- ResearchGate’s The Addiction Potential of Hyperpalatable Foods
- Beating Sugar Addiction
- 10 Days. 5 Ways. 1 Healthiest Year Ever
- The pleasure trap: Douglas J. Lisle, Ph.D. at TEDxFremont
- Breaking The Food Seduction – by Neal Barnard, M.D.
- Michael Moss via The New York Times’ You Really Can’t Eat Just One, and Here’s the Reason
- NPR’s How The Food Industry Manipulates Taste Buds With ‘Salt Sugar Fat’
- A Day In The (Vegan) Life
5 Natural Ways to Treat Nausea in Cancer Patients
Nausea occurs when you feel queasy or sick to your stomach. In many cases nausea may be followed by vomiting (throwing up).(1) Until the mid 90’s nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, were two major factors that forced up to one fifth of the cancer patients to postpone or refuse potentially curative treatment.(2)
Common causes of nausea for the cancer patient
Chemotherapy medicines, painkillers and antibiotics seem to be important causal factors of nausea. Following radiotherapy treatment such as treatments to the abdomen, back, head and pelvis, might also trigger nausea mechanisms. In addition nausea might occur because of bowel problems such as constipation, pain after surgery and anxiety during the cancer treatment period.(3)(p>There are several risk factors that contribute to the development of chemotherapy induced nausea and the whole mechanism is complex and linked with a combination of clinical factors and socioeconomic, personal, demographic, educational and behavioral ones.(4) Patient risk factors including young age, female gender, a history of low alcohol intake, experience of emesis (vomiting) during pregnancy, impaired quality of life and previous experience of chemotherapy are known to increase the risk of nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy.(5)
Chemotherapy-radiation induced nausea and vomiting, are classified into two categories. The first category is the acute onset nausea which occurs within the first 24 hours after the administration of treatment. The second category is the delayed onset nausea that occurs 24 hours to five days after the administration of treatment.
A number of overlapping pathological pathways contribute to the pathogenesis of nausea. The emetic center is situated in the medulla oblongata and consists of a network of neurons. Chemotherapy agents are considered as a factor that triggers the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which activates vagal afferents leading to stimulation of the area postrema. What follows is the combination of sensory inputs in vagal afferents and the area postrema at the emetic center, resulting in efferent signals that lead to contraction of abdominal muscles, the diaphragm, stomach, and esophagus, producing a reflexive emetic response. A number of neurotransmitters are thought to be involved in this process and include serotonin, dopamine, and substance P. The knowledge of the role of these neurotransmitters helped in the development of drugs that antagonize their action in order to act as prophylactic therapies for cancer induced nausea and vomiting.(6)
Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting can have a profound effect on the cancer treatment experience and is associated with negative effects on daily life and overall quality of life, including effects on food intake, weight loss, social interactions, dehydration, difficulty with sleeping, and anxiety. In a qualitative study of patients’ experiences, unmanaged nausea was constant in some patients and made them exhausted for long periods after chemotherapy, making recovery between cycles longer. The impact of nausea is greater than that of vomiting, and nausea has proven to be more difficult to control. The direct and indirect costs of the experience of nausea and vomiting, especially of delayed symptoms, are considerable.(7)
A number of antiemetic drugs are currently used and the most effective are 5-HT3 serotonin receptor antagonists. Another category of antiemetics is TachykininNK1 receptor antagonist aprepitant. Dexamethazone which is a steroid is a key factor in the prevention of cancer-induced nausea and is a component of most of the antiemetic regimen. Olanzapine, which is an antipsychotic drug, exhibits interesting antiemetic properties. Benzodiazepines could also be a useful addition to antiemetic regimens in certain circumstances. Although, modern antiemetics are able to prevent nausea in the majority of cancer patients, some of them are not satisfied or face adverse side effects, so they ask for alternative or natural treatments that will possible improve their quality of life.(5)
A number of studies have evaluated ginger’s potential benefit in preventing chemotherapy-induced nausea. In a well conducted, multi-center study, cancer patients submitted to chemotherapy were randomly assigned to four arms (placebo, 0.5 g ginger, 1 g ginger, 1.5 g ginger). Patients, co-treated with 5-HT3 receptor antagonists on day 1 of all cycles, received treatments ginger preparations or placebo for 6 days, starting 3 days before the first day of chemotherapy. The researchers concluded that all doses of ginger significantly reduced acute nausea severity compared to placebo on day 1 of chemotherapy. The largest reduction in nausea intensity occurred with 0.5 g and 1.0 g of ginger. Another study evaluated the effects of ginger against both acute and delayed forms of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in a population with advanced breast cancer. There were two groups of women with advanced breast cancer, the ones who received ginger plus standard antiemetic regimen and the group that received the standard antiemetic regimen alone. The researchers observed a significantly lower prevalence of nausea in the ginger group during the 6 to 24 hours post chemotherapy.(8)
