The Venus flytrap is indigenous to the wetlands of the southeastern United States, where it survives on a diet of insects. It is a perennial plant that is pressed after its harvest to remove the liquids inside. Other common names for the Venus flytrap are carnivora and plumbagin. Its scientific name is Dionaea muscipula.
Although no scientific evidence currently supports it, some claim that Venus flytrap extract may have immune stimulant and anticancer properties. Claims have been made that Venus flytrap extract can lead to total remission of skin cancer, as well as other cancer types. Herbalists state that Venus flytrap extract is beneficial when treating colitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, neurodermatitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, and certain types of herpes.
Venus flytrap extract is available in liquid and capsule forms. It can be taken orally or injected into the body. The full strength liquid can be placed directly under the tongue or mixed with water and ingested as a beverage. A second option is to inject the Venus flytrap extract into the skin, muscles, or veins. In addition, the extract can also be inhaled via a vaporizer or rubbed directly onto the skin. Liquid Venus flytrap extract intended for oral use is typically 25 to 30% alcohol.
Most clinical studies done on the Venus flytrap extract are not reliable because they were conducted by the physician who patented its use. Laboratory studies in Japan indicate that plumbagin, the compound extracted from the Venus flytrap, had some positive effects against intestinal tumors. Further studies indicate that it might result in cellular death. Studies in India examined the effects of plumbagin as a cancer treatment combined with radiation therapy had inconclusive results. Animal and laboratory studies show promise, but further research in humans is needed to fully understand the therapeutic effects of plumbagin. Nevertheless, current scientific research has not shown the Venus flytrap to be an effective treatment for any type of cancer.
A lack of available information about the active ingredient of Venus flytrap extract does not conclusively prove if the administration of the liquid is safe. Liquid extracts injected into the skin have resulted in adverse effects which include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and collapse of the circulatory system. Dermal contact with the Venus flytrap has been known to result in allergic reactions. Plumbagin has been known to cause toxic side effects consisting of diarrhea, skin rash, liver damage, and abnormal blood counts.
With the current list of known side effects and its inconclusive effectiveness, it is likely Venus flytrap extracts do not present a viable treatment option for most cancer patients, including those fighting mesothelioma. Therefore, mesothelioma patients should seek the advice of a medical professional regarding other treatment options. Furthermore, the widely-varying dosage suggestions put these patients at further risk while in an already weakened state, potentially worsening their condition.