Category Archives: Integrative Medicine

Herbs for Overall Breast Health

This is a webinar presented by Dr. Wendy Warner.

…Now, here’s another really important statistic that I like to hammer home to people.  Eighty percent of breast cancer patients have absolutely no family history…..

….Let’s talk a little bit about breast cancer statistics in general.  Because sometimes I feel as though it’s easy to lose track of reality when it comes to talking about breast cancer, especially in October.  It is an important disease and it’s really scary.  But let’s get realistic about what’s actually going on.  Only 15% of breast cancers are diagnosed in anyone under the age of 45…..

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Integrating Botanical Medicine in Cancer Therapies

As an herbalist with 25 years of clinical experience, I witness on a daily basis the remarkable healing properties of plants. Although the foundation of my healing approach is deeply rooted in traditional medical philosophies and practices, I draw extensively upon modern scientific research as a vital cornerstone for my work.

The majority of my patients have been diagnosed with cancer, and many turn to me after they have exhausted all that modern medicine has to offer. Merging traditional nature-based medical systems with modern, scientifically based conventional medical knowledge enables me to significantly help the difficult cases I so often encounter. I have an inner drive to do anything and everything I can for each person I work with to utilize all lens and tools of the various toolboxes, finding the pieces that fit together to promote and sustain healing. It is a true integration of the mind and heart, thinking and praying together. Researching and reviewing the latest scientific studies is part of my daily routine, and this continual stream of research contributes to the rationale for my clinical recommendations.

 

Integrating Botanical Medicine in Cancer Therapies
For example, I utilize biomarkers (such as blood and hormone panels, and in the case of cancer, biomarkers specific to the tumor based on pathology and molecular expression) to provide valuable information for formulating protocols that contribute significantly to both quality-of-life and lifespan. Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, I believe it is essential to assess the individual (the “host”), the microenvironment, and the tumor to create a targeted healing protocol. Botanicals are foundational to the healing protocol that I recommend for everyone. This includes using whole herbs, herbal extracts, super concentrated herbal extracts, and herbal isolates, all of which provide my patients with a significantly enhanced quality-of-life, and often, a longer life as well.

As a traditional herbalist, I believe that “the sum of all the parts is greater than any single part.” For this reason, I prescribe combinations of herbs and herbal isolates customized to the individual. A typical protocol includes crude herbs for tea, liquid herbal extracts, concentrated powdered herbal extracts, and isolates. I always combine a powdered extract, either a 4:1 or 8:1 concentration with an isolate. I do this for several reasons: First, the beneficial effects are often superior and more diverse than the single isolate; second, the plant often contains compounds that buffer or reduce the harshness or potential toxicity that the isolate may possess; and third, out of respect for the gift of the whole herb.

There are significant differences between the actions of drugs and that of botanical medicines (which are often standardized to an active isolated compound). Drugs block, whereas herbs suppress, buffer or reduce; drugs are placed and function, while herbs are positioned and enhance response; drugs often have a single action (although some newer cancer drugs target several pathways), whereas herbs can affect hundreds or even thousands of pathways; drugs even when used properly have side effects and toxicity, while herbs have little to no side effects and toxicity when used properly by a professional herbalist; and finally, herbs are recognized by our genes, whereas drugs are new to our genes and our bodies often struggle with what to do with them and how to properly detoxify them.

In the management of cancer, botanicals (including herbal isolates) have been shown to demonstrate pleiotropic effects. Botanicals alter the microenvironment to optimize the health of the host and not the cancer; directly suppress cancer by targeting intercellular signal transduction pathways, growth factors, oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, and telomerase; and impede cancer through selective apoptosis, targeting cancer cells while sparing, protecting, or strengthening healthy cells. Botanical compounds also possess an ability to inhibit chemotherapy and radiation resistance. Sometimes these effects can be tied to a specific isolated compound, and other times they cannot.

When managing cancer, we need every possible advantage. Cancer cells are resilient—they undergo genetic changes that provide them with protection and camouflage, and at the same time they acquire properties that enable them to overcome the body’s defense systems. They can even manipulate the immune system to aid cancer growth while suppressing what would otherwise be adversarial to the cancer. Botanical medicines and their selective compounds have the unique ability to address these issues, while concurrently strengthening the host and microenvironment.

