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Fighting Cancer With Chinese Herbs

Fighting Cancer With Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbs can’t cure cancer. In fact, there is no word for cancer in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).  Since the ancients didn't have microscopes, how could they know about cancer cells? 

Curiously, ancient texts show exact protocols for treating Zheng Jia [癥瘕] (abdominal masses), and drawings of tumors are found on turtle shells and "oracle bones" dating from the eleventh century B.C. The fact is that medical texts dating from 200 B.C. offer detailed descriptions of tumors and their causes.  So, despite there being no name for cancer, there’s no doubt that cancer is well known and well documented throughout Chinese medical literature. 

TCM doctors really see ‘cancer’ as several distinct diseases rather than a single disease. Ironic that new medical research is adopting a similar view.

Of course, modern TCM has a more complete view of cancer, because we now have access to both ancient and modern knowledge.

And since most of our cancer patients are also undergoing Western treatments, we are further educated by our practice.

Modern Herbal Treatment 

Modern TCM cancer treatment is called FU ZHENG GU BEN. "FU ZHENG" means strengthening what’s correct. "GU BEN" means regeneration and repair. 

In choosing a cancer treatment plan, today’s practitioner has access to current scientific research as well as to long historical experience. This dual perspective enables us to select herbs that can perform necessary TCM functions, and also have potential anti-cancer benefits that are suggested by modern research.

Unfortunately many oncologists are reluctant to use herbs to support their cancer treatments.  Understandably, they are responsible for the treatment and  regard herbs as unknowns, whose use together with modern pharmaceuticals is not much studied or understood.

Herbs Used To Treat Side Effects Of Chemotherapy & Radiation

Hopefully they may be more receptive to using herbs to mitigate the side-effects of chemo or radiation.  The herbs used to ease nausea and fatigue, to soothe radiation burns, and to speed recovery after surgery are very well studied and are very unlikely to interfere with the course of Western medicine.

Here are a few examples.

    SHENG JIANG (Ginger),
    HUO XIANG (Patchouli),
    CHEN PI (Citrus Peel)

    REN SHEN (Ginseng),
    XI YANG SHEN (American Ginseng)

    Dryness & Thirst
    SHU DI HUANG (Foxglove root)
    LU GEN (phragmitis)
    XI YANG SHEN (American Ginseng)
      Radiation Burns
      LU HUI (aloe), 
      FENG MI (Honey)


      As helpful as they are, these herbs don’t represent all that TCM can do for cancer patients. Historically Chinese herbs have other anti cancer uses.

      Anti-Tumor Herbs.

      Vitalizing Blood Herbs

      Of the many herbs that move blood, several of these are believed to have anti-cancer properties. Most notable  are E ZHU curcuma rhizoma (zedoary rhizome), SAN LENG sparganii rhizoma (bur reed tuber), YU JIN curcuma radix (turmeric root), and LONG KUI solanum nigri (black nightshade).

      Herbs that Soften the Hard
      These are used against solid tumors. Many are animal or mineral substances. Common among them are MU LI concha ostrea (oyster shell), LONG GU os draconis (fossil bone), and GUI BAN testudinis plastrum (turtle shell).

      Herbs for Specific Cancers

      A few herbs, based on scientific research, are thought to have anti-cancer properties.  Some examples are:

        • Breast cancer:
        • oldenlandia, taraxacum, scutellaria, aurantium, curcuma
        • Stomach cancer:
        • oldenlandia, imperata , scutellaria , imperata
        • Esophageal cancer:
        • oldenlandia, scutellaria, imperata, cotton root
        • Colon cancer:
        • oldenlandia, scutellaria, solanum sanguisorba, viola
        • Ovarian cancer:
        • oldenlandia, scutellaria, solanum, turtle shell
        • Lung cancer :
        • scutellaria, taraxacum, ophiopogonis, oldenlandia
        • Liver cancer:
        • oldenlandia, scutellaria, phragmites, peonae alba

        Further Reading

        Chen HS, Tsai YF, Lin S, et al. Studies on the immuno-modulating and anti-tumor activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) polysaccharides. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry . Nov 1 2004;12(21):5595-5601.
        Wong BY, et al. Oldenlandia diffusa and Scutellaria barbata augment macrophage oxidative burst and inhibit tumor growth. Cancer Biotherapy Radiopharmaceuticals 1996; 11(1):51-56.
        Gao Y, Zhou S, Jiang W, et al. Effects Of Ganopoly (A Ganoderma Lucidum Polysaccharide Extract) On The Immune Functions In Advanced-Stage Cancer Patients. Immunological Investigations: A Journal of Molecular and Cellular Immunology . Aug 2003;32(3):201-215.
        Chan JY, et al. Pheophorbide a, a major antitumor component purified from Scutellaria barbata, induces apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Planta Medica 2006; 72(1):28-33.
        Woo JH1, Li D, Wilsbach K, Orita H, Coulter J, Tully E, Kwon TK, Xu S, Gabrielson E. Cancer Biology & Therapy . 2007 Dec;6(12): 2005-11. Immunofluorescent microscopy found that Coix seed extract, a commonly used treatment for cancer in China, inhibits NFkappaB and protein kinase C signaling effecting cellular pathways of recognized importance in neoplasia.
        R Zhao, C Chen, Y Wu - Zhongguo Zhong, Isolation and structure determination of furan sesquiterpene from Chinese traditional herb ezhu (rhizome of Curcuma zedoaria Rosc.)
        X Zhou, X He, G Wang, H Gao, G Zhou, Steroidal saponins from Solanum nigrum, … - Journal of Natural Products, 2006, Study on the effect of polysaccharides from Solanum nigrum Linne on cellular immune function in tumour-bearing mice
        Jorge F.S. Ferreira, Devanand L. Luthria, Tomikazu Sasaki, and Arne Heyerick
        Molecules 2010, 3135-3170; Flavonoids from Artemisia annua L. as Antioxidants and Their Potential Synergism with Artemisinin against Malaria and Cancer
        Subuti Dharmananda Ph.D., Oriental Perspectives On Cancer And Its Treatment
        Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon
        Biswal BM, Zakaria A, Ahmad NM. Topical application of honey in the management of radiation mucositis. A preliminary study. Support Care Cancer 2003;11:242-248.


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