Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that cancer occurs when the body’s vital substances are in a state of stasis (stoppage). Basically, cancer in TCM is a deficiency of Chi or vital energy. Other primary factors that lead to cancer are stasis of the blood and phlegm accumulation. In addition, several factors from improper diet to emotional discord can trigger the development of cancer.
Emotional stress can further weaken an affected organ. For instance, TCM practitioners believe that intense anger affects the liver while grief and sadness affects the lungs. External pathogens are also considered such as wind, cold, dampness, heat, dryness, and fire. Improper diet plays a significant role, too. Greasy foods are believed to cause colon cancer and foods that are too hot or too cold are said to lead to stomach cancer.
These concepts may seem bizarre to Westerners but the basic idea behind Traditional Chinese Medicine is to view the body in its entirety and in connection with external factors. Attention is given not only to a specific area to fight local cancer but also to the whole body to restore internal balance. The main principle in TCM cancer treatment is to support the body’s Qi in order to enhance the body’s resistance. TCM treatment seeks to stimulate the blood to remove blood stasis.
One of the major approaches of TCM in fighting cancer is the use of herbal prescriptions to tonify the body and restore balance. Tonifying herbs help control the progression of cancer. In addition, cooling herbs are used to dispel toxic heat, which is believed to be a major cause of cancer development. Herbs that promote circulation and have blood-thinning properties are used to dispel blood stasis and help shrink abnormal growth. Detoxifying herbs are prescribed to resolve mixed pathological toxins.
Apart from Chinese herbal medicines, TCM methods such as acupuncture and moxibustion may also be considered to alleviate localized cancer symptoms. While Traditional Chinese Medicine is not used as a primary or sole treatment of cancer, there is important evidence that suggests it does offer benefits when used along with conventional medicine. It is said to significantly enhance the success of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery as well as ease the common side effects of conventional treatments.