I want to talk about radiation, specifically radiation dermatitis. This is a picture of radiation dermatitis. This can happen in some women when they get radiation. The skin reacts and it can become very painful and obviously, uncomfortable. So there are some things, mechanically, that are very effective at helping to reduce the risk of dermatitis.
The first one I want to mention is Calendula. So Calendula is an herb that can be used topically. There’s a very important thing I want to say which is that you’d never want to put anything topically on your skin before radiation treatments because if you moisturize your skin before you get radiation, it can actually make that dermatitis worse. So you want to go in as dry as possible. But right after radiation, if you apply Calendula ointment, then it has been shown in clinical studies to reduce the risk of developing this dermatitis. Calendula is very very indicated; very well documented therapy to help reduce this dermatitis.
Interestingly, aloe vera, which is often used, is actually not by a research perspective, effective. And clinically, I’ve not seen it to be very effective either. But, there are some oral things, some botanicals that you can take by mouth that will help to reduce radiation dermatitis as well because they kind of stimulate moisturization in the skin and repair in the skin. So one is Turmeric or Curcumin. That can be helpful.
Another one is Milk Thistle. Milk Thistle is actually a very nice way to help reduce the risk of developing dermatitis. Just, again, taken orally concurrent with time of radiation. And if somebody develops radiation dermatitis, one of the treatments that can be used as a medicinal form of honey, which has been free of all microbes and is kind of very specific to medicinal use is from New Zealand originally, but purchasable here in the United States, certainly. Called Manuka Honey. Applying Manukah Honey, again, at like at night, so well after the radiation treatment can help to heal up dermatitis.
Now, clearly, talking with your oncologist about this can be difficult. Some advice that I will give you around this, one; is to really obtain support and guidance from trained integrative healthcare professionals. You know, naturopathic oncologists, or naturopathic doctors that have gone on to receive additional training and certification in naturopathic oncology and their focus is on providing this level of support. So they would sort of be at the top of the list.
There are also some really well trained innovative medical doctors, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, herbalists, so you want somebody that can guide you because there’s a lot of complexity to this. And those people should take over the communication. So they should be communicating with your oncologists so that your providers are talking with each other and that everybody is on the same page.
Furthermore, if you are using herbs, do tell your oncologist about it, even if your oncologist doesn’t like that you’re using herbs, it’s important for them to know that you’re using them because they need to have that information if something about the way in which you react to their treatment is different, or unexpected, they can try to help figure out what might be going on and they’re better able to do that when they know all the things that you’re taking regularly.
In general, you want to be conservative. So when in doubt, avoid potential interactions and don’t use herbs concurrently if you have concerns about it. There is plenty of opportunity after treatment to employ the use of herbs to help lower the risk of recurrence and recover from treatment. And, again, remember that if you’re getting chemotherapy, for example, and you’re getting it on a schedule with a couple of weeks, two to three weeks in between treatments, that affords you an opportunity to employ some of these therapies in a more safe manner.
And then, finally, do rely on good studies and expert guidance, but don’t rely on pervasive or persuasive testimonials, especially on the internet. These are just ripe for problems and are not reliable in any way.
By: Lise Alschuler