Herbal Medicine and Cancer. Is Herbal Medicine Safe? , Effectiveness in Cancer Care, Easing Treatment Side Effects, Easing Cancer Symptoms.
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Is Herbal Medicine Safe for Cancer Patients?| Herbal Medicine and Cancer Is Herbal Medicine Safe? | Effectiveness in Cancer Care| Easing Treatment Side Effects |Easing Cancer Symptoms|
Herbs may seem harmless, but sometimes they can interfere with cancer treatment.
For example, some herbs can prevent chemotherapy and radiation therapy from killing cancer cells. Certain herbs.
enhance the effect of chemotherapy in a toxic way that leads to unwanted side effects.
Doctors recommend patients avoid herbs during treatment. It won’t be safe until research can identify which herbs are safe to combine with cancer treatment.
Clinical trials that combine herbal medicine with cancer therapies are relatively new to the United States. China has performed such trials since the early 1900s.
Cancer doctors rely on clinical trials to recommend treatments that are proven effective. The lack of clinical trials on herbal medicines has limited what doctors can safely recommend.
People with cancer should get approval from their oncologist first before they take any kind of herbal medicine because some herbs may negatively impact the outcome of cancer treatment.
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Research in a developing field of medicine known as integrative oncology is attempting to understand which complementary therapies, including herbal medicines, are safe and effective to combine with conventional cancer treatments.
Some conventional cancer medicines contain active herbal ingredients. For example, the mesothelioma chemotherapy drug Taxol (paclitaxel) comes from the bark of the yew tree. However, taking a yew tree bark herbal supplement does not produce the same effects as Taxol.
In general, herbal medicines are not as effective as conventional prescription medications. While some people get relief from herbal medicine for mild symptoms or side effects, many people get more relief from prescription medication.
Prescription medications may come with unwanted side effects, and these side effects may motivate people to consider herbal medicine. Herbal medicines often have a lower risk of side effects than standard-of-care drugs. This is partially because they are less potent than pharmaceuticals.
For example, patients who use natural remedies for insomnia are less likely to experience dizziness, tremors, or spasms than patients who use prescription pills such as benzodiazepines.
RESEARCH ON HERBS SUGGESTS THEY MAY HELP TO:
- Boost the immune system
- Ease cancer symptoms
- Reduce treatment side effects
- Slow cancer spreading (metastasis)
- Attack cancer cells
Research does not indicate that herbal medicine can replace conventional cancer treatment. No herb has been proven to control or cure any kind of cancer.
Most of the research has been conducted in test tube studies or mouse studies. Some research involving humans has
been conducted, but no large, double-blind controlled clinical trials have been conducted in the U.S.
Research on Herbal Medicine and Cancer
Research indicates that some herbs may help cancer patients cope with cancer symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment. Studies conducted in test tubes and animals have shown some anti-cancer effects of various herbs, but these results haven’t been replicated in human trials.
Research on astragalus shows that it may reduce the side effects of platinum-based chemotherapy agents such as cisplatin
and carboplatin. These are two of the most effective chemotherapy drugs for mesothelioma.
A 2012 Chinese study published in Medical Oncology found improved quality of life among lung cancer patients who received a combination injection of astragalus, cisplatin, and vinorelbine compared to patients who only received cisplatin and vinorelbine. Patients who received astragalus had better physical function and improved appetite, and they experienced less fatigue, pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Make sure you discuss astragalus with your oncologist because it is a potent herb. It can alter the way your body processes chemotherapy in ways that may help or hurt depending on the patient.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the herb dong quai to support overall wellness. The herb may offer additional benefits to cancer patients receiving doxorubicin, which is a chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of mesothelioma.
A 2007 study published in Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology found dong quai may protect against heart damage caused by doxorubicin. A 2006 study published in Oncology Reports found dong quai may protect against lung inflammation caused by radiation therapy.