The effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine on cancer

Source: Science Translational Medicine; Wall Street Journal

An 1,800-year-old Chinese herbal recipe has shown promise in recent studies for improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy in colon cancer patients. The four-herb mixture, known as huang qin tang, was uncovered and tested by a team led by a Yale University researcher.

The team found that, at least in animals, huang qin tang restores intestinal cells faster than when chemotherapy was used alone—it is speculated that the herbal combination has an anti-inflammatory effect on the gastrointestinal tract. According to the study, published in the journal Science and Translational Medicine in 2010, the restoration of cells is a result of 62 active chemicals, which work together to be effective. When used alone, the herb mixture had no impact on the cancer, and if any herb was eliminated or was grown under different environmental conditions, the mixture’s impact on treatment was diminished.

The researchers will next test the mixture’s effectiveness in humans with colon cancer. They note that a more effective technique could improve quality of life and allow patients to tolerate larger doses of chemotherapy, possibly speeding up their course of treatment.