In Depth Healing Strategies for Cancer
Cancer is our most dreaded disease. When you consider the statistics, it’s not hard to understand why: • One million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year; more than half will die from their disease.
- Since 1950, the incidence of cancer has increased by 44 percent.
- Between 1973 and 1987, lung cancer increased by 32 percent, melanoma by 83 percent, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by 52 percent; breast, prostate, and kidney cancers have also increased significantly.
- Cancer is the leading cause of death in people between the ages of 35 and 64.
- Cancer kills more women in the United States than any other disease; every year more than 40,000 women die from breast cancer alone.
- Fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that they are likely to get cancer; only three percent expect to contract AIDS.
Cancer has plagued human beings since ancient times-the bones and skulls of Egyptian and Peruvian mummies embalmed five thousand years ago show signs of the disease-and yet it continues to elude a medical cure. Why does cancer continue to escalate despite billions of dollars spent on research into various treatments and cures?
Cancer is, to put it simply, the growth of abnormal cells. When functioning normally, the body regulates cell growth, manufacturing new cells to replace dead and dying ones and then sending a clear signal to stop when enough cells have been produced. In cancerous cells, the stoplight malfunctions, and the green light is always on. In a big city, the inevitable result of a malfunctioning stoplight is a massive traffic jam with fender benders, pileups, and frustrated drivers creating all kinds of chaos. In the body, with its one trillion cells, the results are similar, with masses of cells piling up and blocking normal traffic lanes.
As the cancer cells multiply, they form masses of cells called tumors, which press against surrounding cells, causing damage and destruction to healthy tissues. Benign tumors are distinct and well-defined; for the most part, they are polite and keep to themselves. Cancerous tumors, on the other hand, are rude and disorderly, directly invading their neighbor’s space and breaking off from the mother tumor like undisciplined children to travel through the bloodstream or lymph system to distant neighborhoods, where they create havoc and mayhem.
Kinds of cancer: Cancer cells come in three basic families:
- Carcinomas , the most common form, begin in the cells lining the various organs-the mucous lining of the skin and the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts, as well as the breasts, prostate gland, and thyroid gland.
- Sarcomas arise from other body tissues, including the muscles, bones, and connective tissues.
- Leukemias and lymphomas: Leukemia is a disease of the tissues in the bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes, while lymphomas arise from lymphatic or immune system cells.
Diagnosis: The American Cancer Society lists seven warning signs of cancer:
- Any unusual bleeding or discharge
- A lump that doesn’t go away or grows rapidly
- A sore that doesn’t heal within two weeks
- An obvious change in bowel or bladder patterns
- Persistent cough or hoarseness in the voice
- Persistent indigestion or difficulty swallowing
- Changes in a wart or mole
Note: Pain is not usually considered a warning sign of early cancer.
If you or your doctor notice any of these early warning signs, a series of diagnostic tests will be conducted, including a complete physical examination, blood tests, chest X-ray, stool tests, and urinalysis. Tumors often can be felt as a lump or nodule below the surface of the skin or mucous membrane; if a tumor is discovered, a biopsy is performed, in which a piece of tissue is removed from the tumor and then examined to determine if the cells are benign (normal cells) or malignant (cancerous).
Your doctor may also order high-tech diagnostic tests, including CT (computerized tomography) scans, which give detailed pictures of your body that are analyzed by computer; MRl (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, which use radio waves to deliver the information to the computer to be analyzed; ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create computerized pictures of the interior of the body; and endoscopy, in which the doctor uses a special instrument to examine the hollow organs or body cavities.
If abnormal growths or tumors are discovered in any of these procedures, a biopsy is typically scheduled to determine if the growth is benign or malignant.
Numerous theories have been offered to explain why cancerous cells start to reproduce in the body, though many of them are hotly debated. The most commonly accepted theories include:
- The Viral Theory: According to this theory, a virus is hidden within the genes in the cells. At some point, and for some unknown reason, the virus is released, causing the normal cellular mechanisms to malfunction.
- The Oncogene Theory: A newer version of the viral theory, the oncogene theory holds that approximately twenty genes called “proto-oncogenes” mutate into oncogenes, which cause cancer within the cell.
