Did you know…that a weed called wild tomatillos has been shown to halt and even dissolve aggressive cancer tumors?
Recently, researchers from the University of Kansas were honored for discovering the remarkable cancer-fighting properties of the wild tomatillo (Physalis longifolia). This humble member of the nightshade family is a weed you might easily spot in your own yard if you live in the Midwest, where it grows abundantly (as it does in several other areas of North America).
Historians have documented a long history of medicinal use of wild tomatillos by numerous Native American tribes. The Omaha, Ponca, and Winnebago tribes used wild tomatillos to treat headache and stomachache and to dress injuries. The Iroquois used it against sexually transmitted diseases, and the Lakota tribe used it to enhance appetite.
Soon, this powerhouse plant could transform the way conventional doctors treat cancer. That’s because it contains a minimum of 14 potent anti-cancer compounds that have demonstrated the ability to halt and even dissolve aggressive tumors in animals.
The Discovery of Wild Tomatillos
A scientist by the name of Barbara Timmerman pioneered the exciting research of wild tomatillos. Timmerman–a medicinal chemist and co-director of Kansas University’s Native Medicinal Plant Research program–was leading a bio-prospecting project in South America in the 1990s when her professional curiosity led her to a remarkable “accidental” discovery.
Timmerman had originally intended to investigate a medicinal plant native to the region of South America where the bio-prospecting project was located. Ultimately, however, Timmerman had to abandon the research due to the high expense and complex logistics related to travel and other factors.
Instead, Timmerman decided to search for related plant species closer to home. She partnered with another scientist–Kelly Kindscher of the Kansas Biological Survey–and together, the two began scouring the American Midwest.
“Our research led us to Physalis longifolia, which is a fairly common plant throughout the Midwest,” says Timmerman. “And from there, we discovered not only the molecule we were seeking, but also the 14 new compounds, most of which have turned out to be even more potent than the original one we were looking for. Discovery is a beautiful thing when it happens like that.”
Wild Tomatillos Dissolves Aggressive Tumors in Animal Studies
Dr. Mark Cohen is a surgical oncologist and translational clinician scientist at the Kansas University Medical Center. He collaborated with Timmerman and Kindscher in conducting the lab research that pinpointed the 14 anti-cancer compounds contained in wild tomatillos.
Animal trials have already shown that the compounds (known as withanolides) are capable of both fighting and killing cancer cells. In test mice fed wild tomatillos, aggressive tumors shrank quickly and dramatically. Some of the tumors actually dissolved completely. And none of the mice displayed signs of side effects or toxicity from the treatment.
Tomatillo’s cancer-fighting compounds target a wide range of cancers, including…
- Thyroid cancer
- Head and neck squamous cell cancer
- Breast cancer
- Glioblastoma brain tumors
- Esophageal cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Certain leukemias
Award-Winning Research Breakthrough
The anti-cancer discoveries documented by Timmerman are so significant that the she and her team were honored recently at the highly exclusive University Research & Entrepreneurship Symposium in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“We’re excited by the preliminary results,” says Timmerman. “While our research is still in the early stages, we’re optimistic that some of these 14 molecules could lead to new plant-based drugs or dietary supplements.”
Availability and Use of Wild Tomatillos
Because this research is in such early stages, it is still challenging to find commercial products containing extracts of wild tomatillos.
However, that will likely change soon now that Timmerman’s research has been showcased at the prestigious University Research & Entrepreneurship Symposium in Cambridge. The Symposium attracts investors and venture capitalists specifically seeking promising new treatments to support and develop.
As research on wild tomatillos continues, we might expect to find tomatillos extracts available for purchase in the near future.