Heliotrope (Heliotropium indicum): Indicine N-oxide derived from Heliotropium indicum, a  widely used indigenous drug in Ayurvedic medicine, has been found to have an antitumor activity and a chemical constituent, indicine N-oxide, has been used in clinical trials as a chemotherapeutic agent for leukemia and solid tumors.

Western Yew(Taxus brevifolia): Source of anti-cancer compound for Taxol, which is used against ovarian cancer, breast cancer and other cancers.

The Phyllanthusgenus contains over 600 species of shrubs, trees, and annual or biennial herbs distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions in central and southern India, China, the Philippines, Cuba, Nigeria, and Guam. Long used in folk medicine to cure a multitude of urinary problems, all parts of the plant are used medicinally.Since its identification, the hepatitis B virus (HBV) has been found to be associated with cirrhosis, chronic liver disease and primary liver cancer as well as acute serum hepatitis. More than 200 million people worldwide are estimated to be carriers. A series of studies has shown that persistent HBV infection is associated with a greatly elevated risk of developing liver cancer. The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Research Group in Copenhagen has stated that treatment with Phyllanthus herb had a positive effect on clearance of serum HBsAg" comparable to interferon and was better than nonspecific treatment or other herbal medicines for HBV and liver enzyme normalization.

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis): The castor bean plant is a source of ricin.  Ricin, linked to carrier molecules such as monoclonal antibodies, is now being widely tested in several therapeutic fields. Its property as a protein synthesis inhibitor is the theory behind its trials in cancer therapy.  Ricin is used against metastatic melanoma, metastatic colon cancer, and other cancers.

Bouvardin (Bouvardia ternifolia): Bouvardin is the anti-tumor active agent from Bouvardia ternifolia (Rubiaceae) of the Chihuahua Desert region of Mexico. Bouvardin was dropped from clinical trials in the 1980's.

Happy Tree or Tree of Joy (Camptotheca acuminata):  A handsome tree from China that is easily grown from seed and can be kept pruned to desired size indoors with ample warmth and bright light. Chemically active parts include new leaves and seeds, as well as wood, bark, stems, and roots. The cancer medications topotecan (for ovarian and lung cancers); irinotecan (against metastatic colorectal cancer); and 9-aminocamptotecin (undergoing clinical trials) are semisynthetic derivatives of camptothecin, which appears to stunt tumor growth.  

Poison Dart Frog (Epipedobates species) is a source of potential non-addictive pain killer. The tiny poison-arrow frog is a native of Ecuador.  It secretes epibatidine, a chlorine containing substance with a chemical structure unique to science. Epibatidine is reported to be 500 times more potent than morphine, which is leading the pharmaceutical industry to explore synthetic analogues as novel analgesics.

Dyer's Woad (Isatis tinctoria): An ingredient, indirubin, is reported to have anti-neoplastic activity and is widely used in China in the treatment of leukemia.A chemical compound isolated from Indigo, indirubin, is being used in China for treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia, and various synthetic derivatives are in preclinical studies in Europe and the US.