Another study was recently contacted in order to assess the efficacy of inhaled ginger aromatherapy on nausea, vomiting in chemotherapy breast cancer patients. Scientists who conducted this study concluded that the evidence derived is not sufficiently convincing that inhaled ginger aromatherapy is an effective complementary therapy for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.(9)
In 2013 researchers did a systematic literature review on Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Seven studies met the inclusion criteria of the review, with three demonstrating a positive effect, two in favor but with caveats, and two showing no effect on measures of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. The above conflicting results indicate the need of future studies in order to ensure the effectiveness of ginger as an tool against chemotherapy-induced nausea.(10)
Acupuncture, a known ancient medical treatment from China, is gaining popularity and acceptance as a valid intervention in medical practice. In 1998, a National Institute of Health consensus statement on acupuncture stated, “There is clear evidence that needle acupuncture is efficacious for adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting,” but acupuncture is still not accepted as a standard treatment.(11) The most popular acupoints applied in this problem are P6 and S36, both of which belong to the Chinese stomach meridian.(12) Several studies reported effects of P6-stimulation on gastric myoelectrical activity, vagal modulation and cerebellar vestibular activities in functional magnetic resonance imaging. About 40 randomized controlled trials show that acupuncture is a potential preventive factor of nausea and vomiting.(13) Recent evidence in clinical trial indicates that acupuncture is beneficial for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Also oncology nurses are encouraged to increase their knowledge of the available evidence in the use of acupuncture in the supportive care of cancer patients.(14)
According to a 2013 literature review published in Journal of Clinical Oncology “acupuncture is an appropriate adjunctive treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, but additional research is needed to increase the reliability of these findings”.(15)
Some studies report that decoctions of Radix Astragali (Huang-Qi in Chinese) compounds could reduce the number of cancer patients under chemotherapy who experience nausea and vomiting. According to other studies Poria cocos as one of the most frequently used herbs combined with the FOLFOX4 regimen chemotherapy, could reduce chemotherapy-related adverse events including neutropenia, nausea and vomiting. An additional study reported that when combined chemotherapy and Shenqifuzheng (traditional Chinese Herbal formula) injection, they improve quality of life and decrease adverse events like nausea.(16)
A study of 2009 compared the effects of an integrated yoga program with supportive therapy in breast cancer outpatients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy.
The researchers of the study reported that Yoga might have a role in managing self-reported psychological distress and modulating circadian patterns of stress hormones in early breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy.(17)
5. Eating habits that help you avoid nausea
According to the National Cancer Institute, eating 5 or 6 small meals is essential so that your stomach is never empty and it this also helps you divide the amounts of food consumed. For the same reason cancer patients under treatment should not skip meals and snacks. Eating foods that are easy on the stomach and appeal to the patient help for the better tolerance of food. Patients should sip small amount of liquid during meals and during the day sip slowly the liquids using a straw.(1)
Cancer patients under treatment are advised to avoid the smell of food or cooking. Cold foods seem to smell less. Some foods might trigger nausea. These foods might be greasy or fried foods, spicy foods and foods with a strong smell. Some foods that might help are salty foods such as crisps, or crackers, dry foods such as biscuits, toast, plain cake or bland foods like chicken.(3)
Each patient treated for cancer is an individual case. There are many parameters that affect the occurrence of nausea, including exposure to chemotherapy, alcohol use, personality, age, gender and this is the reason complete prevention remains challenging.(18)
1) National Cancer Institute, Support for People with Cancer. Eating Hints, Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health NIH Publication No.11-2079, Printed January 2011.
