Nutritional supplements like Harmala have many health benefits and are being widely used by cancer patients and those at-genetic-risk of cancer. But, is it safe to take Harmala supplements for all types of cancer and without considering any ongoing treatments and other lifestyle conditions? A common belief but only a myth is that anything natural can only benefit me or do no harm. As one example, the use of grapefruit with certain medications is not recommended. Another example, the use of spinach with some blood thinning medications can cause adverse interactions and should be avoided. For cancer, nutrition which includes the food and natural supplements has been shown to influence outcomes. Hence a frequently asked question by cancer patients to dieticians and doctors is “What Should I eat and What Should I Avoid?”.
Taking nutritional Harmala supplements can benefit cancer patients with Small Intestine Adenocarcinoma undergoing Temozolomide treatment. But avoid Harmala supplements if on Imatinib treatment for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Similarly, taking nutritional supplement Harmala can benefit healthy individuals who are at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of the gene CDKN1B. But avoid taking nutritional supplement Harmala when at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene TERT.
The takeaway being – your individual context will influence your decision if nutritional supplement Harmala is safe or not. And also that this decision needs to be constantly revisited as conditions change. Conditions like cancer type, current ongoing treatments and supplements, age, gender, weight, height, lifestyle and any genetic mutations identified matter. So a legitimate question for you to ask for any recommendation of food and natural supplement is how it is related to your individual context.
Nutritional supplements – vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics, and other specialty categories are increasing. Supplements are high concentrations of active ingredients which are also found in different foods. The difference being foods contain more than one active ingredient at lower diffused concentrations. Remember that each of these ingredients has its own science and biological mechanism at molecular level – hence choose the right combination of supplements like Harmala based on individual context and conditions.
So the question is should you take the supplement Harmala? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene TERT? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene CDKN1B? Should you take it when diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia? Should you take it when diagnosed with Small Intestine Adenocarcinoma? Should you take it when on Imatinib treatment? Should you continue taking Harmala supplement if you change your treatment from Imatinib to Temozolomide? So a general explanation like – it is natural or it increases immunity may not be acceptable and sufficient for choosing Harmala.
Cancer remains an unsolved problem statement. The improved availability of personalized treatments and monitoring of cancer via blood and saliva have been significant factors to improve outcomes. The earlier the intervention – the better the influence on outcome. Genetic testing has the potential to assess cancer risk and susceptibility early. But besides regular monitoring in most cases there are no therapeutic intervention options available. After diagnosis with cancer such as Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or Small Intestine Adenocarcinoma, the treatments get personalized to tumor genomics and factors like staging of disease, age and gender. During cancer remission (after treatment cycle is complete) – monitoring is used for assessment of any relapse and accordingly decide next steps. A large majority of cancer patients and those at-risk do take nutritional supplements like Harmala.
So the question is that are all genetic mutation risks and types of cancers to be considered as one when deciding the use of Harmala? Are the biochemical pathway implications of genetic risk for cancer due to mutation of gene TERT the same as due to mutation of gene CDKN1B? Are the implications of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia same as Small Intestine Adenocarcinoma? Is it one and the same if you are on treatment Imatinib or on Temozolomide?
Harmala – A Nutritional Supplement
Peganum harmala, also known as Wild Syrian rue, African rue, esfand, or harmel is a flowering plant with medicinal properties, native to Middle East, Africa, and the Mediterranean. The seeds, bark, and root of Pegum harmala have been used as folk medicine for years, owing to their antimicrobial, antidiabetic and immunomodulatory effects.(Milad Moloudizargari et al, Pharmacogn Rev., 2013) Pegum Harmala has been used in traditional medicine for a wide range of health conditions and is purported to have pharmacological effects in cardiovascular, nervous system, endocrine, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. (Mohamad Hesam Shahrajabian et al, Clinical Phytoscience., 2021). Some studies have also reported that the use of Peganum harmala seeds may help in reducing urinary symptoms in patients with Benign prostatic hyperplasia. (Majid Shirani-Boroujeni et al, J Renal Inj Prev., 2016)
However, consuming 3-4 grams of Harmala seeds may cause hallucinations and is considered to be unsafe to use in high doses. Excessive use of harmala may affect the nervous system, heart, liver, and kidneys.
