We often think of daffodils as a sign of spring. But new research indicates that they could also be a sign of other good things to come — like a natural cancer treatment.
If this line of investigation pans out the way the researchers are hoping, the alkaloid the researchers are testing from the daffodil will take its place in a long line of other plant alkaloids used to treat disease and ease pain. The others include morphine, quinine (used to treat malaria), and ephedrine (used to treat asthma).
The plant alkaloid the researchers have extracted from daffodils is called haemanthamine. It fights cancer by binding to ribosomes within cells. Our cells rely on ribosomes to generate proteins, and cancer cells in particular constantly need to churn out proteins in order to keep growing and spreading at such rapid rates. With their ribosomes out of commission, cancer cells can't keep taking over the body.
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The researchers have found that not only does haemanthamine bind to ribosomes to prevent them from functioning, it also keeps the nucleolus of the cell from producing more ribosomes. Plus, the stress this creates in the nucleolus actually triggers the immune system to activate an anti-tumor surveillance pathway that can help take out the cancer cells. The researchers hope to conduct more studies to determine the chemical makeup of haemanthamine in hopes of harnessing its power in future cancer treatments.
Daffodils have been used in folk medicine for centuries. This research helps explain why they were effective — even when the doctors and patients weren't familiar with cancer or the quest to cure it. Unfortunately, daffodil supplements are hard to find. But I'm hoping this news will change that.