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We've been noting of late natural approaches to illness, including cancer. Indeed, there are at least three hundred well-known alleged alternative "treatments" for the latter, which is of epidemic proportions -- so very greatly feared, and yet also, on many occasions, handled successfully, through both mainstream and alternative means (not to mention spiritual ones, which often are the most important).

We have no idea how credible many of the claims are. There is such a thing as "snake oil." There is also over-exuberance. When something works in one case, it is sometimes touted as the cure for all. As always, we strongly advise conventional medical consultation for serious ailments.

But what about upping the odds? What about thinking "outside the box"? Are there natural means that at least add to a cancer patient's prospects, that can complement and soften regular medical procedures -- the current regimen of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy (which can have such harsh repercussions)?

One major one -- involving the well-known aloe plant -- was devised by none other than a missionary priest, Father Romano Zago, a Franciscan friar and scholar. That's our focus in this installment (in a series looking at what God has provided in the way of healing).

The remedy in question involved aloe arborescens, a cousin of aloe vera.

In 1988 -- while residing in a poverty-stricken little town in Brazil called Rio Grande dol Sul -- Father Zago apparently learned from local natives of a "potent all-natural recipe derived from the aloe aborescens plant which they used to promote supreme immune health," says a book called Cancer -- Step Outside the Box. Father Zago began recommending it to friends and it seems that he logged remarkable results, as he did also when subsequently assigned to Jerusalem and Italy.

Those allegedly remarkable outcomes (with cancer patients) led the Franciscan to devoting his life researching the Brazilian aloe recipe in the hopes of using it, as he put it, "for the benefit of mankind worldwide." The recipe involved pure honey, nearly a pound of aloe aborescens (three or four) leaves, and a tiny amount of pure alcohol. Doses were measured in tablespoons (one tablespoon is a single dose). It was said that the product had to be stored in a cool dark place and lost its potency if it came into direct sunlight. It was all detailed in a book by Father Zago -- Cancer Can Be Cured! -- that said it all, as far as the priest was concerned. (He published two books on the subject.)

What to make of so many positive testimonies about natural means for handling the dreaded affliction?

We certainly can't vouch for the efficacy of every claim. At the same time, we are concerned about the way government and medical practitioners have ignored certain evidence, and don't doubt God has placed remedies out there in His Creation. Standard medical counsel, to repeat, is always advised. 

But maybe it is time to "think outside the box" (since cancer is so rampant, and mainstream procedures so difficult). According to the author of the book, aloe can even be combined with chemotherapy "and may considerably reduce the side effects. This treatment has also been shown to alleviate radiation burns." Father Zago cited scientific articles which he said demonstrated aloe's therapeutic and anti-tumor potential.

When most think of aloe, and health benefits (such as those just mentioned), we think of aloe vera, which has many of the same effects, is widely available on-line, in health stores, and even sold now in the produce departments of some supermarkets. The assertion is that its cousin arborescens contains even more in the way of reputedly medicinal substances and anti-cancer properties. (Father Zago also wrote a book called, Aloe Isn't Medicine, and Yet... It Cures; aloe aborescens is available at places such as this.)

Again, we have no idea of the efficacy. One must always scrutinize spectacular claims. A cure for cancer? Some of those in the scientific community who question or even oppose the ingestion of aloe (as opposed to its use on the skin) even argue that it may promote tumors, based on a study by the National Toxicology Program during which rats fed whole-leave extract of aloe vera juice developed what they said was "clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats, based on tumors of the large intestine."

Proponents counter that aloe is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that stimulates red and white blood cells, is greatly effective against allergies, and has been successfully used to alleviate disorders from skin disease and fever to heart problems, arthritis, and rheumatism. Aloe has long been known to fight infections and alleviate insect bites and damage from sunburn. Can it even positively affect the outcome of cancer -- or at least protect the body during standard treatment like radiation?

So it is asserted (for our prayerful consideration).

Known, thousands of years ago, by Egyptians, as the "plant of immortality," and the "wand of Heaven" by American Indians, aloe vera produces at least six natural antiseptics which are able to fight mold, bacteria, funguses, and viruses. It is powerful enough that researchers even looked into its potential as a treatment for AIDS.

Aloe juice, which is basically produced from the outer leaf of the spiky plant, was used as a main component in over-the-counter laxatives until 2002, when the FDA pulled them from drugstore shelves due to insufficient information regarding their safety. Thus, as always, we have to be cautious. Some argue that for decades now, government, the medical complex, and huge pharmaceutical companies have batted down alternative claims of cancer remedies because anything natural cannot be commercially patented. The government researchers, it is alleged (in that rat study), used aloe in a way that was processed differently from the remedies. And notes a magazine: "In a 2004 study from the U.K., researchers gave people with active ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, aloe vera gel to drink (remember that in the animal study, they used aloe vera juice, not gel). After four weeks of drinking aloe vera gel in water twice per day, there was a clinical response towards improvement and remission of ulcerative colitis, compared to those given plain water. No significant negative side effects were experienced due to drinking the aloe vera gel."

We report. You discern.

Again, one must be cautious.

But at the same time it does seem curious how every single alternative claim is so routinely (and often so truculently) dismissed by pharmaceutical companies, the A.M.A., and the federal government.

More on that soon.

[next: flaxseed oil]

[Michael Brown's books]

[resources: A Life of Blessings]

[See also: Retreats: signs of the times: Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and Announcing a retreat in Louisiana]

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[Feedback from the mail: "I read your article on Essiac Tea. The other year, in my attempts to overcome Adhesive Capsulitis, and regain the range of motion in my shoulders, I tried it. I ordered mine from Starwest Botanicals near Sacramento. The Essiac tea was very, very bitter. It did not help the range of motion. On the other hand, dozens of other things that I tried also did not help the ROM. However, outside of my shoulder affliction, myself, and my body felt
really good. I doubt that the Essiac Tea from Starwest had any occult overtones. My thoughts, if there was any kind of overtones, it would be because
someone had it blessed, either a witch, or a priest. Please keep up the articles on health. If there is a spiritual overtone, is it big business with its
greed, and a whole legal system to give it an unfair advantage? See also: Ten cancer cures that worked."]

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