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Carctol

Carctol is an Ayurvedic medicine made from a mixture of 8 herbs.

The herbs that make up Carctol are:

  • hemidesmus indicus
  • tribulus terrestris
  • piper cubeba
  • ammani vesicatoria
  • lepidium sativum
  • blepharis edulis
  • smilax china
  • rheum emodi

An ayurvedic doctor called Dr Nandlal Tiwari started promoting carctol in 1968 alongside dietary changes. He claimed that it could help treat and prevent many types of illness, including cancer.

Carctol is classed as an unlicensed medicine in the UK because 5 of the 8 herbal ingredients are classified as medicines.

There is no scientific evidence to prove that it is safe to use or works to treat any type of illness. Some doctors in the UK use and prescribe carctol for people with cancer but we don’t support its use.

We recommend that you talk to your GP or cancer specialist first if you are thinking of taking carctol.

How carctol works

Dr Tiwari claims that carctol works by helping to get rid of acids in your body. He says that having carctol and making certain dietary changes create an alkaline environment in which acidic cancer cells can’t live. 

The individual herbs in carctol don't have any anti cancer properties of their own. But supporters say it is the mixture of herbs that has an effect. 

People and companies that promote carctol on the internet say that it can treat all types of cancer and reduce chemotherapy side effects. They say that it isn’t intended as an alternative to conventional medicines such as cancer drugs or radiotherapy. They recommend it as a complementary therapy that you have alongside your usual cancer treatment.

Possible harmful effects of carctol

Carctol appears to be a safe herbal mixture and there have not been any reports of it causing harm. But this is very difficult to know for sure because there have been no scientific studies to find out exactly how safe this combination of herbs is.

One of the ingredients (rheum emodi) might interact with some heart medicines. It has also been shown to cause:

  • stomach cramps and diarrhoea
  • allergic reactions
  • heart beat changes
  • low levels of blood potassium

Other ingredients might cause:

  • stomach irritation
  • short term kidney changes
  • changes in mind function

Carctol might also change how some heart, diabetes or hormone drugs work.

People having carctol are advised to drink 3 to 5 litres of water each day and follow a vegetarian diet. This might lead to fluid overload and poor nutrition.

We recommend that you speak to your cancer doctor if you are thinking of taking carctol.

Research into carctol in cancer care

The websites selling carctol say that out of every 100 people who have it, 30 to 40 (30-40%) people will have a positive response. But there is no research evidence to back this up.

The websites have testimonials from people who have taken carctol and from doctors who use it. There are reports of 1,900 people with advanced cancer who were treated by Dr Tiwari. But these studies are not clinical trials. 

This means we don’t know what would have happened if these people hadn't taken carctol. We also don't know what other types of treatment the people had for their cancer. So we cannot know for sure that carctol works.

In 2009, a UK researcher searched medical databases and websites for information about carctol. They found no reports of any scientific studies.

What taking carctol involves

Carctol comes in capsules that you swallow, usually several times a day. Carctol is based on ayurvedic medicine, so it involves doing more than swallowing the capsules.

Carctol promoters advise that you do the following:

  • Eat a vegetarian diet but avoid sour vegetables and fruits, including those that turn sour when cooked such as tomatoes, tangerines, plums, lemons, grapes, pomegranate and mango
  • Avoid vinegar and sour foods
  • Eat rice, any herbs and spices, flours, beans, pulses, nuts and egg free pasta
  • Drink up to 5 litres of cooled boiled water each day
  • Avoid yoghurt (other dairy products are allowed)
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid frying food where possible – shallow fry or stir fry if necessary
  • Avoid foods or drinks containing citric acid or aspartame
  • Avoid palm oil, coconut oil, vegetable fat and any kind of oil or fat made with animal products
  • Avoid constipation - take laxatives if needed
  • Take digestive enzymes

There is no scientific evidence to back any of this up. There is also no evidence that changing acid or alkaline levels in the body affects the growth of cancer cells.

There is no scientifically proven safe and effective dose for carctol. Most websites promoting it say that your doctor will advise you on how much to take. It's usually about 4 to 8 capsules a day. But this dose may vary.

The cost

A month's supply of carctol costs between £50 to £110 (plus VAT and postage) depending on the dose you take. There are small discounts for bulk buying. The manufacturers recommend that you buy at least 2 months' supply to begin with.

In Europe, carctol is only available through specific UK doctors. They prescribe the medicine as an ayurvedic cancer treatment. This makes it seem as though carctol has been used as part of traditional ayurvedic medicine but this is not the case.

You can find a list of doctors on the official Carctol website. They give you a prescription for carctol after asking you to sign a consent form stating that you understand that the medicine is a herbal dietary supplement.

Last reviewed: 
30 Jan 2015
  • Carctol: Profit before patients?
    E Ernst
    Breast Care, 2009, Volume 4, Issue 9

  • CAM-CANCER website
    Complementary and Alternative Medicine for cancer website - accessed March 2015

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in.

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