One is never sure whether cancer or canker is meant in older documents, but evidently cancer is meant in this advice from Alabama: "for cancer of the breast three or more quarts of RED-CLOVER blossom tea a day" (R B Browne). Gypsies used to steep VIOLET leaves in boiling water and use the result as a poultice for cancerous growths. An infusion of the leaves, they said, would help internal cancers (Vesey-Fitzgerald). This is also found in Welsh folklore (Trevelyan), and as a Dorset herbal cure (Dacombe). An Irish remedy was to drink a decoction of the dried flowers of WILD SORREL (Egan), and an ointment used to be made there from the leaves, for cancer (Egan), who also said that the leaves were eaten for stomach cancer.

The bark of SPURGE LAUREL (Daphne laureola) was used in the treatment of cancer (Grigson. 1955), though this was only a cottage remedy, and there seems no record of how it was done, nor whether it was really cancer (and not canker) that was being treated. The use of MISTLETOE for a tumour seems to be quite genuine. The juice is applied on the tumour as a well-known form of treatment (Thomson. 1976). The rhizomes of ZEDOARY (Curcuma zedoaria), a close relative of Turmeric, have been used in Chinese medicine to treat cervical cancer (Chinese medicinal herbs of Hong Kong. 1978), and another remedy, for cancer of the stomach, in Chinese medicine, is the use of MELONS, in some way (F P Smith). COLTSFOOT is well-known as a treatment for chest complaints, from coughs to asthma, and it seems that the smoked leaves have been used in Chinese medicine for treating lung cancer. (Perry & Metzger). The Cherokee Indians of North America used a preparation of BLOODROOT for treating breast cancer. This was taken up in a big way in the 19th century by the cancer quacks in the USA. It has been tested, but there was insufficient evidence to prove the genuine case (Thomson. 1976).

There is an extraordinary report from Norfolk about a man who had facial skin cancer. While waiting for treatment, a gypsy advised him to rub the cancer with the pith of a BANANA. It seems that the cancer was cleared up entirely by this means alone (V G Hatfield. 1994). Another strange case was that of a Cornish blacksmith, Ralph Barnes, in 1790. He was supposed to have cured himself of a cancer by taking immense quantities of HEMLOCK juice (Deane & Shaw) (primitive chemotherapy?). There is another East Anglian report that GREATER CELANDINE has been used to treat liver cancer there (V G Hatfield. 1994), and HERB ROBERT is still used by herbalists to treat skin cancer (Beith). Gypsies claim that GOOSE-GRASS is a very ancient remedy for the condition (Vesey-Fitzgerald). Thornton does record its use for tumours in the breast.

The drug colchicine, obtained from MEADOW SAFFRON, can, it seems, bring acute leukemia under control (Thomson. 1976). But other authorities say it is far too toxic to be of use (e.g., Schauenberg & Paris). Another red herring was EAGLE VINE (Marsdenia condurango), which became well-known in the latter half of the 19th century as a "cure" for cancer. Legend had it that a South American Indian woman administered the bark decoction to her husband, hoping to kill him because he was in such agony from a growth. Instead of killing him, it cured him. Unfortunately, controlled tests have shown that it is not so valuable as expected (Le Strange).

The Sotho in South Africa are reported as using the CANDELABRA TREE for cancer, in some unspecified way (Palgrave). Another Euphorbia, PETTY

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

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