Cancer Fatigue Relief | Herbal Medicine to the Rescue

by Dr. Nalini Chilkov

Suffering from Cancer Related Fatigue? Chemo Brain? Decrease  your Cancer Fatigue by taking control of inflammation. High inflammation equals promotion of  Cancer Fatigue, cancer growth and cancer recurrence.  Research shows that many herbal medicines can lower pro-inflammatory factors fueling this common side effect of hormone therapy. Below are six herbs that may transform exhaustion into vitality.

One of many reasons we “feel sick” and experience fatigue is due to elevated levels of  pro-inflammatory factors. By lowering the levels of these damaging factors we can transform fatigue into well being, enhance vitality and quality of life and mitigate inflammation related pain.

Inflammation is a fact of cancer and contributes to one of the most common complaints of cancer patients and cancer survivors, Cancer Related Fatigue,  a distressing  and persistent  sense of physical and emotional tiredness as well as reduced mental clarity and alertness. Cancer survivors complain of inability to focus and concentrate, poor memory, inability to think clearly as well as sadness and depression, symptoms of Chemo Brain

Cancer Fatigue is a common side effect experienced by breast cancer patients undergoing hormone therapy.

Studies have shown that Cancer Fatigue is linked to increased levels of two inflammatory molecules produced by our cells: Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNFa) and Interleukin 6 (IL-6).   Increased inflammation contributes to a sense of malaise, lethargy, muscle tenderness and evenLowering TNFa  and IL-6 also have been shown to decrease depression and lethargy.  Here are six potent herbal medicines, supported by research which demonstrates a decrease these pro-inflammatory factors. You can reduce fatigue, lower disease progression and have less anxiety about recurrence.


Research shows that the following herbs and spices lower TNFa and IL6 and can improve normal inflammatory function and  relieve symptoms associated with Cancer Related Fatigue.

1.  Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) one of the great medicinal mushrooms of Chinese Medicine traditionally used in many anti cancer and immune modulating formulas. New research demonstrates its ability to lower TNFa and IL6, thus improving Cancer Fatigue.

2. Resveratrol  a plant constituent found in red and purple grapes and concentrated from the herb Polygonum cuspidatum. Studies show that Resveratrol is able to turn on genes in the cell linked to longevity and immune function.  Immune regulation includes this ability to turn off genes that create inflammation.

3. Astragalus Root is a well known Chinese Herb traditionally used to support vitality and is found in many anti cancer and immune modulating formulas.  Astragalus root is often added to soups to for its nourishing  and healing properties.

4. Milk Thistle Seed Extract Milk Thistle has been used traditionally not only for its value in enhancing normal inflammation function.  It has also been used traditionally to support normal liver detoxification function, lowering our body burden of toxic chemicals which is also linked to  tiredness, fatigue and a loss of well being.

5. Ginseng Root (Panax Ginseng) is a  well known Chinese botanical medicine used for centuries for its restorative properties.  Modern science has demonstrated its ability to lower TNFa and IL6,  linked to improved energy and relief from these causes of cancer fatigue.

6. Schizandra, The Fruit of Five Flavors, one of the great tonics of Chinese Medicine not only lowers causes of inflammation, but is also rich in plant anti-oxidants which also protect our cells and our genes (DNA) from damage.  Reducing DNA damage and protecting our genes is one of the primary ways to limit cancer.

The Pharmacy in Your Kitchen You can also fight cancer in the kitchen by using culinary spices and herbs that also lower Pro-Inflammatory TNFa and IL6. Such an  Anti-Cancer Anti-Inflammatory diet might also include the liberal use of oregano, rosemary, garlic, tumeric, ginger and green tea also rich in cell protective anti-oxidants.

Herbal Medicines may be made into tea or taken as herbal extracts or herbal powders dissolved into water or taken in capsules and tablets.  Always consult with a health care provider knowledgeable in the safe and appropriate use of herbal medicines.  Using high quality pharmaceutical grade herbal medicines is the best way to insure expected results. Be patient. Herbal medicines work in the rhythm of nature.  It takes several weeks to yield sustainable changes.

If you are concerned about unhealthy levels of inflammatory factors in your body, you can ask your doctor to measure not only TNFa and IL6 as well as CRP (C Reactive Protein).  After you have incorporated foods and herbs that support healthy levels of these inflammation factors  and lowered your intake of pro-inflammatory foods, you can retest to see how well you are doing.

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Hong Zhao, Qingyuan Zhang, Ling Zhao, Xu Huang, Jincai Wang, and Xinmei Kang   Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2012, Article ID 809614, 8 pages doi:10.1155/2012/809614

Kang OH, Chae HS, Choi JH, Choi HJ, Park PS, Cho SH, Lee GH, So HY, Choo YK, Kweon OH, Kwon DY.  Effects of the Schisandra fructus water extract on cytokine release from a human mast cell line. J Med Food. 2006 Winter;9(4):480-6.

 Leiro JMVarela MPiazzon MCArranz JANoya MLamas J. Mol Immunol. 2010 Feb;47(5):1114-20. Epub 2009 Nov 27. The anti-inflammatory activity of the polyphenol resveratrol may be partially related to inhibition of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) pre-mRNA splicing.

Lee DC, Lau AS.Effects of Panax ginseng on tumor necrosis factor-α-mediated inflammation: a mini-review. Molecules. 2011 Mar 30;16(4):2802-16. Review.

Ko HH, Hung CF, Wang JP, Lin CNA Ko HH, Hung CF, Wang JP  Antiinflammatory triterpenoids and steroids from  Ganoderma lucidum  Phytochemistry. 2008 Jan;69(1):234-9. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

Bannwart CF, Peraçoli JC, Nakaira-Takahagi E, Peraçoli MT.  Inhibitory effect of silibinin on tumour necrosis factor-alpha and hydrogen peroxide production by human monocytes. Nat Prod Res. 2010 Nov;24(18):1747-57.
Aggarwal, Bharat B., Healing Spices, How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease
Another version of this article is published in the Healthy Living Section of the Huffington Post
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