Herbal medicine is the oldest form of healthcare known to mankind. Chinese culture alone has promulgated the effectiveness of herbal medicine for nearly 5,000 years. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Indians and Native Americans have all contributed to the long history of phytotherapy. Herbology survived the Middle Ages in the Western world and American colonists combined their herbal knowledge with the indigenous peoples’ own. But the Chinese traditions of herbalism hardly waned from the populace’s attention or usefulness in all this time. Today, the World Health Organization estimates that a full 80% of the global population fulfills their primary health care needs via herbal remedies. Though Europe is no stranger to such treatments, the industrialized Western world in general is just now catching on to the time-tested efficacy of medical modalities such as Chinese herbology
Modern research is finally discovering the potential Chinese herbs afford. Billions of people around the world consume natural herbal products for their preventative and acute medical needs and LongevityHerbs is proud to share this history, knowledge and healthfulness with you, our customers.
How is it promoted for use?
Chinese herbal medicine is not based on conventional Western concepts of medical diagnosis and treatment. It treats patients main complaints or the patterns of their symptoms rather than the underlying causes. Practitioners attempt to prevent and treat imbalances, such as those caused by cancer and other diseases, with complex combinations of herbs, minerals, and plant extracts.
Chinese herbal medicine uses a variety of herbs in different combinations to restore balance to the body, such as astragalus, ginkgo, ginseng, green tea, and eleuthero (also known as "Siberian ginseng"). Herbal preparations are said to prevent and treat hormone disturbances, infections, breathing disorders, and a vast number of other ailments and diseases. Some practitioners claim herbs have the power to prevent and treat a variety of types of cancer.
Most Chinese herbalists do not claim to cure cancer. They use herbal medicine with conventional treatments prescribed by oncologists, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. They claim that herbal remedies can help ease the side effects of conventional cancer therapies, control pain, improve quality of life, strengthen the immune system, and in some cases, stop tumor growth and spread.
One aspect of Chinese herbal medicine aims to restore or strengthen immunity and resistance to disease. Treatments undertaken with this goal are called Fu Zheng or Fu Zhen and are given as complementary therapy intended to reduce the side effects from conventional Western anticancer treatments.
What does it involve?
In China, more than 3,200 herbs and 300 mineral and animal extracts are used in more than 400 different formulas. Herbal formulations may consist of 4 to 12 different ingredients, to be taken in the form of teas, powders, pills, tinctures, or syrups.
Chinese herbal remedies are usually made up of a number of herbs and mineral and animal extracts. Typically, 1 or 2 herbs are included that are said to have the greatest effect on the problem being treated. Other ingredients in the formula treat minor aspects of the problem, direct the formula to specific parts of the body, and help the other herbs work more efficiently.
With the increase in popularity of herbal medicine, many Chinese herbs are now sold individually and in formulas. In the United States, Chinese herbs and herbal formulas may be purchased in health food stores, some pharmacies, and from herbal medicine practitioners.
Before choosing a mixture of herbs for a patient, the traditional Chinese practitioner will typically ask about symptoms and examine the patient, often focusing on the skin, hair, tongue, eyes, pulse, and voice, in order to detect imbalances in the body.
What is the evidence?
Some herbs and herbal formulations have been evaluated in animal, laboratory, and human studies in both the East and the West with wide-ranging results. Research results vary widely depending on the specific herb, but several have shown activity against cancer cells in laboratory dishes and in some animals.
There is some evidence from randomized clinical trials that some Chinese herbs may contribute to longer survival rates, reduction of side effects, and lower risk of recurrence for some types of cancer, especially when combined with conventional treatment. Many of these studies, however, are published in Chinese, and some of them do not list the specific herbs that were tested. Some of these journal articles do not describe how the studies were conducted completely enough to determine whether they use methods comparable to those used in Western clinical research. However, there are some notable exceptions, such as PC-SPES, a mixture including several Chinese herbs that has been studied in considerable detail in U.S. clinical trials (see the document PC-SPES). More controlled research is needed to determine the role of Chinese herbal medicine in cancer treatment and prevention.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
These substances may not have been thoroughly tested to find out how they interact with medicines, foods, herbs, or supplements. Even though some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are not often available. Because of these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions below should be considered incomplete.
Because of the variety of herbs used in Chinese herbal medicine, there is a potential for negative interactions with prescribed drugs. Some herbal preparations contain other ingredients which are not always identified. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a statement warning diabetics to avoid several specific brands of Chinese herbal products because they illegally contain the prescription diabetes drugs glyburide and phenformin. FDA warnings have been issued for PC-SPES, and production of that product was stopped because it contained the prescription drugs indomethacin, diethylstilbestrol, and warfarin.
Similar concerns have been raised about Chinese herbal products for other diseases, which have been found to contain toxic contaminants and prescription drugs such as diazepam (Valium). Tests of Chinese herbal remedies by the California Department of Health found that nearly one third contained prescription drugs or were contaminated with toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, and lead. Concerns about Chinese herbal products have been raised in other countries as well. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare reported that some Chinese herbal products contained contaminants that caused severe and sometimes fatal liver and thyroid problems.
Of the more than 5,000 medicinal plant species in China, a small number are potentially toxic to the human body. Toxic herbs may mistakenly be harvested and shipped for herbal medicines and can cause harmful reactions in those who take the medicines. In addition, the herbal formulas used are often complex and difficult for manufacturers and practitioners to formulate correctly. For example, in the case of an herbal product intended to promote weight loss, manufacturers confused 2 Chinese herbs with similar names and mistakenly used the wrong one, which resulted in severe kidney damage that was fatal in some cases.
Any herb can cause allergic reactions in a few people. Those who are allergic to certain plants, including some plant-based foods, may be more likely to react to herbs.
Although the long history of traditional Chinese herbal medicine is sometimes interpreted as evidence of safety, it is important to note that many of these herbs are no longer produced and used as they were in the past. An herb may have been used safely under the supervision of a traditional practitioner. However, if the same herbs are used in higher doses or in doses of different concentrations, perhaps over a longer period and without medical guidance, the risks involved in taking those herbs change. In addition, toxic substances or prescription drugs can be introduced during the manufacturing process, either intentionally or inadvertently.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine licensed by a state board can provide advice on the safest sources for herbs. Because some herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine may cause dangerous interactions with conventional medications, patients should talk with their doctors and pharmacists before using any of the herbs. Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.