Chinese Herbal Supplements Get Serious Press

Scutellaria - Part of Many Chinese Herbal Supplements
Scutellaria - Part of Many Chinese Herbal Supplements - Photo from Wikipedia

It’s not every day that Chinese herbal supplements show up in mainstream reporting. But you are seeing it more frequently these days.

The latest example comes from the Wall Street Journal. Their recent article, “Chinese Medicine Goes Under The Microscope” reports on using an 1,800 year old herbal formula in cancer treatment. The research doesn’t explore using the herbs directly for treatment. Rather, they reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and made the treatment more effective.

The formula is classically known as huang qi tang (The Scutellaria Decoction). It has only 4 herbs in it. This combination is used traditionally for relieving diarrhea from dysentery.

Herbal Supplements with Modern Uses

The research was done by Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng of Yale University. For the testing, they adopted a modern name for the ancient formula. They called it, PHY906.

The research focused on colon cancer. This is a common and often deadly form of cancer in humans.

The findings of this latest research is summed up well in the WSJ article. They say:

The research team began by giving mice with colon cancer high doses of irinotecan, a chemotherapy drug. Some of the mice also received varying doses of PHY906, the herbal combination. After four days, the animals that got the herbs seemed to experience fewer side effects. The herbs also appeared to improve the efficacy of the chemo, restoring damaged intestinal cells faster than with chemo alone and allowing the mice to tolerate doses of the drug that otherwise might have been lethal.

They also found that the herb formula by itself did not treat the cancer. But used in combination with chemotherapy, it was very helpful at speeding the effect of treatment.

Does this mean that herbal supplements, Chinese or otherwise are about to be embraced by modern medicine? I suspect not. But at least it is movement in the right direction.


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