Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women, according to BreastCancer.com. Some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer opt to use holistic, traditional Chinese medicine to complement conventional medical treatment. Increased acceptance of alternative medicine—both within and outside of the medical community—means cancer patients have an easier time accessing Chinese herbs and informing themselves about them.
Beliefs About Breast Cancer
The Chinese refer to breast cancer as “Ru Yan,” or “breast stone.” The prevailing belief is that disease is caused by excess emotion, which in turn causes problems of the spleen and liver and, as a result, blockage the chi and blood. The consequence of the blockage is breast cancer “lumps.”
There are thousands of herbs–not to mention hundreds of animal and mineral extracts and healing herbal formulas–used in Chinese medicine. These formulas are taken as pills, tinctures, teas, powders or syrups. In the United States, Chinese herbs for breast cancer can be found on health food and pharmacy shelves. However, they also can (and, at least initially, should) be procured from a practitioner of herbal medicine, because treatment and use varies from person to person.
Any patient who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is unfamiliar with what herbs to use should set up an appointment with an expert in Chinese medicine before beginning treatment. During the appointment, the practitioner will attempt to identify imbalances in the body, ask about symptoms and look at body parts such as eyes and the tongue, while checking the voice and pulse. The exam will help the practitioner determine how to treat these deficiencies and battle the disease with Chinese healing herbs for breast cancer.
Western medicine treats women with breast cancer through surgery to remove cancer, radiation to kill and reduce the size of cancer cells and chemotherapy to kill cancer cells and prevent the disease from returning. Western doctors also may use drugs that prevent estrogen from attaching to cancer cells and causing them to grow. In particularly serious cases, they may opt to remove bone marrow via a autologous bone marrow transplant after chemo is complete. By contrast, traditional Chinese medicine uses a series of herbs to treat the disease based on the patient’s symptoms. Chinese medicine addresses the disease through four approaches: suppressing the disease (with Tulipa edulis); fighting cancer and cleansing the body (with the likes of odlenlandia, notoginseng root and bugleweed, among others); boosting immunity (ligustrum seed and polyporus are some options); and preventing change in breast cell genes that lead to cancer (through lycii fruit, ligustrum seed and cuscuta seed). Then, it looks at one of the following after therapy: chi blood deficiency for those with low cell immunity; Chi Yin deficiency for patients with a low lymphocyte transformation rate and low level of seroimmunity globulins; or dryness with heat toxins to rid the body of toxins resulting from conventional treatment. Then, a specific herbal formula is customized and administered based on deficiencies.
Because the FDA does not regulate alternative medicine, it’s hard to know whether supplements are safe or effective. Some may contain contaminants. Plus, Chinese healing herbs for breast cancer generally have not been tested for interactions with other treatments, medications or foods. It’s important to exercise caution when utilizing Chinese healing herbs for breast cancer. Always see a reputable Chinese practitioner before beginning treatment, and inform your conventional medical team about any and all supplements, herbs or botanical treatments you are taking.