Just as there is no single cause of cancer, there is no single remedy. Therefore when approaching a complex disease like cancer it is important to formulate a balanced protocol that addresses:
• Biomechanics: the characteristics of the disease
• External endogenous factors: diet, environment, and lifestyle
• Energetics: organ weaknesses and the overall deficiency or excess of the person
Cancer has many causes, and its treatment, to be effective, must reflect this. It is necessary to review and address the energetic constitution of the person, including the Kidney Qi (a.k.a. chi) Spleen Qi, and Liver Qi systems.It is also essential to evaluate the endocrine system, the detoxification system, and the person’s dietary and lifestyle habits, including sleep patterns and life stressors. Most importantly, the inner spirit of the person must be considered.
First Steps in Treating Cancer
In treating cancer, the first steps include addressing the person’s stress level and building adaptive energy, guiding him or her toward healthy nutritional choices, improving digestion and the ability to assimilate nutrients, supporting good-quality sleep, and encouraging appropriate exercise and time spent outdoors in fresh air and sunshine. From a biochemical perspective, we need to understand the characteristics of the specific cancer: what activates it, what controls its growth, and what enables it to metastasize.
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Present in herbs, as well in traditional foods, are a wide variety of active phytochemicals, including the flavonoids, terpenoids, lignans, sulfides, polyphenolics, carotenoids, coumarins, saponins, plant sterols, curcumins, and alkaloids. These phytochemicals have been found to possess important actions in promoting health and preventing cancer, as well as being useful in cancer treatment. These plant compounds regulate cell behavior and redox cycling; they are able to act on healthy cells as free-radical scavengers and hydrogen donors, exhibiting both pro- and antioxidant activities. They can selectively act as pro-oxidants on cancer cells that need to undergo apoptosis; they can bind metals, particularly iron and copper, and can function as iron chelators; and they can protect against drug toxicity yet potentiate the antitumor effect of chemotherapy and targeted drug therapies as well. Finally, some of these phytochemical compounds can act as mild chemotherapeutics; in fact, many of these plant extracts are the source of presently used chemotherapeutic drugs.
Important Plant Compounds to Include in Diet
In my practice I emphasize a diet rich in a diversity of these important plant compounds, as well as a supplemental program that includes concentrated forms of these compounds. One formula I have created contains an array of well-researched plant-based compounds, including concentrated extracts of the following:
* Turmeric (Curcuma longa), 95 percent curcuminoids, 75 percent curcumin
* Green tea (Camellia sinensis), 95 percent polyphenols, 60 percent catechins
* Grape seed/skin (Vitis vinifera), proanthocyanidinsand oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), 95 percent of the total polyphenols in the seed and 30 percent of the total in the skin, which is also rich in resveratrol (between 1 and 2 percent)
* Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), 50 percent resveratrol
* Ginger (Zingiber officinale), 5 percent gingerols
* Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), 6 percent carnosic acid, 1 percent rosmarinic acid, 1.5 percent ursolic acid
All of these compounds have demonstrated broad-spectrum, multitargeting, anticancer effects, as well as general health-promoting benefits, and they (in the form of phytochemical-rich foods, spices, and herbs) have been used regularly by many cultures throughout the world. In addition to these plant extracts, I have my patients consume a health-enriched smoothie that includes organic fruit and vegetable concentrates to assure therapeutic levels of a diversity of nutraceuticals, as well as the vitamins and minerals present in them.
The external environment of the person must also be reviewed with an understanding of stress, allostasis, and allostatic overload. If a person with cancer is in a state of allostatic overload and his or her lifestyle is a causative factor, this will easily allow the cancer energy to take control. Taking an approach that integrates adaptogenic remedies along with lifestyle changes will serve to strengthen the vital energy and weaken the cancer energy. This approach is the basis of my treatment programs.
