The world of Western conventional medicine is oriented to the ‘magic bullet’ paradigm, where the search for drugs relies on the concept of compounds that bind specifically to a single target and demonstrate a high degree of potency.
Traditional herbal medicine recognized centuries ago that combining many plants delivers far better results than relying on a single plant. This is true both for supporting health and vitality and for treating imbalances and diseases. The multi-component nature inherent in medicinal herbs makes them particularly suitable for managing the multitude of issues that present in complex diseases such as cancer, and offers great potential for synergistic actions, including interactions between botanicals and the relationship of botanicals to conventional cytotoxic drugs such as chemotherapy and targeted agents.
Because botanicals contain a variety of organic chemical complexes, they usually act on multiple targets. A potential advantage of phytochemicals is that they may act through multiple pathways, thus reducing the development of resistance by cancer cells.7 Botanical medicine does not have single effects, nor does it have a high degree of potency, but rather is pleotrophic, having relatively weak (compared to that of drugs) or gentle effects, assisting rather then controlling, and often acting in an amphoteric, symphonic way—able to not only do different things in different situations, but even to have the opposite effect, depending on the circumstances.
Botanical, as well as natural dietary compounds, have drawn a great deal of attention as potential cancer preventive agents because of their wide margin of safety. However, single agent intervention has failed to bring the expected outcome in clinical trials; therefore, combinations of botanicals and natural dietary compounds are gaining increasing popularity.