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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Eki Wari on May 18, 2022

How To Use TCM To Help You Recover From Colorectal Cancer

TCM can be used along with Western medicine to help provide the best support during your colorectal recovery process. Learn more here

Colorectal cancer min scaled

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer that develops in the large intestine, especially the colon or rectum. The disease usually presents as small polyps that form inside the intestines and grow into cancerous tumors.

During the early stages, it can be hard to detect colorectal cancer as there are usually no symptoms. Therefore, American doctors recommend getting regular colonoscopies after the age of 50 or sooner, depending on your risk factors.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help improve your treatment outcomes and reduce symptoms to help improve your quality of life during this time.

What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

Loss of appetite is a common symptom of cancer as well as many cancer treatments.

It’s unknown what the exact cause of colorectal cancer is. However, your risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as you grow older. You are at even greater risk if you have a family history of colon cancer and don’t exercise regularly. People who are overweight, smoke cigarettes, and consume excessive alcohol are also at an increased risk of cancer. 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Large Intestine is the organ of conduction. It transports food and water and excretes the waste as bowel movements. Hence, it should be kept unobstructed to ensure the food is transported and passed on time.

If the Spleen and Stomach malfunction, Damp Heat and toxins get accumulated in the Intestines and affect their functioning. “The Heat Toxins can cause abscesses and polyps to develop which eventually transform into colon cancer,” explains Physician Chu I Ta, who has vast experience treating cancer patients.

According to TCM practices, the Large Intestine should be kept unobstructed and purged regularly to ensure its optimal functions. Hence TCM remedies aim to unblock the Intestines, regulate the qi (vital energy), expel Dampness, prevent Stasis and remove toxins. 

When the body is strong and in the early stages of cancer, TCM remedies can enhance the elimination of cancer cells from surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. Herbs like Prunella vulgaris (Ha Fu Chou), Hedyotis diffusa (Bai Hua She She Cao), Scutellaria barbata (Ban Zhi Lian), Cremastrae pseudobulbus (Shan Ci Gu), and Curcuma zedoaria (Bai E Zhu) can detoxify the body and eliminate pathogenic qi

TCM and colorectal cancer case report

Mrs. Jones was diagnosed with advanced (stage 4) colorectal cancer at 80 years old. The surgery for removing cancer left her very weak. She also had a poor appetite, and could not get out of bed due to a lack of energy. As a result, her doctors advised her against proceeding with chemotherapy.

She consulted TCM Physician Chu, who prescribed tonifying herbs to improve the Spleen and Kidney qi. She was advised to take ginseng, Astragalus (Huang Qi), Atractylodes macrocephala (Bai Zhu), Poria (Fu Ling), Trametes versicolor (Yun Zhi), hawthorn (Shan Zha), chicken gizzard membrane, Morinda officinalis Bba Ji Tian) and barrenwort (Yin Yang Huo) to regain her general strength and improve her appetite.

After 4 weeks of TCM treatment, she regained her appetite, consumed food, slept well, and even walked for short distances. “Ancient herbal remedies helped me feel more energized. My illness no longer confines me,” says Mrs. Jones. She is now in remission with the help of Western medical treatment and also the supportive care treatment of TCM.

TCM and palliative care case report

Most of the patients may suffer from the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which reduces their immunity and strength and can hamper the effectiveness of the treatments. Mr. Smith was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer last year at 62 years old. Even though he tolerated the surgery well, the following chemotherapy gave him severe indigestion and poor appetite.

He had nausea and frequent vomiting as side effects of the medicines he was taking and could not consume his food. As a result, his blood cell counts dropped, and he could not proceed with his chemotherapy. He underwent treatment with Physician Chu for three weeks which helped him stop vomiting and regain his appetite. “Thanks to TCM, I will be able to complete my treatment and hopefully completely recover from the disease”, says Mr. Smith.

“Remedies with dried ginger, red datesAgastache rugosa (Huo Xiang), Ramulus cinnamomi (Gui Zhi), Atractyloddes macrocephala (Bai Zhu), hawthorn (Shan Zha), Bupleuri radix (Chai Hu), Curcuma aromatic (Jiang huang), Citrus aurantium (Zhi Shi), Houpoea officinalis (Hou Pu) and tangerine peels (Chen Pi) are tonifying and regulating herbs which can regenerate the balance of Spleen and Liver qi function” recommends Physician Chu.

How To Use TCM During Colorectal Cancer Treatment

GInseng is commonly prescribed in TCM to help with colorectal cancer symptoms.

Physician Chu also offers palliative treatment to his patients with late stages of cancer, when Western medicine couldn’t be of help. He explains that “reinforcing the vital energy and consolidating the constitution helps protect the body and allows the patients to survive longer with colorectal cancer.”

He usually recommends herbs like ginseng, Astralgus (Huang Qi), Atractylodes macrocephala (Bai Zhu) and Trametes versicolor (Yun Zhi) for such patients. However, he cautions that patients should take cancer treatment under the supervision of a TCM physician. “Physicians will need to customize herbal remedies to each patient depending on the body constitution and deficiencies,” he explains. 

Even though going through treatment for colorectal cancer is difficult, the prognosis for the disease has improved considerably. Age-old therapies from the East can support cancer treatment from the West, giving you the best of both worlds. However, you should always consult your doctor before trying TCM medications to prevent negative drug interactions.

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