- The Tumor Suppressor Gene Theory: This theory was proposed as an extension of the oncogene theory to help explain why cancer often occurs in the absence of photo-oncogene mutations. According to this theory, anti-oncogenes, or tumor suppressor genes, roam the body to inhibit the actions of the oncogenes and prevent cancer. If the tumor suppressor genes mutate or malfunction, oncogenes gain the advantage and cancerous cells multiply.
- The Epigenetic Theory: One of the oldest theories about cancer causation, the epigenetic theory is being reconsidered by many cancer researchers. According to this theory, the cytoplasm-the part of the cell that surrounds the nucleus- is frozen at an early stage of the cell, resulting in a breakdown of the signaling mechanisms that control genetic activity. Consequently, the developing cells lose their “voice” and cannot communicate essential information to the chromosomes or the genes themselves, leading to alterations in genetic activity that in turn cause mutations and malignancies.
- The Immune Deficiency Theory: According to this theory cancer cells exist in everyone but are controlled by a vigorous immune system; when the immune system is weakened by radiation, environmental pollution, stress, toxic chemicals in food or water, or unhealthy lifestyle habits, normal cells mutate and cancerous cells replicate. Few people contest this theory, which has been validated by recent environmental disasters like the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986 and the Love Canal tragedy, where toxic wastes dumped into an old canal caused unusually high incidences of assorted cancers and nerve, respiratory, and kidney disorders. One year before the meltdown at Chernobyl, two cases of thyroid cancer were diagnosed in children who lived in the area; between 1987 and 1994, 236 cases were diagnosed.
Present methods of treating cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. Increasing numbers of physicians are incorporating various alternative or complementary therapies into their treatment regimens, possibly in response to the fact that many of their patients will use these therapies whether the doctor sanctions them or not. Nearly half of all cancer patients consider or try alternative therapies, spending more than $10 billion on unorthodox treatments each year. The average cancer patient spends more than $100,000 on various treatments to combat the disease.
In this section we’ll concentrate on those treatments generally accepted and widely used by the medical community.
- Surgery: When performed at an early stage in the development of cancer, before the cancer has metastasized and spread to other organs, surgery can literally “cure” cancer. When detected early enough, cancers of the skin, breast, stomach, bowel, and uterus can be cured completely by surgery. The surgeon removes the tumor and some of the adjacent normal-appearing tissue to make sure that all cancerous tissues are removed; the surrounding tissue is examined by a pathologist, who determines if it is free of malignancy. The lymph nodes may also be biopsied to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread to the lymphatic system.
- Radiation therapy: More than half of all cancer patients in the United States receive radiation therapy (X-rays or gamma rays), which destroys cancerous tumors. Although radiation is often successful with such cancers as early Hodgkin’s disease, lymphosarcoma, inoperable local prostate cancer, localized tumors of the head, neck, larynx and cervix, testicular cancer, and childhood leukemia, numerous studies show that radiation does not cure most cancers and rarely extends life expectancy.
Many researchers and clinicians are concerned about the fact that radiation, particularly when used for cancers against which it is not effective, may actually promote the development of cancer. Research shows that people who have radiation are more likely to have their cancer metastasize; studies published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet suggest that radiation following breast surgery may increase death rates.
Radiation therapy can reduce pain and suffering and, when used against certain cancers, save lives.
However, because radiation also harms healthy tissues, even to the point of encouraging the development of cancer, it should always be used with care and deliberation. Patients are well advised to ask their doctors whether radiation promotes a cure or increases life expectancy for their particular type of cancer. If you are still uncertain, ask for the available scientific literature supporting radiation’s effectiveness.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy, which uses toxic chemicals to combat cancer, is the most popular form of cancer treatment in the United States, with $1.5 billion spent annually on various cancer drugs. The toxicity of these drugs is undisputed-one popular class of chemotherapy drugs known as nitrogen mustards is closely related to the poisonous mustard gases used in World War I. More than sixty varieties of the nitrogen mustards are on the market today, and they are taken by half a million Americans. One frequently prescribed derivative of mustard gas, Cytoxan, causes such side effects as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, blood abnormalities, heart damage, and lung damage. Cytoxan is also carcinogenic-that is, it can actually cause cancer. Platinol, another best-selling cancer drug, can cause seizures, hearing loss, nerve damage, and kidney damage.