2) Nausea and emesis: still an unsolved problem in cancer patients? Herrstedt J. Support Care Cancer. 2002 Mar;10(2):85-7. Epub 2002 Jan 31
3) The Christie , NHS Foundation Trust, Your A-Z of coping with nausea and vomiting. A guide for patients and their carers. www.christie.nhs.uk
4) J Pain Symptom Manage. 2014 May;47(5):839-848.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2013.06.012. Epub 2013 Sep 24. Evaluation of risk factors predicting chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting: results from a European prospective observational study. Molassiotis A, Aapro M, Dicato M, Gascon P, Novoa SA, Isambert N, Burke TA, Gu A, Roila F.
5) Eur J Pharmacol. 2014 Jan 5;722:197-202. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2013.09.073. Epub 2013 Oct 21. International antiemetic guidelines on chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV): content and implementation in daily routine practice. Jordan K, Gralla R, Jahn F, Molassiotis A.
6) Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2015 May 5;11:713-29. doi: 10.2147/TCRM.S68130. eCollection 2015. Update on the management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting – focus on palonosetron. Zhou M, Popovic M, Pasetka M, Pulenzas N, Ahrari S, Chow E, DeAngelis C.
7) J Pain Symptom Manage. 2014 Jan;47(1):12-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2013.03.007. Epub 2013 Apr 17. The effectiveness of acupressure for the control and management of chemotherapy-related acute and delayed nausea: a randomized controlled trial. Molassiotis A, Russell W, Hughes J, Breckons M, Lloyd-Williams M, Richardson J, Hulme C, Brearley SG, Campbell M, Garrow A, Ryder WD.
8) Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Apr;19(7):1291-6. Can nausea and vomiting be treated with ginger extract? Giacosa A, Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E, Riva A, Bianchi Porro G, Rondanelli M.
9) Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):396-404. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2015.03.009. Epub 2015 Apr 21. Effects of inhaled ginger aromatherapy on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and health-related quality of life in women with breast cancer. Lua PL, Salihah N, Mazlan N.
10) Nutr Rev. 2013 Apr;71(4):245-54. doi: 10.1111/nure.12016. Epub 2013 Mar 13. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a systematic literature review. Marx WM, Teleni L, McCarthy AL, Vitetta L, McKavanagh D, Thomson D, Isenring E
11) NIH Consensus Conference: Acupuncture. JAMA 280:1518-1524, 1998
12) J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Jun;12(5):489-95. Cochrane systematic reviews examine P6 acupuncture-point stimulation for nausea and vomiting. Ezzo J, Streitberger K, Schneider A.
13) Auton Neurosci. 2006 Oct 30;129(1-2):107-17. Epub 2006 Sep 1. Acupuncture for nausea and vomiting: an update of clinical and experimental studies. Streitberger K, Ezzo J, Schneider A.
14) Semin Oncol Nurs. 2005 Aug;21(3):190-5. Acupuncture for side effects of chemoradiation therapy in cancer patients. Lu W.
15) J Clin Oncol. 2013 Mar 1;31(7):952-60. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.43.5818. Epub 2013 Jan 22. Systematic review of acupuncture in cancer care: a synthesis of the evidence. Garcia MK, McQuade J, Haddad R, Patel S, Lee R, Yang P, Palmer JL, Cohen L.
16) Biosci Trends. 2015 Feb;9(1):16-34. doi: 10.5582/bst.2015.01019. The advantages of using traditional Chinese medicine as an adjunctive therapy in the whole course of cancer treatment instead of only terminal stage of cancer. Qi F1, Zhao L, Zhou A, Zhang B, Li A, Wang Z, Han J.
17) Psychooncology. 2006 Oct;15(10):891-7. A pilot study of yoga for breast cancer survivors: physical and psychological benefits. Culos-Reed SN1, Carlson LE, Daroux LM, Hately-Aldous S.
