The Daily Mail is reporting on the tragic story of young Zara Ali (not her real name) who was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that was pressing on her optic nerve and damaging her eyesight. The tumor was not cancerous, but it was riddled with blood vessels that fed Zara’s brain and was pressing on her pituitary gland, brain stem and thalamus. The mass was considered inoperable and doctors recommended chemotherapy in order to shrink it.
Zara’s parents, known only as Omar and Rosalind, refused, saying they did not want their daughter to be given “toxic” chemicals in the form of chemotherapy. Instead, they wanted to treat her with frankincense and turmeric even though neither of these treatments were proven to be effective.
For example, there have been a number of studies on Frankincense, an essential oil (EO) which is known to have anti-inflammatory qualities. Because inflammation is believed to play a role in cancer, some EO enthusiasts are using it to treat cancer in humans.
However, Robert Tisserand, an essential oil expert, calls this belief “a myth of biblical proportions.” As he goes on to explain, people are being told “in videos and blog posts, that frankincense oil contains boswellic acid—the antitumoral active ingredient in frankincense gum resin. But it doesn’t, and the simple reason is that boswellic acid is much too heavy a molecule to be volatile,” he writes. “The fact is, there is no clinical research. There is not one single study published in a peer-reviewed journal, in which frankincense essential oil was successfully used to treat any kind of cancer.”
The story is much the same with turmeric, also an anti-inflammatory that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, curcumin, a substance found in the spice turmeric, is also thought to have anti-inflammatory qualities, but there is simply no evidence to support its use in the treatment of tumors.
Regardless of these facts, Zara’s parents were willing to risk using unsupported treatments on their daughter rather than the combination of chemotherapy drugs doctors intended to use on Zara which are known to reduce or stabilize tumor size for 70 percent of patients. They made this decision based on the fear that the hospital was pushing drugs on their child to serve its financial interests rather than to help her get well.
Doctor and the girl’s parents eventually reached an agreement which would allow the parents to use the natural treatments for a time, but if they failed to work, that they would begin the chemo.
However, when Zara’s condition worsened and doctors said it was time to intervene, the parents reneged on their side of the agreement and refused to allow the chemo.
Finally, on July 31, an Ohio court mandated that Zara had to start chemo therapy within 12 days.
Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to receive these treatments and died on August 10 with her mother by her side.
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