Posted on Aug 03, 2015 by Travis Jones
Cancer is the second most deadly non-communicable disease in the world, leading to the deaths of over 8 million people every year. We still haven’t found a cure for cancer, but the good news is that in recent years, medical professionals and health care workers all around the world have developed new – and sometimes highly effective – methods of treatment and prevention. One such approach to oncological care (cancer treatment) is Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Ancient methods in modern times
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is said to date back more than 5,000 years, with examples of this medical practice popping up in history records around 2,000 years ago. TCM may include such practices as acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapies, homeopathy, cupping, hot plant “moxibustion” therapy, or simply changing your diet or environment. Based on holistic principles, TCM takes a wide-ranging view of disease, symptoms and treatment, relying on the theory of Qi (life-force energy) and yin & yang (the harmony of elements) to design a plan of care that promotes balance and sustainable wellbeing.
For many, Traditional Chinese Medicine starts as part of a general care routine to maintain overall health and prevent diseases like cancer. A TCM-inspired diet, for example, can minimize the intake of unhealthy foods or those containing additives and dyes which some believe to be carcinogenic. By eating healing, balanced meals, a person can improve their general state of health and immune system to lower their risk of all kinds of disease. Cancer survivors may be especially interested in using a TCM eating plan to recover from a weakened state and minimize nutritional deficiencies which may have occurred during treatment.
Cures for what ails you
To understand TCM cancer care it’s important to understand the concept of Qi. TCM practitioners believe that when your Qi (a life force or flow of energy within the body) is weak or blocked, circulatory problems result and lead to a build-up of toxins which can eventually weaken cells and cause cancer. Qi may be weakened by stress, depression, anxiety or a poor diet or lifestyle. A patient may visit an acupuncturist to reinvigorate his or her Qi. Acupuncture, or inserting tiny needles into pressure points around the body, is said to restore the flow of Qi along with reducing pain. Cancer patients may appreciate acupuncture as a complementary treatment to stop the nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy.
Along with acupuncture, many cancer patients find pain relief and a boost to their immune system through Chinese herbs. Popular herbs for oncological complementary care include the immunity-strengthener Huang Qi; Ruscus aculeatus, which has been found useful by breast cancer patients; and the anti-oxidant, anti-microbial Larrea Mexicana. Chinese patients often undergo an herbal regimen alongside traditional chemotherapy to enhance the effectiveness of the drugs while at the same time mitigating their effect on the kidneys, liver and immune system – all of which can suffer during chemotherapy.
Indeed, one major benefit to TCM in cancer treatment is that side effects are limited. Whereas chemotherapy and radiology can lead to nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, sleep problems and pain, complementary TCM therapies are generally gentle and safe. Of course, some patients do report side effects from TCM herbs – usually related to digestion or occasionally causing dry mouth or headache. When taking TCM remedies, it’s essential to work with a trained TCM practitioner. This health care expert can assist with diagnosis, recommend a treatment plan, and will be on hand in case side effects do occur or the treatment isn’t working as intended.
A helping hand
If one TCM medical plan isn’t proving useful, the TCM practitioner may suggest another method of care. Besides herbs and acupuncture, a TCM patient may also want to try moxibustion – the burning of moxa, or Chinese mugwort herb. A bundle of the herb is burned above key areas of the patient’s body, depending on disease or specific health care needs. Moxibustion is said to stimulate the movement of Qi by removing blockages, to help the body achieve balance and self healing. It’s a therapy not very common in the West, but one which has been found by medical studies to be effective as supportive care alongside conventional cancer treatments.
There’s no arguing a massage is always an excellent treat for tired muscles, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage is also used to promote the flow of Qi and encourage the body to heal. Therapeutic or Tui Na massage is similar to osteopathy in the West – it helps align the skeleton to ensure all the body’s systems, especially the nerves, can function normally. Patients who use Tui Na or other TCM massage regularly report improvements in pain and swelling, and many say the procedure increases everyday energy and vitality – benefits extremely relevant to cancer patients and those in remission.
In Shanghai, anyone looking for more advice on using TCM as a preventative or complementary therapy to traditional cancer care can visit a medical clinic with dedicated holistic medical staff. Body & Soul, for example, is an Integrative Medicine clinic in Shanghai. Founded more than 10 years ago, the doctors and therapists at Body & Soul can offer comprehensive, holistic care tailored to each patient’s needs. The clinic was founded by a TCM specialist and offers traditional Chinese medical care, including Tuina Massage, cupping, acupuncture and more. Body & Soul’s traditional health care offerings, like dermatology, paediatrics and internal medicine, are delivered with a mind to natural, holistic treatment that takes into account the body, mind and outer environment.