18) BMC Pharmacol Toxicol. 2015 Mar 28;16:5. doi: 10.1186/s40360-015-0005-1. Cohort study of consistency between the compliance with guidelines for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and patient outcome. Inoue M , Shoji M, Shindo N, Otsuka K, Miura M, Shibata H
The Anti-Cancer Effects of Thunder God Vine (Lei Gong Teng)
Recent research on a Chinese herb called lei gong teng, also popularly known as ‘thunder god vine,’ suggests that there is hope for curing a deadly type of cancer that affects the pancreas. Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center have found that an extract from the herb scientifically named Tripterygium wilfordii, may be effective against pancreatic tumor cells in vitro and in vivo – that is, both in the petri dish as well as in the body of animals.1
Pancreatic cancer affects an abdominal organ behind the stomach, which is responsible for secreting digestive enzymes and insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar metabolism. Malignant tumors in the pancreas often carry a poor prognosis or little hope for cure even when it is diagnosed early.2 Studies show that cancer of the pancreas has a 5-year survival rate of less than 5 percent.1 Most people will remember that Steve Jobs, the famous personality who was the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Computers, died of pancreatic cancer.3
Thunder god vine is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 6 meters, with foliage green above and covered with a whitish bloom beneath. It bears lengthy matted panicles of greenish-white flowers in autumn, surrounded by attractive three- winged capsules. This herb is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The perennial vine which is found mainly in China, Korea, and Japan has been traditionally used for centuries for treating other autoimmune diseases such multiple sclerosis. Recent studies found that its active component, triptolide, has potential antitumor properties that suppress the growth of cancer cells and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) of various human tumor cells.4 In vitro studies have demonstrated that triptolide kills tumor cells originating from various tissues, such as blood, prostate, lung, colon, breast, brain, and kidney.5 These findings signaled the onset for more studies on triptolide, and in more recent years, growing evidence suggests that the Chinese herb may be more than just a remedy of inflammation, but a cure for more serious conditions like cancer.
Researchers have found that triptolide inhibits both the multiplication of cancer cells in vitro and decreases the growth of several types of tumors in vivo. It has been shown to induce apoptotic cancer cell death in leukemic cells6 and human multiple myeloma cells.7 Other authors have also found that the compound may exert its effects on pancreatic cancer cells by initiating apoptosis through the death-receptor-mediated and mitochondria-mediated pathways.8
Researchers from the University of Minnesota1, however, found that triptolide itself had limited clinical use because it is poorly soluble in water. They then synthesized an analog of the compound to make it water-soluble and named it Minnelide. After testing the efficacy of the analog both in vitro and in vivo rat models of pancreatic cancer, they found Minnelide was very effective in reducing the growth and spread of pancreatic tumor. It also improved the survival of rats, to which human pancreatic cancer cell lines have been transplanted. According to the researchers, the use of Minnelide led to the eradication of tumors after less than six weeks of treatment, even after discontinuation of the treatment. Their results also suggested that Minnelide may be a potent chemotherapeutic agent and that its evaluation of in clinical trials against pancreatic cancer is warranted. Their study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and was published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.
Aside from its antitumor activity, recent animal studies9 suggest that triptolide may sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy and exert synergistic anti-tumor effect when used in combination with various cytotoxic drugs such as cisplatin or 5-FU, sorafen, to carboplatin, oxaliplatin, and temozolomide. It has also been shown that combining its use with non-cytotoxic drugs such as aspirin and dexamethasone also has synergistic effects in many numerous of cancer cells. Furthermore, triptolide has also been shown to improve radiosensitivity of cancer cells. It was found to work synergistically with radiation therapy to suppress the growth of pancreatic cancer cells and significantly up-regulated apoptosis of cancer cells. Although a number of phase I trials point to the potential clinical value of triptolide use in cancer therapy, more studies with larger sample sizes are required to confirm their results.
Although more than a hundred active components have been isolated from Tripterygium wilfordii, most of them are known to have potent therapeutic effects for various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In recent decades, however, scientists have found that the medicinal herb’s anticancer activities come not only from extracts called triptolide, but also from the quinone triterpene, celastrol, another important bioactive ingredient. Aside from these, studies have also found other compounds in thunder god vine with antitumor properties such as tripdiolide, triptobenzene B, wilforol E , triptohairic acid and hypoglic acid.10
Scientists agree that further investigation is needed to establish the therapeutic anticancer effects of the Chinese herb called thunder god vine.
Key Statistics about Pancreatic Cancer
What is Tripterygium wilfordii Used for Today?
- R Chugh, V Sangwan, S Patil, et al. A preclinical evaluation of minnelide as a therapeutic agent against pancreatic cancer. Science Translational Medicine. 2012;4(156):[156ra139].
- Mayo Clinic. Pancreatic Cancer. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cancer/basics/definition/CON-20028153
- Bio. Steve Jobs Biography. http://www.biography.com/people/steve-jobs-9354805
- Shamon LA, Pezzuto JM, Graves JM, et al: Evaluation of the mutagenic, cytotoxic, and antitumor potential of triptolide, a highly oxygenated diterpene isolated from Tripterygium wilfordii. Cancer Lett. 112:113–117. 1997.
- F Yebdri, J Grevenynghe, V Tang, et al. Triptolide-Mediated Inhibition of Interferon Signaling Enhances Vesicular Stomatitis Virus-Based Oncolysis. Molecular Therapy online publication 17 September 2013; doi: 10.1038/mt.2013.187
- B Carter, D Mak, W Schober, et al. Triptolide induces caspase-dependent cell death mediated via the mitochondrial pathway in leukemic cells. Blood. 2006 Jul 15; 108(2): 630–637.
- T Nakazato, M Sagawa, and M Kizaki.Triptolide induces apoptotic cell death of multiple myeloma cells via transcriptional repression of Mcl-1. International Journal Of Oncology 44: 1131-1138, 2014.
- Wang X, Matta R, Shen G, et al. Mechanism of triptolide-induced apoptosis: Effect on caspase activation and Bid cleavage and essentiality of the hydroxyl group of triptolide. J Mol Med (Berl). 2006 May;84(5):405-15.
- Cuicui M, Hongcheng Z, Hongmei S, et al. Targets and molecular mechanisms of triptolide in cancer therapy. Chin J Cancer Res 2014;26(5):622-626.
- Liu, Z.; Ma, L.; Zhou, G.-B. The Main Anticancer Bullets of the Chinese Medicinal Herb, Thunder God Vine. Molecules 2011, 16, 5283-5297.
Chinese Herbs and Cancer Treatment
The use of Chinese herbs plays a significant role in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine for treating cancer. Many studies suggest that when used in combination with conventional cancer treatments, certain herbs can be used to prevent or stop the growth of tumors, reduce symptoms and complications of cancer, alleviate the side effects of cancer therapy, and promote a better quality of life for cancer patients.
IntroductionCancer is a common disease that is fast becoming a leading cause of death in many nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 2005 and 2015, about 84 million people around the world will die of cancer. Although modern research and technology has increased the use of various types of cancer therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy, their side effects are often considered highly debilitating. Furthermore, these therapies can also be costly and inconvenient. In China, government funding of research on traditional herbal medicines has been increased to reduce disability, to protect cancer patients from suffering from complications, and to help improve the quality of the life.
Cancer, like all other illnesses, is regarded in Chinese medicine as a manifestation of an energy imbalance, either as an excess or a deficiency of the body’s energies. Ancient Chinese tradition says that chi, which is the life force, controls bodily function and well-being, and a healthy person is one who has a balanced, sufficient flow of chi. The smooth circulation of chi may be blocked or may become excessive or deficient when pain or disease is present. This flow may be disrupted by various factors such as an imbalanced lifestyle, stress, overwork, or lack of exercise. Oriental doctors treat each patient as a unique individual with different types of imbalances, rather than treating a specific condition such as breast or stomach cancer. Therefore, prescribed treatments vary with each patient, depending on their specific imbalances.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of treatment that dates back to more than 2,000 years, and is now practiced by about a fifth of the world’s population. In fact, many people in the first-world countries, including those in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Canada use TCM in maintaining health and fighting disease. As a holistic approach to promote health, TCM utilizes a wide range of treatments, which include acupuncture, diet, herbs, massage, osteopathic manipulation, breathing exercises, relaxation, and therapeutic exercise. Like acupuncture, the use of herbal medicine plays a significant role not only in the health-care system of China, but also in many parts of the world. Although the use of herbal medicine is mainly based on centuries of practical experience, many scientific studies have provided some evidence on the effectiveness of these Chinese folk remedies.
