Chinese Herbal Medicine and Cancer: Working Under the Radar

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Cancer: Working Under the Radar

One of the greatest aspects of Chinese Herbal Medicine is that herbs can work “under the radar”.  Herbal medicine in general does not get a lot of notoriety from conventional medicine because herbs are not isolated substances that target a specific biochemical response; they are very hard to study because they are whole (i.e. very complex), natural substances (like the human being!) and so have no specific mechanisms of action the way a pharmaceutical does.  Herbs work in a more subtle way – still with a very clear direction, but a direction that takes time.  In this way, they are a match for the subtle, slow development of cancer as a disease process.

What this can mean in treatment is that the herbs are taken in through the digestion and can be metabolized without a dramatic effect.   The body takes the many aspects of the herbs it encounters – constituents, qualities and even irritating or bothersome aspects, to which it reacts, and responds, without expressing an overt change.  Yet, by asking the body to respond in a certain way (over and over a few times a day), by sending a complex, yet subtle, repeating message to which the body in its physiology is enticed to respond, invites a healing action.   Herbs do not work by forcing the body into submission, but by triggering a response, much like giving a nudge to a person so that they notice you and turn around.  This can go unnoticed by the person (but not the immune, circulatory, digestive or lymphatic systems!) and yet taken over time can generate significant long-term effects towards a tsunami of great change; but like a tsunami, the patient doesn’t see it coming.     

In simple, easy to treat cases, often patients have to be reminded of the symptom that was their chief complaint, as they did not notice it slipping out of their life.  (“Oh right, I forgot that I came to see you because of those headaches that I had had for years!”)  When this happens, they also forget to keep taking their herbs at times, and then realize that they don’t need them any more either.  At this point, we can introduce a new herbal formula that can work on a deeper level, or can be used to prevent future diseases (which is the goal of Chinese Herbal Medicine).

Of course, herbs can also be very strongly noticed by patients – they can be very direct and even can be too strong.  It is somewhat of a paradox: some scientific skeptics simultaneously consider herbs to be both “very dangerous” and “completely ineffective”; both can be true if in the wrong hands!   Even the ancient Chinese doctors said: “All herbs are toxic!”  But Paracelsus in the west said it best: “The difference between a poison and a remedy is in the dose”.  Given the right dosage and combination with the right herbs (never taken as single herbs or as supplements), and prescribed by experienced herbalists for specific patients (with specific diagnoses), individualized Chinese herbal formulas can steadily support and remind the body to pay attention to (and eliminate) a disease process (such as cancer) that is unfolding.

Cancer is likewise an “under the radar” disease – this is closely related to the underlying root of cancer in that it is a disease where some process, some place in the human being has been kept hidden from view.  The immune system is unaware of what is going on – there is a lack of healthy renewal of the cells, a lack of flow of blood and lymph, a stagnation that lurks under the surface.  Patients with cancer often feel that it “came out of no where” or that they had been healthy for so long until the cancer struck them – like a tsunami – but then they realize that it has actually taken a very long time for the cancer to develop in most cases.

Cancer as a disease process certainly has much to do with toxicity and a weakened immune system; this means that the body is busy doing other things and is not being supported to cleanse, eliminate, detoxify and heal.  Therefore, in a unique location (to the individual) a proliferation develops where it does not belong because it was permitted to do so (and triggered to do so, even poisoned to do so).  The most important point, from a Chinese herbal medical perspective, is that there was something happening “under the radar” and therefore it is a problem of organization – it is a fragmentation.

One of the strongest ways that the immune system cleanses, organizes, and becomes aware of the whole body is through a fever.  Even though most patients with cancer claim to have been healthy up until cancer, in reality, their immune system had not been activated enough, or it had been suppressed.  This is often a result of fever suppression, immune suppression, or other symptom suppression; however, fever is potentially one of the best remedies for many patients with cancer, and a systemic immune response is the ultimate goal.  As one of my teachers pointed out to me, even when you wake up in the morning with some sleepy eye in your eye, it is good to know that your body spent all night working to push this unwanted crystal all the way out (in the best way it found) through the corner of your eye (which is just the right size for it).   The nature of our very wise bodies is to heal.

The immune system needs to exercise its ability to be “in the know”, that way nothing can go “under the radar” or creep up like a tsunami.  Therefore, one of the best remedies in the support of cancer treatment is Chinese herbal medicine, for it can be used in a subtle, yet highly effective way in the direction of healing; we can use its potent anti-cancer abilities to get on top of the disease as well.  Most importantly, it can be used to prevent the disease that is not yet a disease by supporting the very thing that is most essential for health – holistic, systemic, optimized immune strength.

At Anatara Medicine, we specialize in layering different strategies and treating patients as a whole. Whether for an infection, leaky gut, autoimmune condition or cancer, we routinely provide treatments that will support your immune system, strengthen detoxification pathways, replace micronutrients, harmonize hormonal function… so that the body can ultimately heal itself. For those patients with advanced disorders such as cancer, who require cancer care support, we have more options, such as low-dose chemotherapy, aka insulin potentiation therapy (IPT), and more direct immune based therapies. Please visit our Cancer Care Support page, , and please call our office for more information, 415-345-0099, we look forward to hearing from you!

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