As an example, botanicals address issues such as “blood stagnation,” the prothrombotic hypercoagulative state created by the cancer cell to help facilitate growth. Botanicals also effectively target the multitude of proinflammatory pathways that fuel cancer growth, such as nuclear factor kappa b, cyclooxygenase (COX) 2, 5-lypoxygenase, interleukin 6 and 8, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. The herb turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been traditionally used to promote the movement of blood and to remove blood stagnation; research studies have proven that turmeric and its botanical isolate curcumin prevent thrombosis and platelet aggregation, reduce inflammation, support detoxification, and increase immune surveillance. Modern medicine recognizes the importance of all of these factors in managing cancer, but whereas drugs such as COX-2 inhibitors only block COX-2, herbs and their isolates are often capable of down-regulating several of these pro-inflammatory pathways while simultaneously offering other wide-ranging health benefits. In my practice, I combine both the whole herb and the isolate with excellent results.

I also recommend whole herbal extracts when my patients are taking plant derived chemotherapy single compounds. For example, the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) contains twenty-seven different diterpenes, referred to as taxanes. Taxol, the well-known chemotherapeutic drug, is one of these. The other taxanes work together to suppress cancer, reduce toxicity, inhibit multi-drug resistance, and suppress cancer-related angiogenesis. As another example, I combine Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) with any of the vinca alkaloids, such as Vinorelbine. Catharanthus roseus contains a group of more than 70 vinca alkaloids, representing a chemical class of major interest in cancer chemotherapy. I also combine Camptotheca acuminata (referred to as the happy tree or cancer tree) seed and leafextract with either irinotecan (CPT-11) or topotecan. Campotheca acuminatacontains a wide range of anti-tumor quinoline alkaloids, most notably camptothecin, which inhibits topoisomerase, an enzyme needed for DNA replication. Other naturally occurring CPTs include hydroxycamptothecin and methoxycamptothecin from the seeds and leaves. Irinotecan (semi-synthetic) and topotecan are both derivatives from Camptotheca acuminata.

Despite our increased understanding of cancer and the continual development of new, targeted drug therapies, little real progress has been made in the “war on cancer.” And although we are led to believe that we are getting closer to a “cure” for cancer, we are not. Even the new breakthrough drugs being approved are only extending the lives of people with cancer two to three months; these drugs often cause significant side effects and diminish quality of life, while costing as much as $100,000 a month. The reality is that there is no simple answer to cancer. The word “cancer” is applied to what are really hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of different diseases all characterized by uncontrolled cell growth, which over time often mutate into newer, more aggressive forms of the disease. This is why a comprehensive approach is desperately needed that incorporates a full array of botanical medicines.

It’s important to understand that the emphasis of modern medicine is on “curing disease,” which is in stark contrast to the healing philosophy of traditional medical systems. As a result, we are led to believe that the quick eradication of a tumor is a cure, when what actually cures is providing someone with a significantly longer and higher quality-of-life despite their diagnosis. I have many stage four cancer patients living years—and even decades—beyond what was expected, but I can never say their cancer was or is cured, or even in remission, nor do I care to, as that is not my primary objective.

In my experience, scientific knowledge, when combined with wisdom and critical thinking, is invaluable when using botanicals in the clinical setting. Conventional modern medicine has long separated itself from traditional healing systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and the Eclectic tradition. However, the inadequacies of conventional medicine and the growing interest of people in the wisdom of these ancient healing traditions has created a unique opportunity to rewrite medicine as we currently know it. I believe the time is now ripe for a truly wholistic medical approach to emerge—one that integrates the wisdom of ancient healing systems with the best of modern medicine, including both botanical and pharmaceutical toolboxes.

By Donnie Yance

Embracing The Mystery In Herbal Medicine

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein

This has always been one of my favorite quotes—for me, it is a beautiful reminder that spirit is always present. I consciously pay attention to the miracles that are so abundant in everyday life, including the miracles in the healing work that I am called to do.

I have humbly discovered in my 25 years of practice that nothing in or about in medicine works automatically, no matter how technologically advanced we become. The Spirit (theology) must embody the mind (mentality), for the mind cannot heal without the spirit, and the spirit employs the mind in the quest to heal.

 

Embracing The Mystery In Herbal Medicine

 

To the herbalist, healing is an amalgamation of the mystical art form of medicine that engages the heart, together with the scientific aspect of medicine, which engages the mind.  The mind must follow the heart, which is centered in pure Love and seeks Truth in every instance.  The heart cannot serve the mind, but the mind must serve the heart.