Like most Chinese people, many patients prefer herbal remedies to traditional drugs because they are believed to be more natural, less harmful, and equally or even more effective than pharmaceutical drugs. Herbs are usually prepared as compound formulas which contain about six to 12 different types of herbs. These remedies are often complex combinations of multiple ingredients, which are meant to restore balance to the system.
Chinese herbs used to treat cancer are generally classified into three categories:
- Tonic herbs, which increase the activity and number of immunologically active proteins and cells.
- Toxin-clearing herbs, which clean the blood of organisms and waste products resulting from the destruction of germs and tumors.
- Blood-activating herbs, which reduce coagulation and other inflammatory reactions accompanying the immune response.
In addition, herbal medicines used in combination with other modes of cancer treatment can also reduce nausea and vomiting, improve appetite, and relieve stress in patients, thus improving the quality of their lives.
Fu Zhen Therapy
Medical research in China and the United States has shown that Fu Zhen therapy, an herbal regimen that is used as an adjunct to cancer therapy, helps protect the immune system from damage and increases survival rates. In one study involving 76 patients with hepatic cancer, it was found that most patients who received Fu Zhen therapy in combination with radiation or chemotherapy survived for one to three years longer than those who received radiation or chemotherapy alone. Laboratory studies also showed that Fu Zhen herbs prevent transplanted tumors from growing.
The principal herbs used in Fu Zhen therapy include astragalus, atractylodes, ginseng, codonopsis, ligustrum, and ganoderma. These have been shown to strengthen the body’s nonspecific immunity and boost T-cell function. Fu Zhen therapy has also been found to stop the spread of cancer, control pain, and improve a patient’s overall quality of life.
Some of the Chinese herbs used in Fu Zhen therapy include:
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), an adaptogen, which helps protect the body against physical, mental, and emotional stress, as well as cancer and diabetes. It has antioxidant properties, which protect against cell damage and support the immune system. It also has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. In the US, researchers have investigated its use as a possible treatment for people with weakened immune systems secondary to chemotherapy and radiation. Studies have shown that astragalus injections may inhibit the development of malignant tumor, decrease the adverse effects of chemotherapy, and improve the immune function and quality of life of cancer patients.
Atractylodes (Atroctylodes macrocephalae), which is known to increase white blood cells. Various studies have found that this herb can help improve appetite, remove toxins, potentiate the therapeutic effects of anti-cancer drugs, and reduce tumor growth.
Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula), which is known to enhance the growth of red blood cells, increase antibody levels in the blood, and assist in T-cell formation. This herb strengthens the body and hastens the recovery of patients who are weakened by illnesses or chemo- and radiation therapy.
Ganoderma (Ganoderma lucidum), which is known to strengthen T-cell and macrophage or white blood cell function. Research shows that it may work synergistically with other chemotherapy/ immunotherapy drugs to enhance their cancer killing properties. Other mechanisms of action include regulation of immune function, enhanced protection of DNA from damage due to oxidative stress, reduced growth of tumor cells.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng), which may be used to help kill cancer cells. A number of studies suggest that Asian ginseng may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, including cancers of the lung, liver, pancreas, ovaries, and the stomach. Other studies have also found that ginseng may slow down or stop tumor growth.
Ligustrum (Ligustrum lucidum), which is often used in cases of rapid deterioration of health. It is used to increase immunity in cancer patients and to treat the side effects caused by chemotherapy. Studies have shown that its fruits have antitumor, immunomodulatory, antiviral, antidiabetic, antimutagenic, antioxidative, and hepatoprotective properties. Its antitumor properties are associated with its ability to modulate the immune response, to revert macrophage suppression caused by tumors, and to increase production of phagocytes and lymphokine-activated killer cells.
