Sunday, July 22, 2007

Herbal Aids for Cancer Review of 7 Herbs That Act As Biological Response Modifiers

The way I make an herbal formulas for a cancer patient is to integrate Western biochemical knowledge about herbs combined with traditional understandings of the herbs. This is done for at least 2 reasons. First it is not enough to just use a single herb or group of herbs for their effects on a certain chemical messenger or part of the immune system. This is incomplete. What happens if that herb is very warm propertied and the patient has a lot of heat to start with so to give that kind of herb would be making a bad situation worse. TCM's (traditional Chinese Mediicne) goal is to balance the body, by nudging the body towards balance the homeostatic mechanisms of the body - all of them - stand a better chance of working more effectively and efficiently. There are exceptions to this where an imbalanced formula can be of benefit. Second, in Chinese Medicine herbs work synergestically together. Chinese medicine's approach is to create harmony within the body systems. Good Chinese medicine is not about reducing herbs to an active ingredient and then extracting that. This inherently leads to imbalances or said another way strong effects and strong side-effects

Also TCM formulas take into account the dynamic balance of the individual. So even if there are strong and possibly toxic anti-cancer herbs there will also be herbs to support assimilation, combat the toxicity and regulate the dynamic balance of the body. The proof of this strategy being effective for a cancer patient can be measured in many ways depending on the situation. The main ways I think about it are quality of life, increase in longevity, less side effects from conventional treatment and better response to conventional treatment. This really is my message about treating cancer patients.


Herbal Aids for Cancer Review of 7 Herbs That Act As Biological Response Modifiers

Cancer treatments are a paradox, on one hand delivering powerful toxicity to a tumor, but on the other spreading toxicity to the rest of the body. The side effects of such treatments may cause death even before the cancer does. Biological response modifiers (BRMs) are compounds that have a unique effect on physiology and can reduce the side effects of cancer treatments, while at the same time increasing their effectiveness.

A BRM repairs damage to the body rather than targeting a pathogenic agent such as cancer. It typically acts by stimulating the immune system to restore optimal function. Many diseases and infections as well as AIDS result from immune surveillance failure. Because chemotherapy compromises the immune system, people receiving cancer treatments run an especially high risk of contracting and dying of infections.

Cytokines, hormones naturally produced in the body, promote immunity and are often used clinically as BRMs—to treat disease, fight viral infections and augment chemotherapy. Three pharmaceutical cytokines currently in use include colony-stimulating factors that reduce the chance of infection and thus the need for antibiotics by stimulating bone marrow to produce more white blood cells; interferons that stimulate macrophages to ingest foreign particles and help the body produce antiviral chemicals; and interleukins that stimulate growth and activation of white blood cells. The therapeutic use of these cytokines, called immunotherapy, as a cancer treatment both with and without standard anti-cancer drugs is marginally successful. Side effects such as depression, nausea and chest pain, however, can limit the effectiveness of some pharmaceutical cytokines.

Many herbs have long been known to affect the immune system, but only recently have scientists considered them as possible BRMs and adjunct cancer therapies. Such herbs often prompt the body's cells to secrete cytokines, which then enhance the immune response. The most promising of these herbs include black cumin, mistletoe, ginseng, astragalus, green tea, echinacea and garlic.