Friday, October 19, 2007


preliminary report by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

For more than 30 years now, Chinese herbs and materials derived from the herbs, such as long chain polysaccharides, have been used as adjunct therapies for cancer patients. This modern application was first developed clinically in China and Japan during the 1970s and was relayed to the rest of the world in 1983 through an international conference in Beijing which was followed up by press reports in English and other languages (see: Physiological responses to immunologically active polysaccharides). The Institute for Traditional Medicine (ITM) made an effort to alert practitioners of Chinese medicine in the U.S. to this promising role for Chinese herbs immediately after that conference, with updated information provided as available over the years. The utilization of Chinese roots, leaves, and fruits (e.g., astragalus, gynostemma, ligustrum, and lycium), and several mushrooms (e.g., coriolus, ganoderma, cordyceps, and lentinus) for cancer patients is now a routine procedure when these patients visit acupuncturists, naturopathic physicians, and others offering adjunctive cancer health care.

Within the past couple of years, however, an increasing number of patients have been told by their oncologists to avoid herbs, and to more generally avoid supplements (such as vitamins), or, even more broadly, simply avoid anything with antioxidant potential while they are undergoing cancer therapies. The admonition itself is difficult to interpret, since all foods contain antioxidants and vitamins, and they also contain most of the other substances offered in dietary supplements. Most fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts differ only slightly from herbs. A more specific recommendation is needed. But first, the question arises: why are doctors giving these instructions? What kind of information is being released to the public?

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Studies find acupuncture cuts post-surgical pain

Tue Oct 16, 2007 5:35pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The use of acupuncture before and during surgery reduces patients' post-operative pain as well as the need for pain-killing medication, researchers said on Tuesday.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina analyzed the results of 15 clinical trials on the effectiveness of acupuncture -- a practice that originated in China of inserting thin needles into specific body points.

They concluded that it is valuable for pain control in surgery patients.

The 15 trials showed that patients getting acupuncture before or during various types of operations had significantly less pain afterward than patients who did not get acupuncture.

These patients also required less morphine or other opioid pain medication after surgery, which reduced the side effects like nausea and vomiting from these types of drugs, the researchers said.

In terms of pain-drug side effects, the acupuncture patients experienced 1.5 times lower rates of nausea, 1.6 times fewer reports of dizziness and 3.5 times fewer cases of urinary retention compared to the other patients, the study found.

These findings augment a growing body of evidence on the value of acupuncture in improving the surgical experience for patients, the researchers said.

For instance, the National Institutes of Health says that acupuncture has also been shown to reduce nausea after chemotherapy and surgery.

"The use of acupuncture is still very under-appreciated," Dr. Tong-Joo Gan, vice chairman of Duke's anesthesiology department, said in a telephone interview.

"Western doctors are typically not trained (in acupuncture) and they really are not familiar with how it works," Gan said. "I think practitioners such as surgeons and anesthesiologists need to have an open mind."

He said numerous studies have looked at acupuncture to reduce post-operative pain, but many of them were not very well done. Gan said his team identified a group of well-controlled studies to judge how well acupuncture worked.

"I do it all the time," Gan said. "You give patients the acupuncture about half an hour before surgery and continue during surgery. It can reduce post-operative pain."

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, scientists do not fully understand how acupuncture works, believing it might help the activity of the body's pain-killing chemicals or affect the regulation of blood pressure and flow.

"I think it is generally applicable to a number of different procedures," Gan said. "In the studies, we looked at abdominal procedures, orthopedic procedures, gynecological procedures."

The research was presented at a conference of the American Society for Anesthesiology in San Francisco.