Medicine for me is an endless pursuit of pure Love. The deeper I dig for answers and expand the theory and practice of Mederi Medicine, which I refer to as the ETMS (Eclectic Triphasic Medical System), the more the Cosmic God is reveled to me. In my personal theology, this is inclusive of Christ, of Nature, and of the living God that manifests as the selfless love of neighbor we refer to as “agape love.” There is no room for ego or self-promotion, fear, or anything that clouds the process. The ETMS includes the careful study of modern scientific literature. However, it does not sacrifice wisdom for the pursuit of knowledge. Wisdom differs greatly from knowledge. Wisdom begins in faith, is developed through rational understanding and time, and is perfected by the mystical union with God.

To subscribe to an ever advancing, adaptive, comprehensive living and breathing approach to health promotion and disease prevention and treatment, you must first be willing to face and accept the fact there will always be an aspect that is a mystery. For example, we are conditioned to want to know with our mind the precise effects of each herb, nutrient, formula, or drug. But this wanting to “know” with the mind, and to predict exact outcomes, leaves no room for mystery.

The word “mystery” comes from the Greek word mystėrion, and is related to the verb myėrion, which means, “to contemplate.”  A mystery is a reality we encounter, yet which is of such profound depth and meaning that it is, finally, beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Can God be God if He could be totally understood? No! Nor can a single herb, which is a humble expression of God, or perhaps is actually God (being present in Nature), be totally understood.

The influence of the mind wants to categorize herbs as drugs. Because of this, we tend to use the same language for herbs that was designed for drugs. This creates as much trouble as it does benefit in the attempt to explain actions or classifications. We process herbs and combine them into formulas; some used simply in the form of teas, while others are highly concentrated or single constituents are extracted as isolates.  We change formulas based on parameters and lens that are as much objective as subjective.

As an avid researcher with a respect for science as well as an herbalist steeped in the ancient traditions of healing, I acknowledge that even though herbs and the practice of herbal medicine will always be a mystery, we must grow in our understanding of certain aspects of the mystery. I believe it is possible to understand herbal medicine, but with a limited capacity. Because of our modern scientific studies, we can “know” herbs based on the hundreds of compounds and the various physiological pathways they affect. We can be impressed with this scientific knowledge, and use it to better know the herb and apply it medicinally. But this is still an extremely limited understanding of herbal medicine, and although it can be useful, it can also misguide us.

I believe that we must be humble, and allow space for mystery to coexist with scientific knowledge. We have only limited access to the healing potential of herbs if we leave behind the energetic understanding of plants and the traditional uses of herbs. Only a traditionally skilled and trained practitioner of many years that combines a thorough understanding of scientific research, traditional herbal healing, and prayer can unite all of the many facets of healing and medicine and create a harmonious approach that is of the highest benefit.

By Donnie Yance

Cancer Is Not One Disease

 “All cancers are alike but they are alike in a unique way.”― Siddhartha MukherjeeThe Emperor of All Maladies

Last September, I came across an excellent article written by George Lundberg, MD, a board-certified pathologist and former long-time editor of both the Journal of the American Medical Association and Medscape, a highly respected web resource for health professionals (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/809982).

 

Cancer Is Not One Disease

Despite being a conventionally trained physician, Lundberg doesn’t ascribe to the conventional ways in which we approach cancer in this country—nor does he shy away from what some may consider a radical view of cancer diagnosis and treatment. “Cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies, is on track to kill some 600,000 Americans this year, despite the miracles of modern medicine–a really big deal, a disease worthy of its fearful reputation,” writes Lundberg.

For decades now, we have given many different diseases the label of cancer. The approach of our medical system has been to violently wage war on cancer, with the primary goal the eradication of the disease. The weapons of choice have been aggressive surgery, high dose radiation, and high dose chemotherapy, prescribed for all types of cancers. Four decades ago, we were promised that cancer would be easily vanquished in the all-out “war against cancer.” With the goal of eradication, mass efforts were launched to search out cancers and destroy them.

As Lundberg notes, “Since the earliest cancers seemed to evolve from some identifiable premalignant conditions, wouldn’t it make sense to also nip those in the bud?” Of course that would appear to be the most prudent approach. But as Lundberg points out, “…as with many exuberant efforts, this one got out of control. Many lesions that were called “cancer” really were not cancers at all in behavior, and this fact began to be recognized in large numbers of patients. These unfortunate victims have experienced massive psychological and physical harm and costs without any clear benefits achieved by finding and treating their “noncancers.””