Although hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on developing research and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, the results have been extremely disappointing except for a few relatively rare cancers-acute lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, Burkitt’s lymphoma, choriocarcinoma, lymphosarcoma, Wilms’s tumor, and Ewing’s sarcoma. The most common forms of cancer don’t respond at all to chemotherapy, or they react with only a temporary shrinkage in tumor size. Even when the tumor shrinks in response to chemotherapy agents, life expectancy remains the same in two out of three cases.
- Immune supportive therapy (cell transfer therapy or biological therapy): These innovative cancer treatments, developed within the last twenty years, are designed to activate the immune system by injecting immune system cells directly into the patient’s bloodstream. Animal studies were initiallypromising, but many researchers believe the statistics on human mortality and the steady rise in cancer rates in the last twenty years raise doubts about the effectiveness of these costly, often painful treatments.
New variations of biological therapy using substances like monoclonal antibodies and interleukin appear more promising, and cancer researchers remain hopeful that biological therapy will eventually prove helpful in the treatment of cancer.
In Chinese medicine all cancers are considered different manifestations of constrained Liver chi.
Because the chi commands the blood and keeps it moving in its proper pathways, any disorder in chi will lead to disorders in the blood. As the circulation slows down, the blood congeals and becomes stagnant, marking the first stage in the potential development of cancerous tumors.
Why does the Liver chi become constrained and obstructed? The Chinese are most suspicious of stress-particularly excessive or prolonged stress-and long-term exposure to toxic chemicals in the form of pollutants in the air or water, toxins in food, and various drugs including alcohol and cigarettes.
All toxic substances are first processed in the digestive system. If toxins begin to build up and accumulate in the intestines, they preoccupy the chi, which gets tired and sluggish. “Stagnant chi” weakens the Liver, interfering with the Liver’s role of maintaining the free and easy flow of blood, energy, and emotions, which in turn contributes to obstructions that can lead to cancer. Treatment strategies are designed to invigorate the chi and restore the free flow of energy in the digestive system and the Liver to eliminate the obstructions.
When constrained Liver chi is the main cause of cancer, symptoms include general irritability, sudden emotional outbursts, tightness in the throat, pains on the sides of the body (particularly near the rib cage), headaches (typically near the temples), and red, itchy, or inflamed eyes.
The Chinese also view deficient Spleen/Pancreas, Lung, and Kidney chi as contributing to the development of cancer because these organ systems are directly involved in stimulating and nourishing chi and wei chi energy. Deficient chi in these vital organs saps the body’s natural defenses, making it easier for diseases of all types, including cancer, to take root and thrive. If the Kidney chi is deficient, the Kidneys are unable to provide adequate support for the Liver, which eventually leads to constrained Liver chi, congealed blood, and cancer. The Lungs are responsible for creating and distributing wei chi to all the vital organs; a deficiency of Lung chi will cause a breakdown in this vital function, weakening the body’s defensive energy and resistance to disease. A deficiency in Spleen chi results in inefficient digestive processes, which can lead to an excessively moist, mucus-filled environment that encourages the growth of cancerous cells.
In Asia and Europe, and increasingly in the United States, complementary treatment methods including herbs, nutritional supplements, and acupuncture are often combined with or substituted for orthodox Western treatment strategies. Approximately fifty percent of cancer patients either consider using or have used alternative treatments, spending more than $10 billion on these therapies. In Europe, herbal therapy for cancer is considered mainstream; Europeans spend significantly less money on their health care than U.S. cancer patients, yet the statistics clearly show that they enjoy longer life expectancies.
Although cancers behave differently depending on the type of cell that is growing and multiplying, the complementary treatments discussed in this section apply equally to all types of cancer.
- Step 1: Eliminate animal protein. Red meat, white meat, and dairy products are difficult to digest and contain numerous toxins that stress an already overburdened system.
- Step 2: Avoid harmful fats. Harmful fats include saturated fats (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, duck, and whole-milk products, including cheese, butter, milk, cream, and ice cream) and trans-fatty acids found in margarine, vegetable shortening, fast food french fries, and hundreds of products that come bottled, canned, or frozen, containing the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” on the label. Research conclusively proves that these chemically altered fats promote cancer.
- Step 3: Eat organic (nonchemically treated) foods whenever possible. If you eat meat, eat only organic beef and poultry. Buy or grow your own organic fruits and vegetables, freezing or canning the produce for use in winter months.