The Wholistic Approach to Treatment
My philosophy of healing focuses on the interconnection between all the systems of the body and the continuous process of breaking down (catabolism) and becoming (anabolism). A central component of my approach involves herbs and immunonutrients that enhance anabolic metabolism to build up the whole body. I consider enhancing a person’s vital force to be the most important aspect of healing.
Basic clinical concepts that must always be addressed include the following:
• Enhance vitality and adaptive capability by strengthening the person in a rational and nontoxic fashion
• Balance the endocrine and nervous systems
• Improve metabolism, digestion, and assimilation
• Activate the body’s innate healing mechanisms by taking notice of the blood, lymph, liver, kidneys, bowels, lungs, and skin to assess where detoxification is needed
• Address imbalances and deficiencies with specifically indicated remedies
Evaluate and Address the Three Main Energetic Networks
When assessing and working with clients, I address the three main energetic systems of the body: the Kidney Qi/endocrine/hormonal network; the Liver Qi/detoxification network; and the Spleen Qi/immune/digestive network.
The Kidney Qi/Endocrine/ Hormonal Network
Physiologically, the hub of the Kidney Qi network is the HPA axis, and the maestro, to use a musical term, is most likely the hypothalamus, located deep in the brain center. The energy that feeds and flows throughout the Kidney Qi network is the vital essence. This network includes all of the endocrine glands, primarily the hormone-secreting glands of the pituitary, adrenal, thyroid, parathyroid, pineal, ovaries, and testes. This is why, within the energetic model of thinking, the Kidney Qi network is considered the single most important system for maintaining health and vitality. Increasing the network’s strength and supporting the harmonious flow of Kidney Qi is the foundation of cancer inhibition.
Some adaptogens that help enhance the Kidney Qi network and nourish vital essence include schisandra seed and fruit, cordyceps, he shou wu (Polygonum multiflorum), shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), and ligustrum (Ligustrum lucidum). These herbs are most often taken together with adaptogens that strengthen the Spleen Qi/immune network, such as Asian ginseng and astragalus, which promote vitality and support immune and bone marrow health.
The Liver Qi/Detoxification Network
It is essential to support the liver’s processing and detoxifying capacity in all phases of treatment. Sometimes the Liver Qi detoxification network can be stuck in a metaphorical traffic jam in which waste products are not able to get out of the cells, while nutrients and oxygen cannot get in. Nrf2, the master regulator of redox-antioxidant genes, plays a pivotal role in controlling cellular redox-antioxidant balance.
Regulation of the Nrf2-mediated pathways by natural phytochemicals, including phenolic compounds (i.e., grape skin and seed [resveratrol and proanthocyanidins]), isothiocyanates (i.e., broccoli sprouts [sulforaphane]), curcuminoids (turmeric), carotenoids (i.e., sea buckthorn oil), and triterpenes (i.e., gotu kola), provides multiple modes of resistance to endocrine disruptors and other chemical carcinogens. At the same time, phytochemicals are able to down-regulate Nrf2 signaling in cancer cells.
The pro-oxidant/antioxidant shift, one of the main events that occurs in cancer and other chronic diseases, can be greatly affected by herbs, foods, and lifestyle. When the balance of oxidative stress (lipid peroxidation, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals) overpowers the body’s ability to regulate and detoxify, the antioxidant enzyme systems create an oxidative environment that can allow a chronic health condition to develop. Causative factors include genetic predisposition, exposure to drugs of all kinds, hormones such as estrogens or androgens, xenoestrogens (a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen and can be either synthetic or natural chemical compounds), infectious agents, environmental and dietary factors, sleep deprivation, and aging.
Meta-analytic reviews have found a strong correlation between stressful life experiences and depression with poorer response to treatment and higher mortality rates across a diverse array of cancers (e.g., breast, lung, head and neck, liver and biliary, lymphoid, and hematopoietic).5 This is one of several reasons why I believe adaptogenic formulations should be the cornerstone of herbal medicine for all people who have had cancer.
