- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Complementary therapies
- Therapies using herbs and plants
- Chinese herbal medicine
Chinese herbal medicine
What is it?
Chinese herbs are a key part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Different parts of plants, such as the leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds, are used. Herbs may be taken as tablets or given as tea.
Why use it?
Herbs are given to unblock meridians, bring harmony between Yin and Yang, and restore organ function.
What to expect?
The practitioner will take a case history and may do a tongue and pulse analysis to help them assess how your body is out of balance. They will choose a combination of herbs and foods to help bring your body back into balance.
Chinese herbalists make a formula tailored specifically to your condition, or they can dispense prepackaged herbal medicines.
What is the evidence?
As with Western herbal medicine, many Chinese herbs have been scientifically evaluated for how well they work for people with cancer.
Studies have found benefits for some herbs, such as American ginseng for cancer-related fatigue. Research is continuing to examine the benefits of different herbs and different herbal combinations.
Chinese herbal medicine is a complex area and it’s best to see an experienced practitioner rather than trying to treat yourself. Some herbs may interact with some cancer treatments and medicines, and cause side effects.
I don’t know whether it was because I felt empowered or whether it was the remedies from my herbalist, but compared to other people I knew having the same type of conventional treatment, I felt I was faring pretty well.
Esther (breast cancer)
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Suzanne Grant, Senior Acupuncturist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Craig Hassed, Senior Lecturer, Department of General Practice, Monash University, VIC; Mara Lidums, Consumer; Tanya McMillan, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Manager, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Byeongsang Oh, Acupuncturist, University of Sydney and Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, NSW; Sue Suchy, Consumer; Marie Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Prof Anne Williams, Nursing Research Consultant, Centre for Nursing Research, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Chair, Health Research, School of Health Professions, Murdoch University, WA.
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