Rethinking how we confront cancer Part III

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine in Cancer Treatment

Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years in the Eastern hemisphere, but is now commonly used to manage cancer-related symptoms, including pain, weight loss, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor appetite, fatigue and gastrointestinal distress.

In 1997, the National Cancer Institute evaluated the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture as a complimentary cancer treatment, concluding that “there is clear evidence that needle acupuncture treatment is effective for postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting.” The panel also stated in their report, “there are a number of other pain-related conditions for which acupuncture may be effective as an adjunct therapy, an acceptable alternative or as part of a comprehensive treatment program.” According to the NCI, acupuncture has also been found to boost blood cell count and enhance lymphocyte and natural killer cell activity in some cancer patients and is well tolerated by most patients.

This supports the theory that the greatest benefit of Chinese Medicine as a compliment to chemotherapy and radiation is in its ability to improve immune system function to  support the body’s ability to defend itself from the spread of cancer while alleviating the side effects of cancer treatments.

The goal of treatment in Chinese medicine is to restore essential balance of mind, body and energy. Since cancer weakens the immune system, supporting the immune system helps the body to fight cancer. As toxins from cancer cells build up in the body, especially when the cells die at a high rate due to chemotherapy and radiation, it is important to detoxify the body in order to restore normal regulatory functions. Individuals who have recently had cancer growths removed from their body can use acupuncture to strengthen the immune system in order to resist the spread of new cancer cells.

Acupuncture treatment for chemotherapy side effects commonly includes the use of several points on the body to harmonize the flow of energy, calm nausea and strengthen the immune system. Acupuncture stimulates the release of proteins, hormones and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. In this way, acupuncture affects blood pressure and body temperature, boosts immune system activity and promotes the release of endorphins that help to alleviate pain.

Chinese Herbal Medicine can also be an effective means for managing the side effects of chemotherapy treatment. When prescribing Chinese herbal medicine, a proper diagnosis of the patient’s condition will determine which herbal formula is most suitable, since each person’s disease is unique, so treatment must be designed for each individual.

Recent scientific research on herbal remedies in Europe, the United States, Canada, India, China and Japan have identified active compounds in various herbs, mushrooms and plants that have bioactive properties that are effective in the treatment of cancer-related symptoms.

Chemotherapy damages the energy of the digestive system, resulting in nausea and a weakened immune system. Astragalus (in Chinese, Huang Qi), can be used for its immune boosting benefits. More complex herbal formulas are usually prescribed, due to the benefit of adjusting the prescription to treat the patient’s unique symptoms. Classic Chinese Herbal formulas such as the Six Gentlemen Decoction (in Chinese, Liu Zhen Zi Tang) may be used or combined with additional herbs to augment its function.

Chemotherapy also disrupts the Yin energy of the Liver and Kidney, resulting in internal heat. Eight Flavor Rehmannia Pill (in Chinese, Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan), can be used . A variety of single herbs are added to prescriptions to enhance cancer fighting and immune boosting effects. Red Reishi mushrooms (in Chinese, Ling Zhi) have long been used to enhance the immune system and regulate the functioning of the body.

A variety of mushrooms, including Red Reishi and Shiitake, are now commonly used medicinally for cancer treatment. Red Reishi mushrooms have long been used in Asia as an energy tonic to promote longevity and overall health. Studies indicate that reishi is an antioxidant containing polysaccharides and other compounds that boost the immune system. Reishi is taken to counter bacteria and viruses and has shown promise as an agent to help prevent or treat cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and other conditions. Russian researchers at the Cancer Research Center in Moscow have had positive results using reishi extracts to boost the immunity of cancer patients. Cancer patients may also wish to investigate medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake, cordyceps, maitake, agaracus and coriolus as immune-boosting companions to chemotherapy. These medicinal mushrooms are sources of antitumor and immunity-modulating polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrate) that have been extensively researched. Formulas containing concentrated extracts of medicinal mushrooms are readily available for use in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

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One Response to “Rethinking how we confront cancer Part III”

  1. Anonymouson 07 May 2013 at 2:39 pm

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