Black Cohosh to fight Breast Cancer
by Matt Van Dyke, EAMP
Recently a Chinese herb, Cimicifuga foetida, has been shown to possess novel anti-cancer effects. You probably don’t know this herb by it’s Chinese name: 升麻, Sheng Ma. But most likely you do know of it by its common name: Black Cohosh.
In Western herbalism, Black Cohosh is most popular in its use for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes. Studies that have been conducted have shown mixed results for this treatment, it seems to work great for some women, but for others it does nothing. Also, in some women it causes indigestion and stomach cramps. The reasons for these inconsistencies can be reconciled if we look at the herb from an energetic standpoint. In Chinese Medicine Sheng Ma is Sweet, Spicy, and Cool by nature. It enters the Large Intestine, Lung, Spleen, and Stomach channels. It has 3 distinct actions. It disperses ‘wind-heat’ and vents measles. It Clears heat and toxins, especially from the upper part of the body. And it raises yang qi. Because of it’s ‘raising’ function, it can act as a guiding herb, leading other herbs to the upper part of the body, a trick that comprises some of the strategies of Chinese herbal formula therapeutics.
As you can see, this herb helps to guide the qi and heat up and out. If someone has ‘cold’ in the stomach, or a tendency towards ‘rebellious stomach qi’ (i.e. nausea, vomiting), this herb could exacerbate these effects. Or if the woman has severe sweating or night sweats, this herb could actually exacerbate the condition by opening the pores even further.
In a Chinese Medicinal herbal formula, the herbs are balanced in such a way that very specific interactions between the herbs create an overall therapeutic action which counteracts or balances a certain energetic state in the body. Some formulas are comprised of hot herbs to warm the body, some formulas are comprised of cold herbs to clear inflammation and heat from the body.
What about the anti-cancer properties? Well 2 things. First of all it’s very interesting to note that this herb goes to the Stomach channel. The Stomach channel in Chinese Medicine goes directly through the breast. Also, this herb ‘clears heat and toxins’. Cancer is a pathological state of the body characterized by heat and toxins. In fact, most of the research that has been done on Cancer and Chinese herbs consists of finding all of the herbs that ‘clear heat and toxins’ and testing them on cancer cells. With this method new drugs and mechanisms of action are being found frequently.
This makes Sheng Ma or Black Cohosh and ideal herb to study for potential anti-cancer effects. And what did they find? Novel triterpenoids that inhibit breast carcinoma cells.
Here is a link to the original study:
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