Carctol | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

What carctol is

Carctol is a mixture of 8 Indian herbs, including Hemidesmus indicus, Tribulus terrestris, Piper cubeba, Ammani vesicatoria, Lepidium sativum, Blepharis edulis, Smilax china and Rheum emodi. Available scientific evidence does not support its use for the treatment of cancer in humans. 

Carctol comes as capsules that you swallow, usually several times a day. Dr Nandlal Tiwari, an ayurvedic medicine doctor first started promoting carctol in 1968 alongside dietary changes. He claimed that it could help treat and prevent many types of illness, including cancer.

Although some doctors in the UK use and prescribe carctol for people with cancer, we don’t support its use. Carctol is classed as an unlicensed medicine in the UK because 5 of the 8 herbal ingredients are classified as medicines. But there isn’t any scientific evidence to prove that it is safe or works as a treatment for any type of illness. We recommend that you talk to your doctor first if you are thinking of taking carctol.

Dr Tiwari claims that carctol works by helping to get rid of acids in your body. He says that carctol and certain dietary changes create an alkaline environment in which acidic cancer cells can’t live. Although particular foods can affect the acid and alkaline balance in the body, there is no scientific evidence to show that changing this balance will stop or reduce the growth of cancer.

The individual herbs in carctol don't appear to have any anti cancer properties of their own. Carctol supporters say it is the mixture of herbs that causes an anti cancer effect. Promoters of carctol advertise it on the internet as a way to

  • Treat all types of cancer
  • Reduce chemotherapy side effects

The websites that promote carctol say that it isn’t intended as an alternative to conventional medicines such as cancer drugs or radiotherapy. They recommend that you take it alongside your other cancer treatment.


Possible harmful effects of carctol

Carctol appears to be a safe herbal mixture and there are no reports of harm from taking it. But this is very difficult to know for sure. There have been no proper scientific studies or clinical trials to find out exactly how safe this combination of herbs is. 

One of the ingredients (Rheum emodi) has been shown to cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea and may interact with some heart medicines. It may also cause an allergic reaction, heart beat changes, and low levels of blood potassium. Other ingredients may cause stomach irritation, short term kidney changes or changes in mind function.

Carctol may also change the way that other medicines work. These include some heart drugs, anti acid drugs, some hormone medicines and some diabetes drugs.  

People taking carctol are advised to drink 3 to 5 litres of water each day and follow a vegetarian diet. This could possibly 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

Websites selling carctol say that it has been scientifically tested but this is not true. 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. The problem with testimonials and stories like this is that 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.

There have been no clinical trials to test whether carctol can prevent, treat or cure cancer. The only way to properly test a new drug or remedy is a randomised trial. These trials compare the results of two groups of people. One group has the experimental treatment, and the other group does not. Then we can see whether the treatment can really make a difference.

The websites selling carctol say that between 30 and 40 out of every 100 people (30 to 40%) will respond to it, although there is no research evidence to back this up. In 2009, UK researchers searched medical databases and websites for information about carctol. They found no reports at all of scientific studies. So the claim that carctol is of benefit to cancer patients is not supported by scientific evidence.


What taking carctol involves

Carctol is based on ayurvedic medicine. It involves more than just taking carctol capsules. Websites that promote carctol advise that you

  • Eat a vegetarian diet but avoid sour vegetables and fruits, or those that turn sour when cooked, including tomatoes, tangerines, plums, lemons, grapes, pomegranate, curd and mango
  • Avoid vinegar and other sour foods
  • Eat rice, any herbs and spices, any kind of flours, bean and pulses, nuts and egg free pasta
  • Drink up to 5 litres of boiled water each day
  • Don’t eat 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 (other dairy products are allowed)
  • Take digestive enzymes
  • Avoid constipation – take laxatives if needed

Carctol’s promoters claim that drinking large amounts of water will help cure your cancer. They think that sour foods increase the acidity in your body, which can stop carctol working. There is no scientific evidence to back 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 is usually about 4 to 8 capsules a day. But this dose may vary.


Buying carctol

A month's supply of carctol costs from £50 to £110 (plus VAT and postage), depending on the dose you take. There are small discounts for bulk buying. The manufacturer recommends 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.


Where to find more information

Our section about complementary and alternative therapies is a good place to start for general information about complementary and alternative therapies in cancer care. 

Some of the general complementary therapy organisations can give you more information about using carctol.

You can read our information about ayurvedic medicine.

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 3 out of 5 based on 8 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 30 January 2015