I’ve written and spoken about this issue many times in my two decades of working with hundreds of cancer patients. I have significant concerns about the way that cancer is diagnosed, treated, and managed in our country. The truth is that cancer is hundreds of different diseases, and some aren’t cancer at all. It doesn’t make sense in terms of economics, allocation of health care resources—and most especially, in terms of the well being of patients—to diagnose or treat all cancers in the same aggressive manner.

As Lundberg says, “After many decades of matching histologic patterns with the natural history of diseases, we are actually pretty good at predicting which lesions will be really bad actors and which seem likely to lie around indolently. Cure rates from aggressive therapy on those “indolentomas” are 100%. But, so would the outcomes have been of nondiscovery—100% cure of nondisease.”

Lundberg suggests that we stop labeling indolentomas as cancer, to reduce the fear factor that accompanies a diagnosis of cancer. As he so brilliantly points out, “Ceasing to name lesions that are most likely indolentomas by that fearsome word “cancer” is the first step. Almost any patient who hears the word “cancer” applied to their pathologic findings experiences their hair catching on fire. Even if the word is cushioned by physicians with modifiers like “in situ,” “early,” “precancer,” “on the way towards cancer,” “caught it in time,” and the like, the patient simply wants to get it out of their body. A surgical sell by a surgeon becomes really easy.”

The question then becomes, what is a balanced, non-aggressive, non-fear based approach to cancer? One of the most important aspects of the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System (ETMS) is to indentify the characteristics of each individual and their cancer’s unique phenotype, and to determine which cancers are aggressive and possess metastatic and invasive capabilities. It is also essential to target all of the pathways and gene mutations that are being expressed.

The whole-system model of the ETMS (also referred to as “Mederi Medicine”) takes this data and applies each of the ETMS toolboxes (Botanical, Nutritional, Dietary, Lifestyle, and Pharmaceutical) with an emphasis on using the Botanical toolbox to alter the expression and signal pathways to create a normalizing effect. We do this by targeting the “cancer energy” together with the microenvironment and the host factors.

Cancer treatment should be specifically targeted to the unique situation of each individual and each cancer. In less aggressive cancers in older people, the focus should be primarily on the host and microenvironment, and very little on the tumor; while in more aggressive cancers, especially in young to middle aged people, all three areas should be addressed; sometimes the focus does need to be on eradicating the tumor. But no matter what the type or stage of cancer, we always should be considering the host and the microenvironment. I believe this is the blueprint we should be adopting for long-term cancer management, health-promotion, and cancer prevention, including the prevention of cancer reoccurrence.

By Donnie Yance

Acupuncture Can Aid in the Care of Breast Cancer

Patients diagnosed with breast cancer often suffer from stress generated by the diagnostic procedures. They face decisions about treatment options and the impact the diagnosis will have on their professional and personal lives. The stress can generate multiple biological changes that will cause physical and emotional systemic dysfunction.

Furthermore, surgeries, chemotherapies, and radiotherapies are standard intervention for these patients. These interventions mostly focus on battling the cancer itself, but they further compromise the human body systemically. These complications manifest as side effects of treatment and include the following:

• Pain: the result of neuropathy, damaged tissues, or scar tissues
• Digestive dysfunction: nausea, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, or constipation
• Endocrinological dysfunctions: hair loss, hot flashes, cold extremities, and low libido
• Mental and cognitive dysfunctions: anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor memory and concentration, and slower thinking process
• Hematological dysfunction: reduced blood counts, reduced lymphocytes
• Skeletal-muscular system: muscle pain, joint pain
• Nervous system: neuropathy, immunological dysfunction, and symptoms such as dry mouth

In an attempt to counteract these systemic side effects, some cancer patients use modalities that are considered complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). They work to reduce the side effects listed above because many of these modalities focus on enhancing the function of the whole system. They often address both physical and emotional issues.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a perfect example of a type of CAM. Acupuncture, moxibustion, Chinese herbal therapies, Tui Na, Chi Gong (also called Qigong, exercises of chi and meditation), and dietary therapy are all therapeutic tools of traditional Chinese medicine. Among these tools, acupuncture is most widely used in the treatment of cancer patients in the West, while Chinese herbal remedies are often used in China today.

Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture, Chinese herbal remedies and other TCM treatment tools are only effective if the patient’s chi abnormalities are thoroughly evaluated by utilizing all the theories of TCM: yin and yang, “wu xing” (also called Five Elements), chi, blood, essence, fluid, meridians, organs, and man and nature.

The treatment plan should include dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and exercises to strengthen chi, along with daily acupuncture treatments and daily intake of individually formulated herbs (which will change as the patient’s chi changes).

In the West, people generally do not get the amount of TCM treatment traditionally required to be effective. People rarely combine conventional treatment with Chinese herbal remedies due to the concern oncologists have about its negative interaction with chemotherapy.

The TCM treatment for people with breast cancer can be used for multiple purposes: first to support the body’s physical and mental functions during the conventional therapies, secondly to reduce the adverse effects of conventional therapies, and thirdly to maintain health and prevent recurrence of cancer and other illness in the future.

Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a procedure used to restore the balance of chi. It involves inserting fine, sterile needles into points on the surface of the body. There are roughly 360 points connected with 12 major meridian systems and 8 extra meridians.

Before inserting the needles, the acupuncturist has to diagnose the patient based on the TCM method. The acupuncturist must understand the biomedical and structural issues prior to choosing a combination of points. For example, if there is excessive heat in the system, the practitioner may want to pick a point that is connected with cold energy to increase it or a point that is connected with heat energy to reduce it.

In addition to strategically choosing a combination of points, the practitioner must also choose how to insert and manipulate the needles. This is a crucial detail needed to achieve the intended intervention.

Let’s say the practitioner wants to enhance the chi circulation in the patient’s meridian. The patient must inhale when the needle is inserted. The needle should be inserted in the direction of the chi flow, rotated clockwise, and left at a deeper level.

Acupuncture treatment typically lasts about 30 minutes. A couple more-manual manipulations may be conducted during the session. Patients may experience discomfort and mild pain as the needle is inserted. Then sensations like pressure, dull achiness, tingling, and numbness may occur as the needle touches chi.

After the treatment, patients may feel deeply relaxed, light, and energized or tired. Pain may be reduced right away, but sometimes it increases before it is reduced.

Patients should expect the treatment to last at least 30 sessions before the symptoms are gone. TCM is not a quick-fix treatment.

By: Jingduan Yang, MD

Naturopathic Medicine and Breast Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, chances are you have read about at least one diet change, supplement, or herb that is recommended to support your diagnosis. But how do you choose? Which change is right for you? Who can you turn to for advice? While your next door neighbor, family member, or friend can probably provide advice, maybe you are looking for someone with special training to help guide your decisions.

Naturopathic medicine and Naturopathic Doctors can support you through those tough questions above. In the states that license Naturopathic doctors, we are primary care physicians that have extensive training in nutrition, herbs, vitamins, environmental medicine, homeopathy, and prescription medications. Sometimes naturopathic doctors also provide IV Nutrient therapy and chelation therapy. You can learn more and find a naturopathic doctor in your area at http://www.naturopathic.org.

If you have cancer, you can add a naturopathic physician to your healthcare team. A Naturopathic oncologist has taken a board exam as well as presented cases to a board that accredits them as specialists in naturopathic oncology. You can find a local naturopathic oncologist and learn more at www.oncanp.org.

Many women with cancer use natural medicine without any guidance based on books, websites, and friends advice. As naturopathic oncologists we know about possible negative and positive interactions that natural therapies have with chemotherapy, survey, and radiation and will make sure you use natural therapies for cancer safely. Plus, as naturopathic oncologists we also look at you as a whole person, and will address any other health concerns, diet, and lifestyle conditions that might have contributed to cancer growth in the first place. A naturopathic oncologist will help you choose exactly the right herbs, supplements, diet, and natural therapies that fit your type of breast cancer. Every woman and every situation is unique, and you deserve to have an expert on your team of health care providers.

By: Heather Paulson

Homeopathy and Cancer

Homeopathy is a powerful system of healing with the potential to enhance recovery. This system of medicine prompts the body to correct itself, treating the whole person rather than just the symptom. In the context of cancer care, homeopathy can relieve side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and then optimize longevity. Dr. Jen Green ND generously shares her homeopathic expertise in this audio.

By Dr. Jen Green
Published with the permission of Five To Thrive Live
homeopathy and cancer