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Monday, November 14, 2011

Chinese Herbal Medicine in Today’s Cancer Care

Disease (is) not an entity but a fluctuating condition of the patient’s body, a battle between the substance of disease and the natural self-healing tendency of the body.             HIPPOCRATES

 
CHM is a major aspect of traditional Chinese medicine, which focuses on restoring a balance of energy, body, and spirit to maintain health rather than treating a particular disease or medical condition. Unlike modern medicine, CHM is not symptom based, but rather seeks for the underlying conditions which may contribute to the symptoms.  I like this, a lot. If you take ten people all with the same symptoms, Western medicine would likely disperse one diagnosis for all; Eastern medicine would likely come up with ten completely different diagnoses.  The medicine itself is not a one-size-fits all, but rather a formula put together based on the needs of the individual.  “CHM is beautiful like a puzzle or game of chess” is how herbalist Aaron Teich, L.Ac. described it to me. The medicine is never a single herb, but rather more like a chess game where pieces are not moved independently, but rather synergistically to win the game.

Chinese herbs and cancer

Chinese herbs offer considerable defense against the recurrence of breast cancer, as well as to slow the progression of the disease should it already be metastatic.   Short of a cure, I learned from Dr George Wong that he has had great success in the prevention of breast cancer as well as recurrence to an astounding 1% rate of recurrence with the use of his herbs (that being only 1 out of his 1000 patients suffered recurrence, most of whom were at high risk for recurrence).  Treatment with herbs offers a better quality of life (in most cases…some people cannot get past the terrible taste) and longer life span than conventional treatments.  Long term remission of those with metastatic breast cancer is not as promising, but still better than with conventional.  Sadly, herbal therapy has become terribly costly, due to hoarding in china of these precious herbs, and this has resulted in a 30% hike in prices.

So, who might consider Chinese herbs?

It’s an individual choice.  Chinese herbs are not traditionally intended to be anticancer herbs, but herbalists have found that they are effective against cancer.  There is strong evidence that Chinese herbs suppress cancer cells, improve immunity, promote cancer cell death through apoptosis, and block blood vessel formation associated with cancer development and growth, and work against metastasis.  When used in conjunction with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, CHM has tremendous supportive capabilities:  the herbs can enhance therapeutic effects while reducing side effects, improving quality of life, restoring health and helping to prevent recurrence and cancer metastasis.

CHM comes in three forms, teas, powders with which you make tea, and pills. The teas are the most flexible and effective, but are usually rather unpleasant to drink.  Each formula is actually a group of herbs; perhaps a combination of plants, bark, roots and minerals.  This version allows the herbalist to create a medicine that is extremely individualized. Cooked, you will have a nasty tasting, but quite potent tea.  However, in modern practice, many herbalists offer more appealing versions. This version is a derivative of the traditional.  The herbs are boiled until hard, a starch is added and then the mixture is crushed into a powder.  Boiling water is then added to make tea. The powders are a bit less flexible as the formulas are pre-made and less individualized, and the pills are the most appealing, but the least individualized.  The herbs are condensed into pills and are taken with water. However, by taking the pills, you still get the benefits while avoiding the nasty flavors. 
Keep in mind that the herbs affect the body and its systems, acting like any other medication.  Just because the herbs are natural and, well, herbal does not mean they are perfectly safe or without side effects.  They cause changes to the cells, affect pathways, etc. so it is important to work with an experienced herbalist.  However, the side effects are typically digestive issues, similar to those experienced by suddenly switching to a diet of broccoli and beans. 

Many thanks to Aaron Teich, L.Ac and Dr. George Wong for sharing with me their expertise in Chinese Herbal Medicine.  Both are incredibly talented healers.  Should you wish to learn more about them, please contact me or them directly.


Elyn Jacobs
http://elynjacobs.wordpress.com

 George Wong received his doctoral degree from Harvard University on 1978. He had taught at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor from 1978 until 1982 when he moved on to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to pursue a career in cancer research. From 1993 to 2009 he was appointed Director of Preventive Oncology Research at Strang Cancer Prevention Center and a full professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. At present, he is a faculty member with the Department of Integrative Medicine, Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in the area of cancer clinical trials and cancer prevention. His main research interest is in breast cancer.  Apart from his academic research in conventional cancer prevention and treatment, Dr. Wong has for many years devoted his time and energy to Chinese herbal medicine. drgeorgewong@yahoo.com or 917.710.7888

Aaron Teich, L.Ac. is the founder and director of Shuniya Health & Healing, a holistic health practice in Manhattan and the Hamptons. His healing practice uniquely integrates classical acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and Sat Nam Rasayan - the meditative healing tradition of Kundalini Yoga. In his work, Aaron guides people inward to an experience of heightened awareness, and creates a state of balanced prana, which becomes a catalyst for physical healing, personal transformation, and spiritual growth.

After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in Comparative Religion and Philosophy, Aaron received his Masters Degree from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco.  Aaron is a Licensed Acupuncturist in the states of New York and California, and is nationally certified as a Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl.OM). For over a decade, he has trained with Guru Dev Singh, the lineage holder of Sat Nam Rasayan.  Aaron has traveled extensively to study with traditional healers and shamans around the world, including in China, India, Mongolia, Brazil, Africa, and Europe.  He currently maintains a private practice in New York City and the Hamptons, and teaches and writes on health, healing, and meditation.
Phone: 212-203-5425
Email
: info@shuniyahealing.com
Website: www.ShuniyaHealing.com

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Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation, a certified cancer coach and a breast cancer survivor.  She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers.  She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.


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