- Step 4: Avoid refined and processed foods. Chemicals are carcinogenic, and most of us eat them every day. More than three thousand chemicals are added to our foods to give them longer shelf lives, enhance their flavor, create color, and impart texture; on the average we consume nine pounds of chemicals along with our food and beverages every year. To protect yourself against cancer, take every step possible to cut down on the chemicals contained in fast, processed, and refined foods.
- Step 5: Increase your intake of whole grains. Whole grains include, among others, whole wheat, brown rice, millet, oats, barley, corn, and rye. If you have cancer, we recommend a diet consisting of fifty to sixty percent whole grains.
- Step 6: Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. If your digestion is strong and vigorous, raw fruits and vegetables are fine; if you are prone to digestive disturbances, eliminate raw foods and gently steam the vegetables or saute them in olive oil to loosen up the cellulose coating and ease the strain on your digestive system.
- Step 7: Increase your intake of fiber. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive system. Without fiber to bulk the food and move it quickly and efficiently through the stomach and intestines, the digestive system gets sluggish. When digestion falters, undigested food particles escape through the walls of the colon and into the body fluids. The immune system comes to the rescue, gobbling up the “renegade” proteins; however, because those same cells are needed elsewhere to maintain health and fight infections, the immune system is slowly but surely drained of vital energy.
To sum up the problem: A malfunctioning digestive system can lead to immune dysfunction. The solution: Consume sufficient dietary fiber in the form of whole vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, and supplemental fiber to restore balance and harmony.
- Step 8: Drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of fresh, filtered water every day. Avoid city water, which is treated with chlorine and other disinfecting agents. If you drink well water, have it periodically tested for contaminants.
- Step 9: Avoid nitrites and nitrates. Hot dogs, sausage, salami, pepperoni, bologna, bacon, and smoked meats contain nitrates and nitrites, salts of nitric and nitrous acid, which have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and are linked with stomach, colon, and esophageal cancers in humans. A recent study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that children who ate hot dogs had twice the risk of brain tumors when compared with children who didn’t eat hot dogs. Research at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles showed that children who ate more than twelve hot dogs a month had nearly ten times the risk of leukemia when compared with children who didn’t eat hot dogs.
- Step 10: Reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake. A recent study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health showed that even modest amounts of alcohol (approximately two drinks a day) can increase the risk of breast cancer; convincing evidence exists to suggest that alcohol is implicated in stomach, throat, and colon cancers as well.
- Step 11: Sit down and eat slowly. Stress is a major factor in the development of cancer. Don’t add to your stress by wolfing down your food or eating on the run. Eat slowly, savoring each and every bite. Food is medicine; as the Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang put it, “The Chinese do not draw any distinction between food and medicine.” Offer your food a relaxed and stress-free environment in which it can work its healing wonders.
- Step 12: Stop smoking. We include cigarette smoking under “diet” because nicotine has a direct effect on the appetite. The right food can do wonders for your health, but nicotine destroys many essential nutrients before your body can use them. Researchers estimate that each cigarette you smoke shortens your life by 5.5 minutes. At that rate, it doesn’t matter how many organic fruits or vegetables you eat or how much fresh, filtered water you drink.
The link between smoking and cancer, lung disease, and heart disease is undisputed. You’ve undoubtedly heard the many statistics confirming the connection between smoking and cancer; here’s a frightening statistic linking heart disease and nicotine: Men below the age of forty-five who smoked fifteen cigarettes or more a day were nine times more likely to die of coronary heart disease than men of the same age who did not smoke.
Secondhand smoke is also bad for your health. Stop smoking, make sure your environment is smoke-free, and give your new, healthy diet a chance to work.
Regular movement and exercise promote the circulation of blood and chi throughout the body. Since all forms of cancer involve blockages or stagnation of chi and blood, exercise is an extremely important part of any cancer-prevention or cancer-treatment program. Both yoga and tai chi exercises stimulate the flow of energy and blood; these ancient healing methods will also help you develop what Zen Buddhists call “the right mind”-the ability to eliminate distracting thoughts and focus on what is happening right here, right now. If you feel strong enough to try more vigorous exercises, by all means do so.
