(NaturalNews) A 1,800-year old Chinese herbal remedy for an upset stomach may boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy while reducing its side effects, according to a study conducted by researchers from Yale University and published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The treatment in question, known traditionally as Huang Qin Tang, consists of a combination of peony and skullcap flowers, licorice root and buckthorn fruit.
"It was used for the treatment of diarrhea and gastrointestinal disorders for many years and is still used today," said lead researcher Yung-Chi Cheng. "We wanted to see if this herb could be used to limit the side effects associated with cancer chemotherapy, with an emphasis on gastrointestinal side effects."
Because chemotherapy drugs target healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, they can have severe and even debilitating or dangerous effects on the body. The digestive tract is particularly susceptible to these effects. To see if Huang Qin Tang could mitigate this problem, the researchers used an extract, based on the traditional formulation, called PHY-906.
"Chemotherapy causes great distress for millions of patients, but PHY-906 has multiple biologically active compounds which can act on multiple sources of discomfort," Cheng said.
The researchers induced colorectal cancer in mice, then treated the animals with chemotherapy. The drugs successfully shrank tumors, while causing major intestinal damage. Some of the mice were then treated with PHY-906.
In mice treated with the extract, damaged intestinal linings quickly healed. In addition, their tumors shrank more and they lost less weight than mice who had not been given the formula.
Cheng has founded a company to commercialize a formula for PHY-906.
Although Western doctors formerly ignored or scorned traditional medical practices, there is now a growing interest among Western researchers in uncovering new applications of traditional healing techniques, from herbalism to acupuncture to yoga. This shift is based in part on the realization that traditional medical practices have been healing people far longer than Western medicine has.
As Devra Davis notes in the book The Secret History of the War on Cancer: