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Chinese Herbal Medicine Improves Outcomes in Lung Cancer Patients

A recent study ( 1 ) published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology looked through the records of nearly 7000 lung cancer patients and then separated them into groups who utilized Chinese herbal medicine during their treatment and those who did not. They started the study as lung cancer still has a less than 20% survival rate in Taiwan and many of the herbal formulas potentially used in patients with lung cancer have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and cancer cell death activity.

Some of the more commonly used formulas were:

The researchers found that the group who utilized Chinese Herbal Medicine exhibited a lower mortality rate and an overall higher survival probability.

They concluded that “the use of CHM as an adjunctive therapy may reduce the mortality hazard ratio of lung cancer patients. The investigation of their comprehensive CHM prescription patterns might be useful in future large-scale, randomized clinical investigations of agent effectiveness, safety, and potential interactions with conventional treatments for lung cancer patients.”

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How To Choose An Appropriate Herbal Formula

Long story short, Chinese Medicine Herbal Formulas are chosen based on a persons diagnosis in Chinese Medicine terms, not by their western conditions or symptoms. A western condition, for example “fatigue“, might be part of 20 or so very unique underlying causal diagnostic patterns from the Chinese Medicine perspective. You could have what we call “spleen qi deficiency” and choose a formula such as bu zhong yi qi wan, or “kidney yang deficiency” and choose a formula such as ba we di huang wan. Both of these patterns could present as fatigue, but your other signs and symptoms and how you got there will be very different from a Chinese Medicine perspective.

The most important factor for choosing a formula, then, is to understand your diagnosis from a Chinese Medicine perspective. To obtain this, you should consult with a licensed Chinese Medicine practitioner locally in your area. While consult with someone who has the benefit of physically inspecting you and getting to know your health history and current health issues more deeply, we understand that not everyone has access to qualified professionals. Due to this our Chinese Medicine practitioners offer online consultations for a nominal fee.

Naming Conventions of Formulas

Many formulas will use the generalized “wan” ending to signify formula – so xiao yao wan, for example. Generally wan will refer to the formula generally and also when it is in a format of teapills (small balls of the herbs rolled together). Other endings can be “san”, “pian”, or “tang”. “Pian” generally refers to tablets (slightly larger than the balls). “Tang” at times will refer to granules or formulas in a powder form and “san” could be anything. For the most part our site uses “wan” and then describes the format of the formula in the description. What is important here is that “ba zhen wan” in teapills, is effectively the same formulas as “ba zhen tang” in capsules.

Deciding the Treatment Dose

This will vary quite considerably and is best left to a practitioner to decide. Our site includes very general guidelines for dosages, effectively what is printed on many of the bottles. But often you are combining perhaps two formulas together to create exactly what your diagnosis is calling for. In which case you might take 1 capsule of jia wei xiao yao wan, for example, and 2 capsules of tian wan bu xin wan 2-3 times per day for a combined liver qi stagnation and heart yin deficiency diagnosis. Dose would also be adjusted by weight, age and other lifestyle/diet/health factors of the patient. Generally speaking more is not better, but herbal formulas, properly prescribed and used, are also quite safe even at what might seem like high dosages.

Times to Not Take Certain Formulas

This, again, is best left to your practitioner, but, generally, you avoid tonic herbal formulas when you have a cold, you avoid moving formulas during menstruation for example, avoid many formulas unless you really know what you are doing with pregnancy, avoid yin tonics when there are signs of sluggish digestion, etc. You must also consider other western medicines. Generally speaking if you are taking an herbal formula and a western medicine for the same general condition, say hypertension or diabetes, you will very likely need less western medicine at some point. Other interactions are possible and need to be discussed with an herbalist.

What Side Effects May I Experience

With the correct formula(s) you should not experience any side effects, or if you do they will be very minimal (mild digestive upset, etc.) and can usually be minimized by having food or more warm fluids when taking the formula. The biggest consideration, again, is to ensure you are using the correct formulas and that after a period of time those are still the correct formulas to be on. Herbal medicine properly practiced is more of a moving target, consistently aligning the formulas as your health improves, knowing when you no longer need herbal treatment is part of this process as well.