Importance of Traditional Chinese Medicine as Alternative Cancer Treatment
TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a beautiful science of curing ailments by using energy from the nature around us. This is a culmination of eternal medicine that can promote and support progress and development in any aspect of life: physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) contains several elements, including acupuncture, qigong, massage, Chinese herbs, and a five-element theory diet. While TCM has its stand-alone cancer care program, some of these elements are used as an alternative solution to compliment western cancer treatment, managing symptoms, and improving quality of life. Traditional Chinese Medicine is probably the most commonly taken medicine by cancer patients in the US among all traditional therapies. Many patients claim proven effects of TCM as they undergo chemotherapy, radiation, or Surgery. The basic principle is that an essential life force, called Qi, is gushing into the body. Some imbalance in Qi can contribute to illness and disease. Most generally, this difference is believed to be due to a change in the opposite and complementary forces that make up the Qi. These are known as yin and yang. Ancient Chinese believed that human beings are microcosms of the greater world surrounding them, and are intertwined with nature and subject to its powers. The main principle is the balance between health and disease. TCM therapy aims to regain equilibrium by individual-specific care. Regaining balance treatment involves:
- Moxibustion (burning of herbal leaves on or close to the body)
- Cupping (using warmed glass jars to create suction on some points of the body)
- Herbal treatments
- Relaxation and concentration exercises (such as tai chi)
Does it Work?
TCM is an approach that covers a great deal of ground, and the results differ. The methods were not researched in the same manner as Western medicine was. There are more studies on plants and Acupuncture than other therapies. Studies, however, show a lot of promise:
- Acupuncture is accepted as a treatment for several conditions, including Pain relief and limiting side effects from chemotherapy
- Many herbs used in TCM are also used at well-respected, Western medicine clinics to treat anything from trouble sleeping to arthritis to menopause
- Tai chi seems to improve balance in people with Parkinson’s disease
- Cupping may help relieve Pain from shingles
Comprehensive scientific research on TCM confirmed that some TCM therapies are successful and safe to help or supplement traditional treatments. TCM treatment can reduce adverse side effects, such as these, during Radiotherapy and chemotherapy:
- Myelosuppression (suppression of bone marrow)
- Gastrointestinal reactions such as Nausea and vomiting
- Liver or kidney impairment
- Skin and mucosa radiation injuries
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
- White blood cell reduction
TCM and Anticancer Effects
With less adverse effects compared to Chemotherapy alone, TCM combined with Chemotherapy has increased efficacy — decreasing cancer incidence or development and increasing survival. TCM demonstrates anticancer effects in small, preliminary trials, either alone or as an adjuvant treatment, with examples of the herbs provided for each effect:
- Induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) of cancer cells (Garlic, cinobufacini, Bu-Zhong-Yi-Qi-Tang, Sho-Saiko-To)
- Promote the immune system (Mylabris, ginseng)
- Promote lymphocyte activity, natural killer cells, and macrophages (astragalus)
- Prevent the incidence of cancer in patients with precancerous lesions and conditions (quercetin, curcumin, silymarin [milk thistle], ginseng, rutin)
- Increase tumor response to therapy (astragalus)
- Inhibit tumor growth (Bu-Zhong-Yi-Qi-Tang, Sho-Saiko-To, garlic)
- Inhibit angiogenesis (blood vessel growth to feed tumors) (Ginkgo biloba extract, Scutellaria barbata D., YZXJ formulation)
- Reduce mortality (astragalus)
- Prevent and treat recurrence and metastasis (Juzen-Taiho-To, YZXJ formulation)
Instead of recommending particular herbs, traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners usually blend a variety of herbs in recipes that are chosen according to the individual needs of the patient. Such formulations should be given as teas, tablets, tinctures, or powder.
Herbs widely used in traditional Chinese Medicine include:
- Ginkgo biloba
- Gotu kola
- Yu Xing Cao Red Yeast Rice
Who Should Use It?
That’s more of a personal choice. People are using TCM for everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to Stress relief. It can be used with western medicine occasionally. It could be a smart idea if you:
- Have several different symptoms and no apparent explanation
- Want to treat side effects from medications
- Have tried conventional medicine but failed to find progress
Your safest choice is to find someone who is accredited by the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Accreditation Committee (ACAOM). They accredit TCM-teaching schools, so you can search their website to find anyone.
Another alternative is to contact an Oriental medicine doctor. Often, they will refer you to their alumni.
Do consult with your family and colleagues — just do your homework and make sure that you are talking and someone you can trust.
TCM should not be used as a substitute for traditional or allopathic medicine, particularly for serious disorders, but when used as a supportive therapy, it can be of value. Because certain herbal TCM medicines, when mixed with Western medicines, may interfere or be dangerous, you should tell your doctor if you are using TCM.
- TCM has its stand-alone Cancer Treatment program, but many of these elements are now being used as alternative solutions to improve traditional Western cancer care.
- Work has found that certain TCM therapies are efficient and healthy to supplement or complement traditional treatments.
- TCM treatments are administered in combination with Chemotherapy or alone.
- Preliminary study findings indicate the impact of some TCM treatments on anticancer.
- Caution is recommended when using asia formulated vitamins and natural goods. Contamination records of such herbal treatments have been published periodically, at least since 2002.