Chinese Medicine Improves Blood Cell Counts for Cancer Patients

by Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc, Co-Editor Of Acupuncture/TCM on

Editor’s Note from Kath Bartlett: Chinese medicine is becoming more accepted as adjunctive treatment for cancer patients. Sloan Kettering now has a certification program for acupuncturists. One of the problems cancer patients face is the detriment to their bodies from aggressive chemo and radiation treatment. Among other problems, chemo patients blood cell counts drop, often at alarming rates during therapy. The western answer is more drugs, including Procrit to treat anemia. Recently the FDA has warned against using this drug, due to associated heart problems and that they actually speed the growth of malignant tumors. Fortunately Chinese medicine effectively raises blood cell counts for these patients.

The FDA issued a strong warning that will go on labels for three widely used drugs that treat anemia for cancer and dialysis patients: Procrit, Aranesp and Epogen, saying the drugs cause stokes and cardiac problems and speed the growth of malignant tumors. Fortunately for these patients there is a safer therapy available that effectively increases blood cell production: Chinese medicine.

Several organizations have endorsed the use of acupuncture for cancer treatment. The National Cancer Institute notes western studies are beginning to be done that show efficacy of acupuncture in increasing blood cell counts:

Scientific studies on the use of acupuncture to treat cancer and side effects of cancer began only recently. Laboratory studies suggest that acupuncture can reduce vomiting caused by chemotherapy and may help the immune system be stronger during chemotherapy. Studies support the use of electroacupuncture to relieve cancer pain. Laboratory studies have also looked at how acupuncture works for cancer treatment, such as the role of acupuncture in stimulating immune functions, including increasing blood cell count and enhancing lymphocyte and natural killer cell activity.

The Mesothelioma society agrees:

Furthermore, cancer studies have shown that acupuncture spurs blood cell production and lymphocyte activity. The end result of these processes is an increase in immune functions.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure, affecting the lining of the lung.

The Huffington Post also recommends acupuncture for cancer patients to improve blood cell production:

Immune System Modulation: Many cancers and many cancer treatments cause a suppression of the bone marrow, the source of blood cells that are the army of the immune system. Acupuncture increases blood cell production and enhances Natural Killer Cells and Lymphocytes which leads to increased immune response and decreased risk of infection.

Chinese medicine improves red and white blood cell production, including lymphocytes and neutrophils. Though western studies emphasize acupuncture, herbal formulas are particularly important in raising blood cell counts. There are many blood building formulas with a proven track record. In my practice, I have seen blood cell counts markedly improve when acupuncture patients add Chinese herbs to their treatment plan.

Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is part of the Chinese medicine Kidney system. Many kidney tonic herbs and formulas are known for increasing marrow. Chinese herbalists use a strategy of tonifying the Kidney, Blood and the Spleen to increase blood cell counts.

The spleen stores white blood cells. Chinese medicine considers the Spleen an important component of immune function. In Chinese medicine the Spleen responsible for extracting the nutrients from food necessary to build qi (energy) and blood. Patients with low blood cell counts usually suffer from fatigue, so building qi to improve energy is also an important component of treatment. Tonify the Kidney and Spleen improves fatigue. Peony root and angelica are commonly used blood tonic herbs. Ginseng is a famous qi tonic that builds Kidney energy.

I hope that patients and conventional medical practitioners will become more open minded about integrating Chinese medicine as a safe and effective option in treatment plans for cancer patients.

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sandra m.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank-you..good to know!

Hcg C.
Hcg C.4 years ago

That is very kind of you to post this information and educate about this Chinese treatments and well being!

Thanks for the effort!
Cancer care

Deb Lewis
debbie Lewis4 years ago


Kath Bartlett
Kath Bartlett4 years ago

I appreciate all the comments on this article and am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce to you Chinese medicine as part of cancer treatment plans.

Christa: i agree with you about Chinese medicine being ahead of western med, but then i do have my bias :)

a couple of you mentioned books. Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra is a classic and an interesting read.

Norma: agree, cancer patients have many difficult choices to make. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners try to support whatever choices the patients make and help their mind/body/spirit achieve balance and wellness.

Andrew: i haven't heard about Soul Mind Body Medicine. i must admit chanting to cure illness does not sound credible to me. i'm wondering what the "other healing/energy work" techniques that were used.

TCM is not fringe medicine. It is practiced in China in hospital settings and is beginning to be included in integrative medical departments in the US, such as Duke University and Mission Hospital in Asheville. It has been scientifically studied and documented and has been used by billions worldwide over several mellennia.

lorna s.
lorna s.4 years ago

Very informative eye opener to alternatives .

Yvette T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Reminds me to set another appointment with Dr. Zhou! I need a balancing.

Christa Leduc
Christa Leduc4 years ago

I avoid conventional medicine, especially cancer treatment it does more harm than good. It has been proven that cancer can be healed naturally. Chinese medicine is light years ahead of western medicine.

Manuela B.
Manuela B.4 years ago

Excelent article thank you

Alicia N.
Alicia N.4 years ago

gladly noted with many thanks. Andrew H. recommended a book called " Soul Mind Body Medicine " that, tomorrow Saturday I'll be looking for, thanks once again!

Tyler Kendall
Tyler Kendall4 years ago

"I hope that patients and conventional medical practitioners will become more open minded about integrating Chinese medicine as a safe and effective option in treatment plans for cancer patients." DITTO. Thank you for a wonderful article pointing out the immense potential that Chinese and holistic medicine has to heal. I encourage others to learn more about alternative paths to healing. The book that really convinced me of the power behind this is called Focus on Healing by Jennifer Barraclough ( Jennifer is a doctor and her book does a wonderful job of explaining how and why holistic medicine works. Sending healthy energy to you all.