AN ALTERNATIVE health movement is thriving on the Tweed with many residents reporting they have turned to "natural cures" for cancer.
One nutritionist not surprised by the trend is Katrina Ellis of Kirra.
The author of Shattering the Cancer Myth was diagnosed with a deadly form of ovarian cancer after doctors discovered tumours the size of small babies on her ovaries 17 years ago.
After 90 hours of chemotherapy and adjunct therapies, Ms Ellis decided to go "all natural".
"I was only 28. I didn't want to die.
"I did the chemo, but I used all my natural stuff as well.
"After my body reached its limit with the chemo, I knew it was time.
"I went home and I did everything I knew naturally to beat this cancer."
Her protocol wasn't straightforward, there's an entire book devoted to it, but essentially she juiced, took supplements and exercised.
Now clear of cancer, Ms Ellis is sharing her experience with 60 patients a week at her clinic.
"I'm not anti orthodox treatments," Ms Ellis said.
"Some people need surgery, and treatments vary depending on how big the cancer and what type it is.
"People are becoming more aware of natural therapies.
"They're realising there are options out there that might suit them better and that's great," she said.
SUE McKenna of Uki treated her breast cancer using natural remedies.
In 2012 an ultrasound and biopsy revealed three cancerous lumps in her breasts.
"The options were mastectomy, chemo and tamoxifen for five years, or a lumpectomy, radiation and tamoxifen for five years.
"As I thought of my two beautiful sons losing their mum, I realised I had always 'flown the flag' for natural healing, and my decision was made."
She assembled a team of health practitioners including an acupuncturist, naturopath, herbalist, hypnotherapist and integrated medicine GP.
Ms McKenna changed her vegetarian diet to include meat and herbal teas, tinctures and exercise. She also used "black salve", vitamin B17 injections and cannabis oil.
"To be honest I don't know which part worked. But I had an ultrasound every three months and from the time I began the protocols, the tumours stopped growing.
"The first lump shrank and then it took a year for the remaining two to shrink. Now they're benign, I'm classified cancer-free."
THE cancer once famously dubbed most "unsexy" by Professor Heinz-Josef Lenz from the California Cancer Consortium because of its poor patient advocacy can be both painful and deadly for men.
Just ask John Stuebbs, of Chinderah, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 10 years ago.
"I was peeing blood. I panicked and I went to the hospital," he said.
"Later a specialist made a decision to operate after looking over my x-rays in a dimly lit room during an electrical blackout.
"Surgery can be disastrous for a man. You can become impotent and incontinent.
"I couldn't believe he made the decision in the dark, so I stormed out."
The 71-year-old read a book about prostate health and started growing a purple tropical flowering herb in his garden called epilobium.
"Epilobium has been proven to inhibit certain hormones and reduce inflammation by the Medical University of Warsaw," naturopath Katrina Ellis said.
Mr Stuebbs sang the herb's praises.
"Last 10 years I've been on the epilobium and I have no prostate problems," he said.
Mr Stuebbs now buys the herb at $58 a kilo and has suggested it to Murwillumbah businessman Phil Taylor, who was diagnosed with cancer in May last year.
"Phil is one of my latest success stories. In five months his prostate specific antigen level came down by two points, which is great," Mr Stuebbs said.
"It's not a cancer cure but it does help with the problem they call cancer."
Many of the natural herbs, tinctures and teas used to fight cancer are grown in Tweed.
Kirra-based naturopath and author Katrina Ellis uses Tropical Fruit World's fermented paw paw leaves for their "amazing source of enzymes used to assist with tumour breakdown".
In Murwillumbah, Madura Teas makes papaya and green tea, both super sources of antioxidants, known cancer preventatives.
And in Cudgen, tea tree farmers Pat and Paul Bolster have been celebrating research from the University of Western Australia that proves the oil destroys skin cancer.
"Tea tree oil destroys the cell wall of target organisms. Don't ask me how it discriminates between the good cells and the bad, we don't know. It's just what it does," Mr Bolster said.
"In the research, the tea tree oil destroyed cancer cells."
Although research is in its infancy, the Bolsters are excited by the implications.
"The next step for scientists would be to move the tea tree through the skin to internal cancers.
"If the research is taken all the way, it is a fantastic opportunity for the industry."
And also for P. Guinane, which exports 35 tonnes of tea tree oil a year from the Bolsters' 106ha Tweed Valley Way plantation.
A note from the doctors:
GRIFFITH University associate professor of pharmacology Evelyn Tiralango said:
"The Cancer Council and Clinical Oncology Societies are open to natural remedies as adjunct therapies but they should be carried out with a doctor so that conventional treatment is not jeopardised and adjunct therapies are evidence-based.
"For instance, milk thistle, turmeric or ginger is proven, but do not have the power to be a stand-alone cancer treatment.
"Everyone needs a balanced approach.
"The health professional must offer a balanced discussion. The consumer must understand the health practitioner wants a positive outcome.
"Everybody is entitled to make their own choice, but they have to do it with open eyes."