Top ten natural compounds against cancer stem cells

Top ten natural compounds against cancer stem cells

Here are ten natural bioactive compounds, including sulforaphane, genistein, turmeric, lycopene, ursolic acid, resveratrol, 6-gingerol, Honokiol, piperine, parthenolide and EGCG, that have been shown to attack supposedly indestructible Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs), according to research.

On this CANCERactive Website we have covered a great many research studies on which natural compounds have been shown to attack  and help fight cancer stem cells. These are the core cells at the heart of a cancer. And, be clear: No known chemotherapy drugs kill them off. This is why your cancer drugs may knock the tumour back 50, 60 or 70% but in the end that tumour may regrow.

What is a cancer stem cell? They are unlike ‘normal’ cancer cells because the can promote cancer tumour re-growth, promote metastases, promote inflammation, cancer progression and cancer cell invasion. These cells are totally self-sufficient and do not use the same signalling pathways that normal cancer cells do. Think of them rather like the queen bee in the hive.

But a number of very potent natural bioactive compounds can have a damaging effect on these ‘royal cells’.

The top ten natural compounds that attack cancer stem cells

 - each with their main sources:

  1. Ursolic Acid (Holy Basil, pistachio nuts, apple peel)
  2. Lycopene (tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit)
  3. Curcumin (turmeric)
  4. Resveratrol (red grape skins)
  5. EGCG (green tea)
  6. Genistein (soya beans, fava beans, tofu, red clover)
  7. 6-gingerol (ginger)
  8. Piperine (black pepper)
  9. Sulforaphanes (cruciferous vegetables, sprouting seeds)
  10. Parthenolide (feverfew)

Recent research on Traditional Chinese Medicine Honokiol, with Colorectal cancer (3), would add it to the list.

And a bonus is Vitamin D, from sunshine, which has been shown to correct the structure of cancer and cancer stem cells!

In fact a 2020 meta-analysis of natural compounds showed that there was the big 5 - sulforaphane, turmeric, genistein, resveratrol and EGCG (1). 

Anthocyanins are a group of foods (think purple – aubergines, cherries, red onions, red cabbage, berries) also known to attack cancer stem cells.

The biggest issue is to consume adequate levels. As Dr. Young S. Kim, Head of Nutrition and Cancer at the National Cancer Institute says, “you may well have to use quality supplements”.

And, let’s be quite clear to those 'denialists' that diet, food and supplements have no research to support them in the fight against cancer. Dr. Young S. Kim commissions all the Nutrition research at The National Cancer Institute – the largest Government cancer agency in the world. Her list of food ingredients that fight the regrowth of cancer and increase cancer survival includes sulforaphane, curcumin, piperine, EGCG, genistein, B vitamins like inositol, vitamin E, vitamin A, and others from the list above.

Go to: Bioactive foods can stop the regrowth of cancer tumours

What sort of levels have an effect in research?

  1. Ursolic Acid: It is hard to get enough from eating the foods alone – 500 mg to 1000 mg per day seems the required norm.
  2. Lycopene: While 25 mg according to research can cut blood fat levels by 10%, cancer stem attack levels need to be 60-100 mg per day.
  3. Turmeric/curcumin: Research from MD Anderson suggests that 3.2 gm of turmeric is a powerful level. This is not just about volume though. You must take with black pepper and oil/fat. Without these additions, only 7% is absorbed; with, it is nearer 90%.
  4. Resveratrol: Research is very confusing on this. Healthy individuals might take 40 mg a day; the latest research on cancer stem cells, and in longevity studies is talking of High Dose levels around 1000 mg. To put this in context, a big glass of red wine might only contain 1 mg.
  5. EGCG: Here you can drink green tea. One study from the Mayo Clinic was suggesting 5-7 cups per day could stop the growth of leukemia in humans! Supplement levels should be around 750 – 1500 mg. Beware reducing folate levels as a result.
  6. Vitamin D3: Boston Medical School under Professor Michael Holick have told the world repeatedly that all stimulate the correct levels of GcMAF production to deal with cancer in the body. While cancer patients should take at least 5,000 IUs a day (which is 4 hours in the sun) to arm the immune system's T-cells, research shows that 20,000 IUs is necessary each day to stop cancer stem cells regrowing. The issue is really the target level in your blood stream. Ideally it should be at least 100-150 nmol/L.
  7. 6-Gingerol: There are several active ingredients in ginger root, but 6-gingerol acts like a drug in its cancer attacking properties. You should aim to consume 5-10 gm per day of the fresh root in your healthy juice.
  8. Piperine: A powerful ingredient of black pepper known to enhance the action of a number of other compounds such as lycopene and vitamin C, not just turmeric. Just make black pepper a regular part of your diet.
  9. Sulforaphane: Sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and sprouting seeds. 1000mg is the anti-cancer supplement level
  10. Genistein: First shown to inhibit breast cancer stem cells in 2013; don't supplement; eat! Daily supplement: 135 mg soya isoflavone.
  11. Anthocyanins: Think red berries and ratatouille – there’s no need to supplement if you are eating a Rainbow Diet.

So, it seems, whatever the failings of drugs, there are research studies and authoritative voices telling us that natural foods contain bioactive compounds that can help destroy cancer stem cells.

N.B. There are some off-label drugs that can be useful against cancer stem cells depending upon the type of cancer - included in this list would be Accutane (retinoic acid), Niclosamide, Ivermectin, and Doxycycline.

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1. The 'Big Five' phytochemicals targeting cancer system cells; Cord Naukojat, Dwight L. McKee; Curr Med Chem; 2020 Feb 27.

2. Genistein inhibits breast cancer stem cells through the Hedgehog pathway; Stem Cell Research and Therapy, 11 Dec 2013, Panhong Fan et al.

3. Honokiol Affects Stem Cell Viability by Suppressing Oncogenic YAP1 Function to Inhibit Colon Tumorigenesis; Cells. 2021 Jun 26;10(7):


  Approved by the Medical Board. Click Here 


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