Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for Chemotherapy and Radiation Side Effects

Patients undergoing chemotherapy, the use of chemical compounds toxic to tumors, experience both healing and severe side effects from
the treatments. In addition, they often experience stress and stress-caused discomforts associated with life-threatening illness. Traditional Chinese
medicine (TCM) can offer relief from nausea and pain, boost the immune system, and help patients reduce their stress through both herbal and physical interventions. The same relates to radiation therapy.

What are Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy (Radiation)?

Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with radiation treatment, in which tumors are bombarded with radiation, itself a cause of some of the same side effects as chemotherapy. Widely experienced side effects of chemotherapy and\ or radiation include nausea, heat, fatigue, weight gain and loss, hair loss, bone and tissue thinning, sleep loss, and stress. Both treatments can cause significant damage to the immune system, making patients more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

What Treatment Approaches does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Offer for Chemotherapy/Radiation Side Effects?

The goal of treatment in Chinese medicine is to restore
the individual’s essential balance – of mind, body, and energy. Every person’s
experience with disease is unique, and treatment must be likewise uniquely
designed for each individual. Many patients use alternative therapies in
addition to their standard conventional treatments.

While many Chinese medicine treatments have been used for
thousands of years, scientific research on herbal and dietary formulas is
relatively recent. Studies done in Europe, the United States, Canada, India,
China, and Japan have identified active compounds in various herbs, mushrooms
and plants that have bioactive properties and some efficacy against nausea and
tumors. Many plants contain compounds that affect the human immune system.
Others have demonstrated immune system activity in mice or other animal models.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are skilled in recognizing
the patterns of physical symptoms that occur with chemotherapy, and can
identify the organs causing the symptoms.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments commonly
used to treat side effects of chemotherapy (radiation) include both acupuncture
and herbal medicine.

Acupuncture for Chemotherapy/Radiation Side Effects

Acupuncture treatment commonly includes the use of several points on the body
to harmonize the flow of energy, calm nausea, and strengthen the immune system.
One acupuncture point (which could also be used as acupressure) that can reduce
nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy is Pericadium 6 (in Chinese, Neiguan
or Inner Gate), located three fingerbreadths above the crease of the
wrist between two tendons along the midline. Another point that can calm the
stomach and strengthen the immune system is called Stomach 36 (in Chinese, Zusanli
or Foot Three Mile), located four fingerbreadths below the knee along
the shin, one fingerbreadth beside the tibia bone. Recent scientific studies
have shown the positive effects of the use of these two points in combination
during chemotherapy/radiation.

Chinese Herbal Medicine for Chemotherapy and Radiation Side Effects

Chinese Herbal Medicine can also be an effective means for managing the side
effects of chemotherapy treatment. Herbs are often prepared to be taken as
teas, raw extracts, powdered granules, or pill and capsule forms for ingestion.
Some herbal medicines can be applied topically when made into pastes or
plasters, and used local on the abdomen or on specific acupuncture points.

When prescribing Chinese herbal medicine, a proper
diagnosis of the patient’s condition will determine which herbal formula is
most suitable. Often chemotherapy damages the energy of the digestive system
(Spleen and Stomach) leading to nausea and a weakened immune system. The most
useful single herb for this case is astragalus (in Chinese, Huang Qi),
well known for its immune boosting benefits. However, only rarely are single
herbs prescribed over the use of complex herbal formulas, due to the benefit of
adjusting the prescription to treat all possible symptoms the patient may be
experiencing. Therefore, classical formulas, such as the Six Gentlemen
Decoction (in Chinese, Liu Zhen Zi Tang) may be used, or a combination
of the formula with additional herbs to augment its function. Chemotherapy and
radiation all tends to disrupt the Yin energy of the Liver and Kidney, leading
to a generation of internal heat. In these cases, 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 the cancer fighting and immune
modulating 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, have been used
medicinally for cancer treatment, as well as to inhibit virus activity.

Other physical treatments like massage and exercise (like yoga, tai chi, and qigong)
can help relax and stretch the muscles, improving flexibility and circulation, and thus
overall wellbeing. Additionally,meditation and changes in diet according to the principles
of Oriental Medicine can help manage chemotherapy side effects.

What are the Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Treatments?

The use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments
offers patients an alternative to prescription drugs during their chemotherapy
that may interact to produce dangerous side effects. For example, some drugs
provoke cardiac side effects. Others aggravate joint pain. A patient taking
these types of drugs might experience dizziness, mysterious aches, or severe
headaches. While some Chinese medicine herbal treatments do have interactive
effects with prescription medications, the majority- do not. Talk to Doctor
Qiqing Li about which medications you are taking to avoid any interactions. And again and again -
beware of the fake anticancer or immunity pills/capsules/herbs commonly sold over the internet. You and your cancer -suffering loved ones can not afford it! Purchase only through professional, reputable companies!

  • Chinese medicine’s physical therapies – acupuncture, massage, and exercise regimes –
    provide relief without interaction effects with drugs. These treatments also
    reduce stress, and give patients a more active role in their own recovery.
    Acupuncture and acupressure, particularly at the P6 point, are effective
    against nausea.
  • Some familiar culinary herbs, such as ginger and peppermint, relieve nausea. Chamomile
    has been used in many cultures to calm and promote sleep. Turmeric, Chinese
    leek, goji berries, green tea, and whole families of flowering plants have been
    shown to have positive effects on the immune system, cancer growth, and
    biological activity against the disease itself or its secondary effects.
  • Meditation and meditative exercise regimes reduce stress and promote relaxation and sleep.




About the author: ChineseHerbalAdviser