In general, Wood types enjoy aggressive, competitive sports like running, mountain biking, backpacking, racquetball, and solitary workouts on fitness machines; if you are a Wood type, make sure your strength and endurance are sufficient to engage in these or other demanding exercises. Water and winter sports like swimming, boating, fishing, skiing, and skating are ideal for Fire types, as are gentle, nonjarring exercises like walking and bike riding. Slow, easy, noncompetitive exercises like walking, swimming, yoga, and tai chi appeal to Earth types. Exercises that encourage rhythmic, regular breathing like running, backpacking, mountain climbing, and aerobic workouts are particularly beneficial for Metal types: The deep breathing, stretching, and meditation involved in yoga and tai chi are also perfectly suited to Metal. Water types enjoy any exercise that emphasizes flow and fluidity, including swimming, jogging, brisk walking, cross-country skiing, yoga, and tai chi.
If your energy is sufficient, exercise twenty to thirty minutes every day.
- Vitamin C: As an antioxidant and free radical scavenger, vitamin C works to prevent cancer-causing substances from gaining a foothold in the body, and it stimulates macrophages and T-cells, which playa critical role in fighting cancer. An important agent in the synthesis of collagen fibers, vitamin C also supports your body’s ability to isolate cancerous growths, preventing them from invading healthy tissues. Numerous studies conducted around the world confirm vitamin C’s immune-enhancing activities. Take up to 5000 mg daily; if you are undergoing chemo, your doctor may ask you stop all antioxidants, please consult with your health care provider for the latest information on Vit C.
- Vitamin E: A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E protects the cells against cancer-causing free radicals. In combination with other antioxidants, particularly selenium and beta-carotene, vitamin E is effective in preventing cancer. Studies show that vitamin E can prevent the transformation of nitrate-containing foods into nitrosamines, which cause cancer; other studies show that higher blood levels of vitamin E reduce the incidence of chemically induced breast cancer in laboratory animals. Women who have higher levels of vitamin E in their blood are significantly less likely to get breast cancer than those who have low blood levels of the vitamin. To help prevent cancer, reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and provide general support to the immune system, take 800 I.U. daily.
- Selenium: Selenium is a powerful immune stimulant, antioxidant, and anticarcinogen. Laboratory animals given selenium in their diets were protected against a wide range of carcinogens. Another study analyzing blood-bank data from seventeen countries around the world showed that areas with low levels of selenium in the diet experienced higher levels of leukemia and cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, prostate, ovary, and lung. In a 1996 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1,312 patients with a history of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin were treated with 200 mcg. daily of selenium for approximately four and a half years; the incidence of lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers was significantly reduced, and total cancer mortality decreased by fifty percent. Selenium works synergistically with vitamin E; for optimal anticancer, antioxidant, and general immune-supporting actions, take 200 mcg. daily with 800 IU vitamin E.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps to maintain the structural integrity of the cells and promotes healthy functioning of the mucous linings, particularly the linings of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genito-urinary tracts, protecting these areas from cancer. In numerous studies conducted around the world, vitamin A has been shown to prevent cancer and halt the progression of the disease. For cancer we recommend vitamin A instead of beta-carotene or mixed carotenes. Recent studies indicate that vitamin A is an extremely effective anticancer agent; the effects of beta-carotene on cancer are still being evaluated. Take 50,000 LV. dailY-25,000 LV. in the morning and 25,000 LV. in the evening. If you are undergoing chemotherapy or if your cancer is aggressive and actively spreading, larger doses of vitamin A may be appropriate: however, because of the possible toxicity of large doses, be sure to seek professional advice.
- B-complex vitamins: These vitamins support the immune system and help the body deal more efficiently with stress. Because stress is clearly implicated in immune dysfunction and susceptibility to cancer, the B vitamins are essential to prevent cancer. Chemotherapy significantly reduces the level of B vitamins in the tissues, so be sure to take a B-vitamin complex during chemotherapy treatments. Take a B-100 complex daily.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These nutrients are essential to promoting optimal cell integrity by helping to establish and maintain healthy cell membranes. Natural anti-inflammatory agents, omega-3’s reduce the irritation and inflammation of the cells, which, in turn, lowers the risk of cancer. The best food source of omega-3 fatty acids is certain oily fish-salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and albacore tuna. Other rich sources of omega-3’s are flaxseed, flax meal, flax oil, hemp oil, and walnuts. Eat fish rich in omega-3’s three times a week, or supplement your diet with 1,500 mg. daily.
