Thiocyanate: An All Natural Cure for Sickle Cell Anemia?


Anti-Sickling Medicine in African Yams and Cassava

 By Ana Kirk

November 4, 2010

"The poor little thing is in for a rough life," were the words of the doctor in reference to the little boy whom I helped to attend under the guidance of my preceptor that night in the emergency room where I was doing my clinicals as an emergency medical technician student. This is the first time I really pondered the question of whether there is a cure for sickle cell anemia.

What Is Thiocyanate? Is It a Possible Cure for Sickle Cell Anemia?

Thiocyanate, sometimes called sulfocyanate or simply "yam vitamin" is a natural substance found in certain plants called nitrilosides among which are the foods African yams and cassava. These edible plants were once staples in the diet of native Africans before the introduction of grains such as rice and wheat. During the times when African yams and cassava were consumed as staples in Africa, sickle cell anemia was non-existent. These foods are still consumed in Africa, but in smaller quantities, and now sickle cell anemia exists there.

Is the consumption of plants such as the African yam and cassava a natural cure for sickle cell anemia? Some answer that question in the affirmative and view the disease as the consequences of a nutritional deficiency that disappears when the missing nutrient, thiocyanate, is provided in the diet. Fortunately, those who believe that there's a cure for sickle cell anemia also believe that African Americans, in addition to returning to some of the foods of the motherland, must also rid their diet of harmful "foods" and drinks that are destroying the health of all North Americans regardless of ethnic origin. If someone diagnosed with this disease never again had to endure sickle cell crisis, would it not be said that he found a cure?

Thiocyanate: The Anti-Sickling Nutrient

Sickle cell disease is characterized by crescent-shaped or sickled red blood cells and chronic anemia resulting from the abnormally high destruction of red blood cells. Thiocyanate has been proven to greatly reduce the sickling of red blood cells and it might completely prevent sickling in many individuals. In the case of the total prevention of sickling, many people would call this a "cure" for sickle cell anemia.

Scurvy is a disease caused by insufficient vitamin C in the diet. Who worries about developing scurvy as long as they eat some fruits? Beriberi is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamin). Who worries about developing it in the U.S.A where foods are enriched with this nutrient? Pellagra is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin). Again, who is concerned about developing pellagra since almost all foods are at least enriched with the nutrient?

Why face the great discomfort that can be experienced during a sickle cell crisis, the health risks of blood transfusions, pain killers, and life-threatening side effects of the drug hydroxyurea frequently used in treatment? Long term use of hydroxyurea has been linked to the development of cancerous tumors and leukemia.

Foods Rich in Thiocyanate

Those who will not cease to believe that there is a cure for sickle cell anemia will persist in following a diet high in organic iron, cleansing natural chlorophyll, and the all natural anti-sickling nutrient, thiocyanate. Foods and herbs high in natural iron include: green leafy vegetables such as greens and green leaf lettuce (not ice berg), yellow vegetables such as squash, whole grain products made from grains such as spelt, barley, millet, sorghum, kamut, and oats, legumes, lentils, kidney beans, dandelion, burdock, yellow dock root, strawberry fruit, kelp, cayenne and dulse. Good sources of chlorophyll are any of the green leafy vegetables such as greens and other vegetables such as bell pepper. African yam and cassava are believed to be the richest sources of thiocyanate; but, what if those foods aren't readily available? Other sources of thiocyanate are: millet, buckwheat, lima beans, greens, cabbage, carrots, cashew nuts, cauliflower, strawberries, lentils, broccoli, chickpeas, plantain (a type of banana), and sorghum. It's still a good idea, however, to continue looking for sources of African yam and cassava.


Elena N. Marcus
Sickle Cell - a Nutritional Deficiency Disease?
Quality Trust: Alternative Medicine for Pets and People

The Mayo Clinic Staff
Sickle Cell Anemia

Oji Agbai
Anti-Sickling Effect of Dietary Thiocyanate in Prophylactic Control of Sickle Cell Anemia
Journal of the National Medical Association