Chemotherapy and Chinese Herbs

MD Anderson Cancer Center  Houston, Texas

MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

I just attended a fascinating conference on oncology for acupuncturists, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas Medical Center, Houston, Texas. Some of the topics covered were:

Dry mouth due to chemotherapy: this is a huge problem for some patients, who have trouble eating, speaking, sleeping and swallowing. There is no really effective Western treatment. The MD Anderson Cancer Center designed a study using acupuncture and a control group, with very good results. The actual composition of the patients’ saliva improved (became less sticky).

Fatigue: this is a very common complaint with chemotherapy and radiation patients. Some patients experience such severe fatigue that they are unable to continue with treatment. Damage to several components of the blood is common (platelets, white counts, red blood cells), which can also necessitate a delay in treatment. Some patients are required to undergo transfusions before they can resume chemotherapy. Acupuncture treatment was proven to improve fatigue in several of the MD Anderson studies.

I very much prefer to use Chinese herbs in conjunction with acupuncture. Some oncologists oppose the use of herbs, but I strongly suggest to my patients that they allow me to speak to their physicians so I can explain what I want to do, and how I think it will benefit.

Some herbs with proven effectiveness in protecting the blood, increasing energy and improving the immune response are:

  • Ren Shen (Panax ginseng root), including Asian and American ginseng
  • Ji Xue Teng (Spatholobi Caulis)
  • Huang Qi (Astralagus Root)
  • My patients who take Chinese herbs during chemotherapy almost always hear from their doctors that their blood remains healthy from one cycle to the next.