- Gamma linoleic acid: GLA is a valuable ally in protecting your cells from degenerative changes and reducing inflammation throughout the body; recent studies show that it may inhibit cancer development. GLA is available in oil of evening primrose, borage seed oil, and black currant seed oil. Take 1,500 mg. daily.
- Acidophilus (Lactobacillus acidophilus and/or Lactobacillus bifidus): This valuable adjunct to cancer prevention and treatment supports the health and integrity of the stomach and bowels by breaking down potential irritants and carcinogens (including the cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines) into harmless substances. By supporting bowel integrity, acidophilus also supports immune function, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. We recommend enteric-coated capsules, which are coated to survive the acid bath in the stomach and release in the intestines, where they are needed. In general we prefer a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifi-dus; take one capsule with each meal.
Three different kinds of herbs are important for cancer:
- Herbs that support immune function (echinacea, astragalus, the healing mushrooms, and oats)
- Herbs that promote the health of the Liver (dandelion and milk thistle)
- Herbs that help the lymph system eliminate toxins from the body efficiently and effectively (red clover, yellow dock, and licorice)
- Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia or Echinacea purpura): This Native American herb was used by natives and white settlers to treat a myriad of afflictions, including snakebites, burns, wounds, fevers, infections, toothaches, and sore throats. Today, herbalists use echinacea as a general immune system stimulant. It gears up the immune system in two basic ways: by increasing the production of T-cells and by protecting haluronic acid, the cement that holds the cells together and strengthens their resistance to encroaching cancer cells or pathogenic invaders (viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites).
- Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous): This herb has been used for thousands of years in China as a general energy and digestive tonic to combat fatigue and speed recovery from wounds or disease. Extensively researched for its immune-enhancing effects in the treatment of HIV / AIDS, astragalus significantly increases the production of interferon, a powerful immune enhancer produced by the body, and it is particularly useful for the serious depletion of energy commonly experienced by cancer patients undergoing invasive therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Healing mushrooms: Certain mushrooms have been used in China and Japan for thousands of years for their immune-enhancing and energy-supporting effects. In the past twenty years researchers in the East and West have confirmed the antiviral, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties of Shiitake (Lentinus edodes), Maitake (Grifolafrondosa), Coriolus versicolor (also known as Trametes versicolor), and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidium) mushrooms. Recent research indicates that Coriolus versicolor increases T-cell immunity and shrinks tumors, increases the survival rate of many types of cancer, and reduces recurrence of the disease. The British medical journal Lancet recently reported the results of a five-year study showing significant improvement and an increase in long-term survival for gastric cancer patients who used Coriolus extract. The well-studied Reishi mushroom contains polysaccharides that have been shown to enhance immune function by suppressing the growth of implanted tumor cells and increasing T-cell and macrophage counts. All these healing mushrooms also enhance interferon production, an essential cancer-fighting element of the immune system.
- Oats (Avena sativa): This gentle, healing herb relaxes the nervous system, relieves stress, and promotes a sense of well-being. Traditionally used in restorative tonics to combat the effects of stress and disease on an embattled system, oats support the body on a very deep level by providing life-giving energy and nourishment in easy-to-digest form.
- Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinalis): This premier herb for liver support helps the liver in its job of eliminating toxins. Dandelion also has inhibitory (antitumor) effects on cancer cells. Dandelion root has been used in China for centuries in the treatment of breast cancer.
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum): This gentle but powerful liver tonic and cleanser has been used extensively and successfully in severe liver diseases such as cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis. A powerful aid in the detoxification process, milk thistle has proven to be a valuable ally in the treatment and prevention of cancer.
- Red clover (Trifolium pratense): Famous for its blood-cleansing abilities, red clover has been used for many years to prevent and treat cancer. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute have recently confirmed red clover’s antitumor properties. Because of its blood-cleansing actions, red clover has traditionally been used for numerous “toxic” conditions, particularly skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, boils, and cysts. This same quality makes red clover helpful for cancer, for it supports the lymphatic drainage of toxins from the tissues. We consider red clover one of the most important herbs for treating all kinds of cancer; it is also extremely effective in reducing the side effects of chemotherapy.
- Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) is a lymphatic cleanser and Liver tonic with stimulating effects on the flow of bile. By supporting the Liver, helping the body clean up debris, and stimulating the bile and lymph in their detoxification duties, yellow dock is an extremely important ally in the prevention and treatment of cancer. When combined with burdock, another blood cleanser that works to dislodge toxins, yellow dock promotes the elimination of toxic substances. Yellow dock’s gentle, stimulating effect on the bowels encourages elimination of toxins and contributes to the relief of numerous skin problems. Full of nutrients, especially iron, yellow dock is a valuable remedy for anemia as well as for the depletion of red blood cells and platelets that occurs during chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Any condition involving accumulated toxins-skin problems, digestive sluggishness, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, and cancer- will benefit from treatment with yellow dock.
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): This nourishing herb has specific immune-supporting, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral actions. The Chinese call licorice “the Great Unifier,” for it pulls together all the herbal components in a formula and helps them work together as a team. Caution: Avoid licorice if you have high blood pressure, for in large doses it can cause water retention; slippery elm is a good substitute.
A well-rounded, supportive formula that I often use for cancer patients includes red clover as a lymphatic cleanser; echinacea as an immune booster and general support for the lymph system; yellow dock as a liver tonic and lymphatic agent; dandelion as a liver tonic; astragalus as a pure immune tonic; and licorice as a stabilizing herb to support the immune system and balance the adrenal glands. Or you could try the following prepared herbal formula:
Complementary Herbal Formulations:
(Traditionally, in both Western and Chinese cultures, the combining of herbs is of superior value than the individual parts. After over thirty years as an herbalist, the synergy of certain herbs became apparent and this understanding has been used to create our own Integral Health Apothecary formulas. We are also listing tradition Chinese herbal tonics which exemplify this synergy.)
- Integral Health Apothecary’s ImmunoBalance Formula boosts immune functions, helpful for individuals suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, AIDS and general debility. The herb of this formula are gentle yet exert a powerful influence on the immune system and can be taken for long periods of time if necessary. Ingredients:Red Clover Flowers, Reishi Mushroom, Echinacea Root, Astragalaus, Milk Thistle, Thymus Extract and St. Johns Wort, and Cats Claw.
- Essiac: This herbal prescription was allegedly handed down by a Native American medicine man to a Canadian nurse named Renee Caisse to use for treating cancer. (Essiac is the nurse’s name spelled backward.) The four herbs in the formula include burdock root, a blood and lymphatic cleanser; sheep sorrel, an herb with a sour, lemony taste; turkey rhubarb root, which has strong laxative properties to help eliminate toxins; and slippery elm bark, a soothing healing agent that specifically affects the mucous membranes and tissues of the body. Modern research confirms this herbal formula’s beneficial effects for cancer prevention and treatment.
Chinese Patent Remedies
To prevent cancer or to support the immune system during cancer treatment, we highly recommend the following Chinese patent remedies. The first one supports and nourishes the Liver, which because of its detoxification functions is always involved in cancer, while the second acts as a gentle immune tonic. You can take these remedies separately or combine them into an effective yet completely safe herbal tonic.
- Bupleurum and Peony Combination (“Relaxed Wanderer Formula”): This formula supports and nourishes the Liver, encouraging the free and easy movement of chi and blood through the meridians and blood vessels. When the chi and blood flow vigorously and smoothly, they are able to remove obstructions (tumors) in their pathway. Bupleurum is the Emperor herb in the formula, working to restore the flow of Liver chi; seven attending herbs (peony root, dong quai, poria fungus, atractylodes, ginger, licorice, and mint) offer additional support to the chi and blood and aid the digestive system.
- Ginseng and Astragalus Combination (“Ginseng and Astragalus Formula”): This formula is specifically designed to boost energy and enhance immune functions. The formula consists of two energy-boosting, immune-enhancing herbs-astragalus and ginseng. Codonopsis root is often substituted for ginseng in the patent remedy, for it mimics ginseng in its actions but is less costly and more appropriate for long-term use.
These Chinese patent remedies can safely be combined with any of the following Western herbs. If you need help choosing the most effective formula or combination of herbs for your symptoms, consult an experienced herbalist.
- Conception Vessel 17 (“Sea of Tranquillity”): This powerful immune-stimulating point provides strong support for the Lung energies, which produce the wei chi (immune energy). It also nourishes the Heart, which houses the shen (spirit), thus relieving the anxiety and depression that so often accompany serious chronic illness. Location: Conception Vessel 17 is located on the center of the breastbone, directly above the thymus gland (the originating source of the T-cells). Gently massage this point with your fingers, using circular, clockwise motions.
