Herbal medicine is the mainstay of Chinese medical treatment of cancer. From a Chinese medical perspective, cancer is rooted in deficiency of Qi (energy), which leads to stagnation of Qi, blood or phlegm, causing physical masses to develop. By tonifying Qi and breaking down the stagnation, cancer can be treated, either reducing the size of tumors or at least preventing further increase in size.
Modern scientific research is establishing that chemical components of herbs used in Chinese medicine have genuine anti-cancer effects. These natural chemicals have been shown to prevent multiplication of cancer cells or even induce them to die. Herbs have also been shown to stimulate the immune system to act against the cancer cells and suppress both metastasis (spread) and development of new blood vessels by the tumor. Herbs can therefore be used to both prevent and treat cancer.
Clinical studies in humans have shown that addition of Chinese herbs to conventional chemotherapy can improve the efficacy of chemotherapy and increase survival time. Other studies have shown that herbs can affect the oxygen levels in tumor cells, making them more susceptible to radiation therapy. These studies show how an integrative approach to cancer, utilizing both Western and Chinese medicine, can be more effective than a purely Western approach. Chinese herbs can also combat the side effects of conventional treatment, for example by strengthening the immune system and stimulating appetite, making the conventional treatment more tolerable and more likely to be effective.
Chinese herbal medicine is safe and can generally be used with whatever conventional medications an animal is currently taking. It can also be beneficial to help treat other problems that an animal may also be suffering from. Many of the animals diagnosed with cancer are older and so have other problems such as arthritis or general decrease in vitality. Chinese herbal medicine (and acupuncture) can simultaneously address these problems, improving the animal’s quality of life.