Paradise tree, a native of South and Central America and now grown widely in Karnataka, is fast becoming a tree of solace for many cancer patients in the state. The decoction of leaves is being used as a complement to chemotherapy, with patients vouching that it drastically improves the quality of life and even cure the cancer.
The leaves are sourced from Bangalore, where two retired agricultural scientists, Syamasundar Joshi and Shantha Joshi, are engaged in popularising this tree and the decoction. They do it without taking any money, charging patients only labour cost.
“We just want people to grow this tree. It is like taking health insurance,’’ said 73-year-old Syamsundar Joshi. The scientist duo said that the tree was originally brought to India to tide over the edible oil crisis. They noticed the plant was anti-bacterial, anti-tumorous and was good for gynaecological problems.
It was effective for cancer patients and the scientist couple found that the decoction could also bring down side effects of chemotherapy, minimise appetite loss and ensure fast recovery.
Shyla Ramdas of Vazhuthacaud here, who had heard about this decoction, was at first hesitant to give it to her husband, a stage-four cancer patient, who had malignancy in and around his intestine.
“The doctors were not very hopeful about his case and he kept on losing weight. But once he started taking this decoction, he was much healthier, driving the car and generally managing on his own. He even gained back the weight he had lost,’’ said Shyla.
Scientifically, validations are yet to come but isolated studies have shown that several compounds such as the quassinoids in Simarouba has anti-tumour and anti-leukemic (against blood cancer) action. Glaucarubinone, one such compound, has been found to have activity against drug-resistant mammary tumours in mice and anti-leukemic activity, again in mice. It has also been found to improve mitochondrial metabolism and extend lifespan in the nematode, Caenohabditis elegans.
Most patients that ‘Express’ talked to were willing to let chemotherapy or surgery take credit for their recovery, but in their hearts, believed that it was the Simarouba leaves that made them better. Simarouba glauca is the scientific name of the tree, the local one being ‘Lakshmitaru.’ The leaves are considered to be very effective in curing cancer of first and second stages, whereas in later stages, improvement in quality of life is what is expected. But for Lakshmidevi Pillai of Thrissur, who was suffering with an ovarian cancer that had spread to kidney and intestine, these leaves seemed to have worked.
‘’I had to undergo several rounds of chemotherapy and surgery, but on my last check-up date on October 28, they said everything was fine with me. I continue to drink the decoction,’’ said Shyla, who got her treatment in Gujarat, where her husband worked. Many of the patients, like Pearly Karun of Vazhuthacaud, came to know of these leaves from friends or relatives.
Pearly, whose malignancy had spread from the uterus to the lung, still had a 0.4 cm big tumour even after her chemotherapy.
“I used to feel drained but after starting on this decoction, my fatigue just disappeared. My stamina increased and I have become at least ten times more active now. I am sure that whatever is left of my tumour, will go away,” Pearly sounds confident.