Researchers at McGill University in Canada have come up with an interesting, and seemingly significant, discovery in the field of nutrition: The common herb echinacea appears to have cancer-ameliorating properties.

First let's have a look at the biology involved: Natural killer (NK) cells are those cells of the immune system that are "cytolytic" (cell-destroying) to many tumor cells and as well as cells invaded by viruses. In the McGill study, echinacea proved to cause a significant elevation of NK cells. "Such boosting of this fundamental immune cell population suggests a prophylactic role," the researchers reported.

"Leukemic" mice are a clever and useful innovation to the study of cancer. They are mice bred to contract leukemia and are extremely helpful in studying the effectiveness of various treatments. In this study, a group of leukemic mice was treated with echinacea and compared with a control group of leukemic mice not treated with echinacea. The difference was dramatic.

In just nine days, the number of NK cells in the echinacea-treated group increased to 2.5 times the original level. Three months after the onset of leukemia, the echinacea-treated mice still had two to three times the normal number of NK cells. Moreover, at three months post-tumor onset, all the major blood cells and immune cells in their bone marrow were recorded to be at normal levels. After three months the mice in the control group weren't so lucky: They were all dead.

Mice are mice, after all, and echinacea has yet to be tested on humans with cancer. But if I were you, I would take two echinacea capsules twice daily. You can buy echinacea supplements almost everywhere these days-from health food stores to supermarkets to good old Wal-Mart.


I have always maintained that my patients who walked long and often, preferably daily, lived long and healthy lives. Then jogging became the craze for all ages, with the Baby Boomers leading the way-rushing (or plodding) around the suburbs of America. By the beginning of the '90s, it seemed to me that most of the people I saw were either jogging or slugging down water out of a plastic bottle-or both. (I never would have predicted it-why didn't I invest in water?)

The jogging craze will be intensified by a study reported by Danish doctors in the British Medical Journal. "Although light exercise has some value, moderate and vigorous exercise is now considered more favorable for health," they reported from Copenhagen.

Well, I'm not convinced. You're not as young as you used to be. I'm sticking to brisk walks.