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Yew (Taxus baccata,Taxus brevifolia, Taxus cuspidata, Taxus canadensis)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • Chinwood, common yew, Coniferae (family), docetaxel, Eibe (German), euar (Manx), European yew, hagina (Basque), Himalayan yew, idegran (Swedish), if (French), Irish yew, iubhar (Scottish Gaelic), iúr (Irish), ivenenn (Breton), marjakuusi (Finnish), Japanese yew, Pacific yew, paclitaxel, phloroglucindimethylether (3,5-dimethoxyphenol), porsukagaci (Turkish), snottle berries, snotty grogs, T. bourcieri Carrière, taks (Danish), tasso (Italian), Taxaceae (family), taxine, taxis (Dutch), Taxol®, Taxomyces andreanae, Taxotere® N-debenzoyl-N-tert-butoxycarbonyl-10-deacetyl taxol, Taxus baccata L., Taxus brevifolia, Taxus canadensis, Taxus cuspidata, Taxus wallichiana, Taxuspine C., tejo (Spanish), tisa (Romanian), tis (Czech), western yew, ywen (Welsh), ywenn (Cornish).

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • There are several kinds of yew including the English or European yew (Taxus baccata), Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) and Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). All species are considered poisonous, however there is some debate about the medicinal value of the fruits (arils). The name 'taxus' may be related to the Greek 'toxon' (bow) and 'toxicon' (the poison with which the arrowheads were dressed).
  • Paclitaxel (Taxol®) was isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia) as early as 1971 and is now FDA approved. Since 1971, Taxol® has been used as an anti-tumor drug in clinical trials run by the United States National Cancer Institute, hailed as one of the most significant advances in cancer chemotherapy in recent history. Since 1990, clinical trials using Taxol® have succeeded in treating advanced ovarian and breast cancers.
  • Taxol® was originally extracted from the bark of Taxus brevifolia with a low yield. Many attempts have been made to produce Taxol® by chemical synthesis, semi-synthesis and plant tissue cultures. However, to date, the availability of this compound is not sufficient to satisfy the commercial requirements. Current work is investigating ways to produce suspension cell cultures from plants not belonging to Taxus genus (1). Although synthesized derivatives (Taxol ®) from the yew tree have been used in treating cancer, to date there are no human clinical trials available on yew or any of its nonsynthesized constituents.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.