Adaptogens act as potent cellular and liver detoxifiers, quenching damaging free radicals and improving cellular redox response and balance. They are potent and direct antitoxins, protecting us from the onslaught of modern-day toxins we are all exposed to. A lot of research has been done on this important quality, though I think it has been overlooked by many.
Eleuthero, rhodiola, and schisandra seed extracts are particularly effective at combating cellular and liver toxicity. Antihepatotoxic herbs interact with energized molecules such as free radicals and thus spare precious glutathione. Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidant enzymes and is a significant anticarcinogen, especially in the liver, where the highest level of glutathione is found. Glutathione combines with carcinogens to make them inert and also plays a role in protecting the nervous system.
The Spleen Qi/Immune/ Digestive Network
The Spleen Qi network includes the gastrointestinal tract, which plays a significant role in the health of the immune system. The objective is to strengthen the spleen/immune system as well as the pancreas, stomach, and gut. The secondary adaptogens such as astragalus (Astagalus membranaceus) and poria (Poria cocos) are also primary Spleen tonics, as are specific herbs such as red root (Ceanothus americanus), and cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa). I often employ these herbs because they enhance the immune, lymph, and digestive systems and have a wide range of applications.
Spleen Qi is responsible for extracting the beneficial nutrients and fluids from the food and drink we consume and transporting these nutrients to locations where they can most properly nourish the body, especially to places where they can provide energy to cellular mitochondria.
In treating people with cancer, vital energy/life force, adaptation, and protection are critically important for quality of life and to extend life span. Therapeutic strategies include restoring vitality through adaptogens, anabolics, tonics, and nutritives and increasing detoxification with alteratives (cellular and lymphatic catabolic detoxifiers that remove cellular waste and enhance efficiency), cholagogues (enhance bile production and flow, aiding gallbladder and liver function), and diaphoretics (induce perspiration, which helps reduce fever by dispersing heat and cooling the body, and also stimulate lymphatic activity and elimination of toxins). Together, these compounds give broad-spectrum support to the immune system, complementing the deeply immune-enhancing tonics and adaptogens, which are always the foundation to any and all protocols, especially for those with cancer.
The final layer to botanical protocol building is the use of herbal compounds as cytotoxics, which act more directly against cancer cells often by activating apoptosis (cell self-destruction). Cytotoxic herbs that I use include Artemisia annua (Chinese wormwood), Asimina triloba (pawpaw) seed, Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew), Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle), Camptotheca acuminata (xi shu, or “happy tree”) seed, and Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus, or naked lady).
Excerpted and reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Healing Arts Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions Inc.
©2013 by Donald R. Yance. www.InnerTraditions.com
This article is adapted with permission from the book:
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism: Elite Herbs and Natural Compounds for Mastering Stress, Aging, and Chronic Disease... by Donald R. Yance, CN, MH, RH(AHG)
Weaving together the ancient wisdom of herbalism and the most up-to-date scientific research on cancer, aging, and nutrition, renowned medical herbalist and clinical nutritionist Donald Yance reveals how to master stress, improve energy levels, prevent degenerative disease, and age gracefully with the elite herbs known as adaptogens. Emphasizing spirituality, exercise, and diet in addition to herbal treatments and nutritional supplements, the author's complete lifestyle program explores how to enhance energy production in the body and subdue the proinflammatory state that lays the groundwork for nearly every degenerative disease, taking you from merely surviving to thriving.
About the Author
Donald R. Yance Jr., CN, MH, RH(AHG), is a clinical master herbalist and certified nutritionist. He has devoted his life to developing a unique approach to health and healing that elegantly combines his passion for the latest scientific research with the wisdom of ancient healing traditions. Donnie’s longstanding interests in botanical medicine, music, and Eastern Christian, Franciscan theology infuse his work, resulting in an approach to healing that is compassionate, creative, intelligent, and inspiring. He is the founder of the Mederi Centre for Natural Healing in Ashland, Oregon, the president and formulator of Natura Health Products, and founder and president of the Mederi Foundation. Visit his website at http://www.donnieyance.com
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