Indian herbs can help mouth cancer patients: study

Indian herbal remedies such as fenugreek and curry leaves can kill off 'superbugs' found in the mouths of oral cancer patients, a new study claims.

Extracts from eight tested plants destroyed antibiotic-resistant bacteria in patients' mouths, according to the study by Indian researchers in Rohtak, Haryana.

"Several plants were antibiotics able to combat bacteria, including E-coli," Jaya Parkash Yadav of the University of Rohtak said.

Of the 40 patients involved in the study, 35 had compromised immune systems with severely reduced neutrophil counts. Eight of the plants tested were able to significantly affect the growth of organisms collected by oral swab, as well as pure cultures of bacteria and fungi grown in the lab.

The 'successful' plants included wild asparagus, desert date, false daisy, curry tree, castor oil plant, and fenugreek.

"Natural medicines are increasingly important in treating disease and traditional knowledge provides a starting point in the search for plant-based medicines. Importantly, we found that the extraction process had a huge effect on both the specificity and efficacy of the plant extracts against microbes," said Dr Yadav.

"Nevertheless several of the plants tested were broad spectrum antibiotics able to combat bacteria, including E-coli, S-aureus and the fungi Candida and Aspergillus. Both desert date and castor oil plant were especially able to target bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are known to be difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics," Yadav added.
 
"Although the plants tested had a lower potency than conventional antibiotics they offer hope against resistant species. These results are a starting point for further testing in the lab and clinic," added Yadav.

The study has been published by BioMed Central's journal Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials.