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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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

Possible Helpful Interaction

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

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


1. Rockwell S, Liu Y, Higgins S. Alteration of the effects of cancer therapy agents on breast cancer cells by the herbal medicine black cohosh. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2005;90:233–9.

2. Buckley JE, Clark VL, Meyer TJ, Pearlman NW. Hypomagnesemia after cisplatin combination chemotherapy. Arch Intern Med. 1984;144:2347.

3. Rodriguez M, Solanki DL, Whang R. Refractory potassium repletion due to cisplatin-induced magnesium depletion. Arch Intern Med. 1989;149:2592–4.

4. Whang R, Whang DD, Ryan MP. Refractory potassium repletion. A consequence of magnesium deficiency. Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:40–5.

5. van de Loosdrecht AA, Gietema JA, van der Graaf WT. Seizures in a patient with disseminated testicular cancer due to cisplatin-induced hypomagnesaemia. Acta Oncol. 2000;39:239–40.

6. Lissoni P, Barni S, Mandala M, et al. Decreased toxicity and increased efficacy of cancer chemotherapy using the pineal hormone melatonin in metastatic solid tumour patients with poor clinical status. Eur J Cancer. 1999;35:1688–92.

7. Argyriou AA, Chroni E, Koutras A, et al. Vitamin E for prophylaxis against chemotherapy-induced neuropathy: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 2005;64:26–31.

8. Sieja K, Talerczyk M. Selenium as an element in the treatment of ovarian cancer in women receiving chemotherapy. Gynecol Oncol. 2004;93:320–7.

9. Weijl NI, Elsendoorn TJ, Lentjes EG, et al. Supplementation with antioxidant micronutrients and chemotherapy-induced toxicity in cancer patients treated with cisplatin-based chemotherapy: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Eur J Cancer. 2004;40:1713–23.

10. Gaedeke J, Fels LM, Bokemeyer C, et al. Cisplatin nephrotoxicity and protection by silibinin. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 1996;11:55–62.

11. Scambia G, De Vincenzo R, Ranelletti FO, et al. Antiproliferative effect of silybin on gynaecological malignancies: synergism with cisplatin and doxorubicin. Eur J Cancer. 1996;32A:877–82.

12. Manusirivithaya S, Sripramote M, Tangjitgamol S, et al. Antiemetic effect of ginger in gynecologic oncology patients receiving cisplatin. Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2004;14:1063–9.

13. Maestri A, De Pasquale Ceratti A, Cundari S, et al. A pilot study on the effect of acetyl-L-carnitine in paclitaxel- and cisplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy. Tumori. 2005;91:135–8.

Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015

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