Published: March 4, 2023

In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimated 1.9 million new cancer diagnoses and over 600,000 deaths as a result of cancer. Cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases and often leads to severe medical conditions, even when a patient achieves remission. The best way to face the disease is to use all available resources to better manage cancer and its symptoms. Discover the potential benefits of using Chinese herbs for cancer treatment. Learn about traditional remedies and modern research.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has never before been as integrated with Western medicine as it is today, and more people are experiencing the benefits of blending the two treatment styles. As the usage of Chinese herbs becomes more frequent, additional studies are being done to fully understand the benefits and abilities TCM provides in the medical field, including in oncology departments. 

A recent study by the Herbal Oncology Program (HOP) looked at the use of traditional Chinese medicine, specifically herbal formulas, to help cancer patients. This is one of the first studies to integrate TCM into oncology treatment and provides a useful framework to support future studies and treatment plans. 

Herbs to Ease Symptoms

Many patients fighting cancer use herbal formulas to help with symptoms. However, these are typically self-prescribed, lacking the insight of a practitioner. Patients also tend to avoid sharing the details of these herbs with their oncologist, which can hinder the efficacy of the herbs and the cancer treatment if not properly coordinated. This lack of communication puts the patient at risk and shows a need for more symptom treatment.

Cancer treatment can lead to enormous side effects and symptoms, leaving patients in terrible conditions. Easing these symptoms and side effects through proper Chinese herbs usage could improve cancer patients’ quality of life and health.

Many of the herbs used in this study were also featured in other trials and research to understand the efficacy and impact they provide. Overall, the herbal formulas prescribed in the study were due to unmet symptom needs, patient preference, and previous research. 

Some of those herbal formulas include Jia Wei Suan Zao Ren, used for helping with chronic insomnia. Another formula, Ma Zi Ren Wan, was looked at due to its use in helping with constipation. The herbal formula Shen Ling Bai Zhu San was studied for its ability to help with chronic diarrhea in adults, a common side effect of many cancer treatments. 

The Study

The study comprised 851 participants, all of whom were outpatients, and 712 (84%) were in active treatment. HOP provided 1266 herbal formula prescriptions for a variety of symptoms, including GI symptoms (37%), pain (28%), fatigue, mood disorders, and sleep issues related to treatment (27%). 

The outcome was evaluated through collected medical records, chart reviews of symptoms and concerns, and a short survey distributed to the participants who received an herbal prescription between May 1 and August 31, 2021.  

Chinese Herbs for Cancer: The Results

The study results were gathered through a retrospective analysis with medical records, including symptoms, demographic details, type and the number of herbs provided, and patient preferences and motivations around TCM. The results were overall positive and supported integrating herbal medicine within oncology settings. Satisfaction among patients was high, and limited adverse effects were found overall. Of the 269 patients invited to complete the survey after the study, 107 (40%) responded. Over 70% of the respondents were satisfied with the dispensed herbs’ effectiveness at relieving symptoms, and only 6.7% experienced mild adverse events, which resolved after discontinuing herbal usage. 

The program offered could serve as a prototype for other oncology providers in the United States and beyond. Through the observation and hypothesis generation in patient care as part of HOP, this program could inform future clinical trials and enhance the evidence base for the safe and effective integration of Chinese herbs into oncology care. Ultimately, this can lead to improved patient experiences and outcomes. 

Collaborative Health

Using all tools available to prioritize health allows people to receive more beneficial and safe treatments for their specific ailments. The more collaborations done utilizing Western medicine and TCM, the better outcomes have been shown in many studies, including the HOP study detailed above. 

The HOP study suggests that TCM and herbal formulas have much more to offer than many may realize and could significantly improve patient treatment experience. It also helps pave the way for future studies and trials that could show the benefits of herbal formulas in clinical settings. 

Using a reputable source is essential when utilizing herbal formulas to help ease treatment or improve health. Companies like KPC, which has decades of experience perfecting formulas, can offer the highest quality herbs that have undergone rigorous testing to ensure safety. Learn more on the KPC website about the manufacturing process and the variety of herbs available.


*Please note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to suggest specific treatments for patients or that any supplements mentioned prevent or cure diseases or problems. Before taking any herbs, all patients should discuss their options with a licensed practitioner, including any other medications the patient is currently taking, as there may be contraindications between pharmaceuticals and herbs.


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