- Liver 3 (“Great Rushing”): This point helps to relieve stagnation and restore the flow of chi and blood, breaking up obstructions that can contribute to cancer. Location: Liver 3 is located on the upper part of the foot, in the depression in the webbing between the big toe and the second toe. Gently massage it in circular, clockwise motions.
- Kidney 3 (“Great Mountain Stream”): This point replenishes the reservoirs of chi and yin (water), strengthening immune function and relieving fatigue and depletion. Location: Kidney 3 is located in the depression between the inside ankle bone and the Achilles tendon. It is often sore to the touch. Gently massage it in circular, clockwise motions.
- Lung 9 (“Great Abyss”): This point assists the Lungs in their job of producing wei chi (immune energy), then circulating it through the body, mind, and spirit. A pivotal point for supporting the blood vessels, it enhances overall circulation, which is essential in the treatment and prevention of cancer. Location: Lung 9 is located on the crease on the palm side of your wrist, in a natural hollow at the base of the thumb (about half an inch in from the side of the wrist). Gently massage it in circular, clockwise motions.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Before we discuss the positive metaphors and images you can use to better understand your disease and its meaning in your life, we want to warn you about the negative metaphors that have captured the public’s attention in recent years. Some people contend that cancer is the physical manifestation of unexpressed anger or fear; others argue that the disease represents the inability to stand up for oneself.
The implication is that cancer patients are somehow responsible for their illness; if they were more “together” emotionally, they wouldn’t be sick.
Emotions obviously play a part in illness, but the interplay of body, mind, and spirit is too complex to reduce to a standard formula or pat response. The following questions will help you to accept your disease as part-but not all-of you. According to Chinese philosophy, health and sickness ebb and flow just as night fades into day and day into night. When darkness reigns, keep your eyes open for the light breaking forth on the distant horizon.
Questions relating to Liver (Wood) imbalances may help you understand the nature and scope of your disease:
- What can I do to break through the obstacles confronting me?
- How can I keep myself from being overwhelmed?
- If cancer represents some form of being stuck or blocked, in what ways do I feel trapped and unable to move forward?
- Am I somehow holding back my creative energies? How do I prevent myself from expressing my creativity to others?
- Have I lost hope in the future? Can I envision a goal that would bring joy- and hope-back into my life?
Spleen/Pancreas (Earth) deficiencies are considered a precursor to cancer. If you are strongly influenced by Earth energy, you might ask yourself:
- When I feel lonely or undernourished, how can I nurture myself in positive, constructive ways?
- What steps can I take to avoid overindulging in sweets or junk food when I feel anxious or depressed?
- What concerns me most about this disease? What am I most worried about?
- This disease demands a lot of my time and energy: How can I set aside space and time to take care of myself?
- How can I allow others to care for me and take care of me?
Lung (Metal) deficiencies can lower your resistance to all forms of disease. Metal types appreciate quality and refinement, and they tend to hold themselves (and others) to impossibly high standards. If you are a Metal type, ask yourself:
- What is missing in my life? What essential qualities am I lacking?
- At some level cancer represents disorder and loss of control: How can I maintain order and harmony in my life?
- How can I nurture my passion for life?
- What is my disease teaching me about my life? What do the symptoms want from me?
In Chinese thought Kidney (Water) deficiencies are often related to physical and emotional inflexibility; fear is Water’s primary emotion. If you have an affinity to Water, ask yourself:
- Is there something I am afraid to face?
- How can I allow myself to be supported by others and still maintain my independence?
- I have difficulty with trust and confidence: What can I do to restore my faith in my body’s self-healing capabilities and have confidence in my future?
- If I had only one more day to live, would I feel that my work was completed? Could I move on with gratitude for all that I have been privileged to experience?
Imbalances in Fire can drain the immune system’s energy and vitality. If you are a Fire type, the following questions might be relevant:
- In what ways do I inhibit my natural enthusiasm and passion for life?
- Why am I having difficulty communicating my thoughts and feelings to others?
- What can I do to define and protect my emotional boundaries so that I don’t become overwhelmed by other people’s problems?
- How can I balance my need for excitement and activity with time to rest and renew my energy?