Three medicinal herbs native to Saudi Arabia discovered to hold powerful anti-cancer properties
09/05/2017 // Rhonda Johansson // Views

Three medicinal plants used in Saudi Arabian traditional medicine have been found to have powerful anti-cancer properties. Researchers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have said that their new research may lead to better and cheaper treatment plans for cancer.

The team was curious to see how effective herbal medicines were in treating the disease. They noted that while traditional medicine made use of several herbs, none of them have ever been scientifically studied. As noted by Ph.D student and co-author of the study, Timothy Ravasi, “Saudi people tend to use information inherited from their families to decide about these plants without validated knowledge of their biological or chemical activity.”

After looking at the healing properties of 52 plants, three herbs were found to be of interest. These were Juniperus phoenicia (arar or Phoenician juniper), Anastatica hierochuntica (Kaff Maryam or Jericho rose), and Citrullus colocynthis (Hanzal or bitter cucumber).

Researchers used an imaging-based high-content screening process to assess the potential anti-cancer properties of each herb. The team found that these three plants contained powerful substances called topoisomerase inhibitors, which are chemical compounds that block certain enzymes that control changes in the DNA. This could stop the development of cancer.

Nonetheless, the authors say that further research is necessary to fully assess each herb’s ability to prevent, cure, or manage cancer. Dina Hajjar, another author of the study said, “the active compounds identified in the study will need to be evaluated and better characterized.”


An introduction to these herbs

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Regrettably, natural therapies have been mostly shunned by the pharmaceutical industry. The claims of medical doctors are mostly focused on “facts.” They say that since no scientific study has proven the efficacy of any herb, they can’t be used as a treatment for a serious disease. Pretty strange for an industry that touts the benefits of chemotherapy, which has been shown -- time and again -- to not be effective at all.

It is true that medicinal herbs have yet to be validated by “science,” but it would still do well to be properly introduced to some of them. Currently, there are only a few plants that have been acknowledged for their anti-cancer properties, with the three aforementioned herbs joining a very small group.

  1. Phoenician Juniper - This woody plant is mostly abundant in Cyprus, and in warmer and drier areas along the Mediterranean. It is an evergreen and aromatic shrub which can grow up to 10 meters high. The bark can range from gray-brown to white-gray. The leaves are similar to a cypress tree. In America, the herb is usually found as a supplement in tablet form.
  2. Jericho Rose - This is also known as the resurrection plant and is native to Western Asia. True roses of Jericho are small gray plants that curl inward during the dry season, forming a ball. It opens only when moistened and can survive for years in its dry form. There are also false roses of Jericho which can be found in the Chihuahuan Desert in the United States and in various parts of Mexico. Unlike the true Jericho rose, these plants can revive in the presence of moisture even if their roots have been disrupted. As with Phoenician Juniper, the easier way to source Jericho rose is as a tablet supplement.
  3. Bitter Cucumber - This is a popular medicine even in Ayurveda. The plant is native in Africa and in India. Supposedly, it can be used to manage asthma and bronchitis symptoms, as well as prevent tumors, jaundice, constipation, joint pain, and a host of other condition. Mostly it is recommended as an anti-inflammatory compound.

You can read more about healthful herbs, vegetables, and fruits on

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