Iamge courtesy of Alfred Schrok on Unsplash.

Last week, an article in the Telegraph warned us that herbal medicines in cancer can do more harm than good. Having seen increasing numbers of cancer patients of all ages over the past few years, here’s a quick  guide to herbal medicine and cancer.

Can Herbal Medicine Cure Cancer?

The Cancer Act makes it illegal to discuss any treatments other than those used in mainstream medicine. However, most people, including Herbalists who get cancer, choose to use conventional treatments anyway. In addition, some decide to look into what herbal medicine can do to support them on their cancer journey, rather than to reverse the disease process.

How Herbal Medicine Can Support Cancer Treatment

Whilst it’s true to say that buying herbs from the high street or online is decidedly risky, working with a Medical Herbalist can be very supportive on all levels. 

It’s understandable that many people feel utterly terrified and overwhelmed following a cancer diagnosis.  Treatment can often begin after diagnosis, and patients can quickly begin to feel as though decisions are being taken out of their hands. Before long they feel totally out of control, and sometimes they can’t get the support they need from Doctors, charities or family and friends. This state of mind doesn’t make it any easier to cope with the physical side of any treatment, so more and more people look at other ways of helping themselves.

As a Medical Herbalist, my role is to support patients through their chosen cancer treatment and help them feel more in control again. Those whose family and friends are coping well with the situation often don’t need so much emotional help, but not everyone is that fortunate. It’s important to keep stress levels as low as possible, so we look at various ways of doing that.

Physically, herbs can be used to help protect the body from the side effects of any treatments. Given that some people find these effects so difficult that they choose to stop treatment altogether, this can be really vital in keeping their treatment options open. Herbs are chosen very carefully to make sure there’s no way they can interact with other treatments, and used at the correct dose and correct times. We may also talk about other ways to enhance treatments, such as fasting before and after chemotherapy. This has been used for a number of years in North America to improve outcomes and reduce side effects, but is not common knowledge within the NHS.

Nutrition is also very important in helping a person to cope with cancer, and often it’s malnutrition that causes a person to deteriorate much faster than the cancer itself. So we look both at diet and key supplements, as most patients need mega doses of certain nutrients by the time they’re diagnosed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we try to understand how the cancer came about in the first place. As I’ve said before, illness always has a message for us, and looking at why we’ve become unwell helps us to move forward as well as reducing the risk of the same happening again in future.

In China, mainstream and traditional medicine have always worked side by side. Over the last 30 years, the value of using this approach in cancer has now reached the point where it’s considered negligent not to do so. Here in the UK we still have some catching up to do, but if you’re ever affected by cancer, it’s good to know that these options are available to you.

Have You Been Affected By Your Cancer Treatment?

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Penny Brohn Cancer Care





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