The Impact of Chinese Herbs on Cancer Stem Cells
Like other stem cells, cancer stem cells have the ability to undergo self-renewal and differentiation. There are various mechanisms by which cancer stem cells are thought to arise from somatic stem cells, including the natural process of aging, chronic inflammation, hyperglycemia, activation of telomerase, and more. Treatments targeting cancer stem cells aim to improve survival rates and the quality of life of patients. A review of eight studies that looked into the effects of specific isolates from Chinese herbs on cancer found that proliferation of cancer stem cells may be inhibited by these, thus preventing recurrence and metastasis. These isolates included:
- Soy flavones, which inhibited the proliferation of liver cancer cells
- Ginsenocide Rg3, which inhibited the proliferation of brain cancer cells
- Parthenolide, which comes from the leaves of Tanacetum parthenium, can induce death of leukemia stem cells
- Berbamine, from the Chinese herb Berberis amurensis, has been found to selectively induce death of leukemia cells and suppress the growth, migration and invasion of highly-metastatic breast cancer cells
- Curcumin, alone or in combination with chemotherapy, can prevent the appearance of chemoresistant colon cancer cells by reducing or eliminating the cancer stem cells.
- Curcumin with piperine can prevent breast cancer cell proliferation
Another study looked into the effects of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), a common Chinese medicinal herb, on antitumor activity. Researchers found that a component in licorice root called licochalcone-A may induce cell cycle arrest or apoptosis (death) in prostate cancer cells.
One study on turmeric (Curcuma longa) found that it can effectively block the proliferation of tumor cells by inhibiting the activation of NF-κB, which plays an important role in tumor cell survival, proliferation, chemoresistance, metastasis, and bone loss. The researchers found that it was effective in various types of cancer such as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and multiple myeloma. Turmeric also inhibited activation of STAT3, another proinflammatory transcription factor associated with tumor cell development in multiple myeloma, pancreatic, colorectal, and breast cancer.
Researchers have also investigated the anti-lung cancer activity and growth inhibition mechanisms of E-Sung-Cho (Hottuynia cordata Thunb), a Chinese herb used in the treatment of several diseases. Many studies have reported that its extract has anti-colon cancer and anti-leukemia activity and it inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells.
More Quality Research Needed
There are numerous herbs and spices used in Chinese and Oriental medicine for cancer patients. However, more research is necessary to support claims for most of them. Although many studies have been published, most of them are poorly structured and information is lacking.
In a review of 716 case reports on more than 1,000 cancer patients treated by TCM, for example, it was found that the top five cancers treated with TCM were lung cancer, leukemia, stomach cancer, liver cancer and esophageal cancer. In most cases, a combination of Chinese and conventional medicine were used, with herbal medicine being highly prevalent. However, the authors noted that although the amount of information from those case reports was rich, the quality of the reports was generally poor.
Another systematic review involving more than 250,000 cancer patients included in almost 3,000 controlled trials found that the top seven cancer types treated with TCM were of lung, liver, stomach, breast, esophagus, colorectal and nasopharyngeal cancer. Herbal medicine was the most frequently used form of therapy. The authors found that the clinical application of TCM was of high interest not only in the treatment of cancer, but also in the prevention of relapse or metastasis. It also had a high impact in the prevention of hemorrhage and radiotherapy/chemotherapy-induced side effects, as well as other drug-induced adverse effects. Although rich in information, the researchers found that many of the reports lacked detailed evaluation and analysis that could lead to meaningful conclusions and contribute to evidence-based clinical recommendations.
Research suggests that combining the use of Chinese herbs with conventional cancer management may safely increase the therapeutic effects and reduce the adverse effects of cancer treatment. However, more studies must be done to provide solid evidence on the mechanisms by which Chinese herbs impact the development and progress of cancer and how they affect the body’s reactions to the disease. Before using these treatments, it is best to consult cancer treatment specialists and experts in Oriental Medicine to obtain the best possible options for every patient.
UMMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Integrative Cancer Answers: Cancer Treatment Options
Fu Zheng Therapy: A Complementary TCM Cancer Treatment
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- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Ligustrum lucidum. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/ligustrum-lucidum
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