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All Natural Chinese Herbs:
Their Place in Chemotherapy
by Dr. Donna Schwontkowski, Master Herbalist, D.C. (ret)
Medical philosophy is vastly different than all natural herbal therapy. Medical doctors are aggressive in their attack on cancer and try to burn the cancer out, cut it out, or kill it with potent drugs. Herbal overall philosophy is to support the body's natural defenses and work with the body until any illness is gone. Both philosophies have their triumphs and challenges. In many people's minds, the big question is this: do all natural Chinese herbs have a place in chemotherapy treatment?
Why Not Mix Both Philosophies?
Many alternative health practitioners and even medical physicians have decided that both philosophies can be incorporated together and result in a more successful outcome for patients with cancer, especially those on chemotherapy. In the last few decades, clinical research studies have proven that it is indeed possible to combine medical therapy with all natural Chinese herbs.
For example, synthetic IL-2 is often used as a treatment modality by the medical profession for patients with colorectal cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, and kidney cancer. The chemotherapy drug, IL-2 is extremely toxic and can cause serious side effects. the herb Astragalus was given to patients with colorectal cancer. When researchers and doctors combined their efforts and administered the all natural Chinese herb Astragalus to patients receiving synthetic IL-2, the white blood cells of patients became faster and more efficient. The drug's effectiveness was enhanced, proving that a chemotherapy and natural solution mixture could work, that all natural Chinese herbs do indeed have a place in chemotherapy treatment.
In another study, patients with small cell lung cancer used traditional chemotherapeutic drugs like vincristine, cyclophosphamide and carmustine and researchers added the all natural Chinese herbs ginseng and Astragalus to the therapy. The survival rate increased to as long as 17 years in some of the patients! Again, this proved that a chemotherapy natural solution mixture of treatment could work.
Researchers frequently comment on the use of Astragalus to alleviate the toxic side effects of chemotherapeutic drugs. In the journal Carcinogenesis, June of 2007, researchers M.M. Tin et al reported that Astragalus inhibited cell growth and promoted the death of cancer cells. They also found that Astragalus reduced the size of tumors without causing death and without causing a drop in body weight in mouse studies. The researchers concluded that Astragalus could be an effective chemotherapeutic agent in colon cancer treatment and as an adjuvant in combination with other orthodox chemotherapeutic drugs to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy compounds.
Protecting the Immune System
Studies show that Astragalus helps in cancer cases by increasing killer cells. Astragalus also helps offset immune damage from numerous drugs. Astragalus protects the immune system, increases the metabolic rate and increases energy levels. All these functions can only aid a chemotherapy patient.
Glycyrrhiza glabra, of licorice, is also another Chinese herb that activates immune cells in human subjects. One study in The Journal of Phytotherapy Research reported in August 2006 that immune cell function was enhanced within 24 hours of ingesting licorice and also Astragalus and Echinacea. CD4 and CD8 T cell counts increased and continued for at least seven days. When the all natural Chinese herbs licorice and Astragalus along with Echinacea were used together, another immune cell function was improved, that of CD69 expression.
There are plenty of other studies that show that all natural Chinese herbs can be used as a chemotherapy natural solution. What we are seeing is that using the chemotherapy drugs by themselves can almost assure one of toxic side effects, but using them with the all natural Chinese herbs, the chemotherapy treatment can be endured better and with a higher quality of life.
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