Harmala supplements contain many active ingredients including Harmine at different concentration levels. The molecular pathways which are regulated by Harmala include Oxidative Stress, Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition, Cytokine Signaling, Cell Cycle and MYC Signaling. These cellular pathways directly or indirectly regulate specific cancer molecular endpoints like growth, spread and death. Because of this biological regulation – for cancer nutrition, the right choice of supplements like Harmala individually or in combination is an important decision to be made. When making decisions on the use of supplement Harmala for cancer – do consider all these factors and explanations. Because just as true for cancer treatments – Harmala use cannot be a one-size-fits-all decision for all types of cancers.
Choosing Harmala Supplements for Your Cancer
The reason there is no easy way to answer the question “When should I avoid Harmala for Cancer” is because “It Depends!”. Just like the same treatment does not work for every cancer patient, based on your individual context the Harmala may be harmful or safe. Along with which cancer and associated genetics – the ongoing treatments, supplements, lifestyle habits, BMI and allergies are all factors deciding if Harmala should be avoided or not and why.
1. Will Harmala Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia undergoing Imatinib treatment?
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like BCR-ABL1 and RUNX1 leading to biochemical pathway changes in Oxidative Stress, Growth Factor Signaling, Cancer Epigenetics and RUNX Signaling. A cancer treatment like Imatinib works through a specific pathway mechanism of action. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach which is effective. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a contrary effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be avoided. As an example, Harmala should be avoided for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia along with treatment Imatinib. Harmala impacts pathways/processes like Oxidative Stress which either promote drivers of the disease and/or nullify the treatment effect. Additionally, Harmala supplements contain key active ingredients like
Harmine which has CYP3A4 (drug metabolizing enzyme) interactions with Imatinib treatment and hence should be avoided by patients undergoing this treatment. (Roos L Oostendorp et al, Cancer Chemother Pharmacol., 2007; E Gambillara et al, Dermatology., 2005; Ting Zhao et al, Phytother Res., 2011) Some of the factors which should be considered when choosing nutrition are type of cancer, treatments and supplements being taken currently (if any), age, gender, BMI, lifestyle and any genetic mutation information (if available).
2. Will Harmala Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Small Intestine Adenocarcinoma undergoing Temozolomide Treatment?
Small Intestine Adenocarcinoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like TP53 and KRAS leading to biochemical pathway changes in Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition, Oxidative Stress, P53 Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and MAPK Signaling. A cancer treatment like Temozolomide works through specific pathway mechanisms. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a compatible effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be considered. As an example, Harmala supplements should be considered for Small Intestine Adenocarcinoma along with treatment Temozolomide. Harmala supplement impacts pathways/processes like Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition and Oxidative Stress which either obstruct drivers of the disease and/or improve Temozolomide treatment effect.
Foods to Eat After Cancer Diagnosis!
No two cancers are the same. Go beyond the common nutrition guidelines for everyone and make personalized decisions about food and supplements with confidence.
3. Are Harmala Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with TERT Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
Different companies offer panels of genes to be tested for assessing genetic risk to different cancers. These panels cover genes associated with cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, and gastrointestinal system and others. Genetic testing of these genes may confirm a diagnosis and help guide treatment and management decisions. Identification of a disease-causing variant may also guide testing and diagnosis of at-risk relatives.
TERT is one of the genes generally available in panels for cancer risk testing. TERT mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like Cytokine Signaling, MYC Signaling, Nucleotide metabolism, Stem Cell Signaling and Hypoxia to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Harmala should be avoided when the genetic panel identifies mutation of TERT for Hematological Cancer. Harmala impacts pathways/processes like Cytokine Signaling and MYC Signaling and creates adverse effects with TERT and related conditions.
4. Are Harmala Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with CDKN1B Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
CDKN1B is one of the genes available in panels for cancer risk testing. CDKN1B mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like Cell Cycle, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, Stem Cell Signaling, FOXO Signaling and Cell Cycle Checkpoints to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Consider taking Harmala supplements when the genetic panel identifies mutation in CDKN1B for Neuroendocrine Cancer. Harmala impacts the pathways/processes like Cell Cycle and PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and creates a supportive effect in those with CDKN1B and related conditions.
* Other Factors are also included like BMI, Treatments, Lifestyle Habits
The two most important things to remember are that cancer treatments and nutrition are never the same for everyone. Nutrition, which includes food and nutritional supplements like Harmala, is an effective tool which can be controlled by you, while facing cancer.
What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.
The nutrition planning for cancer from addon is not based on internet searches. It automates the decision making for you based on molecular science implemented by our scientists and software engineers. Irrespective of whether you care to understand the underlying biochemical molecular pathways or not - for nutrition planning for cancer that understanding is needed.
Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.
Personalized Nutrition for Cancer!
Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.