Cisplatin is a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer of the testicles, bladder, lung, stomach, esophagus, and ovaries, as well as other forms of cancer. Cisplatin can cause numerous side effects, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Peripheral neuropathy (numbness or tingling of the extremities)
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal taste sensations
  • Hair loss

Some of the treatments mentioned below have been advocated for preventing or treating cisplatin side effects. For information on the use of natural treatments as a support to cancer chemotherapy in general, see the Cancer Treatment article.

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Black Cohosh  

Possible Harmful Interaction

The herb black cohosh is often used for menopausal symptoms. Because women receiving cancer chemotherapy may experience menopausal symptoms, black cohosh may appear a promising option. However, one test-tube study found that use of black cohosh may decrease the effectiveness of cisplatin. 1

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Magnesium and Potassium  

Possibly Helpful Interaction

There is some evidence that use of cisplatin may cause the body to develop potentially dangerous deficiencies of potassium and magnesium. 2-5 Taking supplements of these nutrients may be advisable.

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Melatonin  

Possible Helpful Interaction

Weak preliminary evidence hints that use of melatonin may reduce side effects and increase efficacy of chemotherapy regimens that include cisplatin. 6

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Antioxidants  

Possible Helpful Interaction

It has been suggested that many of the undesired effects of cisplatin are due to creation of free radicals, dangerous, naturally occurring substances that can damage many cells. For this reason, treatment with antioxidants has been proposed for preventing toxic side effects. However, as yet there is no more than minimal evidence for benefit.

One animal study tested a combination of substances with strong antioxidant properties ( vitamin E , Crocus sativus , and Nigella sativa ) and found evidence that this mixture reduced the kidney toxicity of cisplatin.

A small human trial found evidence that use of vitamin E might help prevent nerve injury (peripheral neuropathy) caused by cisplatin, but because this was an open study , its results are not very reliable. 7

Another open study found possible benefits with selenium . 8

Unfortunately, in open studies, the placebo effect and other confounding factors can play a significant role. (For more information on why this is the case, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)

In a better-designed, double-blind , placebo-controlled study of 48 people undergoing cancer treatment with cisplatin, participants were given either placebo or a combination of vitamin E , vitamin C , and selenium in hopes of reducing toxicity to the ears and kidneys. 9 No significant benefits were seen.

Note that there are concerns that use of antioxidants could potential decrease the effectiveness of some forms of chemotherapy. For this reason, we strongly suggest that people on cancer chemotherapy do not use antioxidants, or any herbs or supplements, except in consultation with their physician.

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Milk Thistle  

Possible Helpful Interaction

Animal and test-tube studies hint that the herb milk thistle might decrease the kidney toxicity of cisplatin 10 and also possibly increase cisplatin efficacy. 11

However, no studies in humans have been reported.

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Acetyl-L-Carnitine  

Possible Helpful Interaction

One study found evidence that the supplement acetyl-L-carnitine might reduce symptoms of peripheral neuropathy caused by cisplatin. 13

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Ginger  

No Benefit

The herb ginger is widely used for treatment of nausea . However, one study failed to find ginger helpful for nausea caused by cisplatin. 12