You may have noticed that we have been writing about alternative medicine lately, having recently covered acupuncture and laser therapy. These are frequently used as complements or even alternatives to standard Western medicine, and in that spirit, we want to provide a brief introduction to Chinese herbs. Like the other alternative medicines, these are used alongside or as replacements for modern drugs and to treat a wide variety of ailments.
The following are some examples of herbs that we prescribe:
- Yunnan Baiyao, used to stop bleeding. We use it for epistaxis (nosebleed) and with animals at risk for bleeding from inoperable tumors, especially cancer of the spleen. Named for its province of origin, Yunnan, and the color of the final product, it translates literally as “White medicine from Yunnan.” This particular product is a proprietary blend, with the exact formula carefully guarded by the Yunnan Baiyao Group in China. However, there are numerous other recipes produced and measured by manufacturers or hand-mixed in slightly different ratios by skilled practitioners. Important components include Radix Notoginseng and Rhizoma Discorae.
- Xue Fu Zhu Yu San with added San Leng and E Zhu, a combination of powders used for dogs with mast cell disease. It invigorates blood and Qi, and improves blood circulation when the blood is not flowing through the body as easily as it should. We use it for dogs who are not candidates for surgical removal of tumors, and as a long-term maintenance for dogs with multiple tumors. For some dogs, it is given with the drug prednisone.
- Wei Qi booster, used to tonify (meaning to strengthen or supplement) Qi and blood, and to enhance immunity. In traditional Chinese medicine, Wei Qi is an animal’s defense or immune system; this booster is a basic part of immune support. Though our most frequent use is after a diagnosis of systemic cancer, it is also used for immune suppression, feline chronic viral disease, and chronic illness.
- CAS Options by the brand Resources, for immune and antioxidant support. While not a traditional Chinese herb, we often start a dog on this after a diagnosis of cancer. It contains Reishi, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms, as well as green tea and antioxidants.
- Epimedium Powder, used to tonify kidney Yang and nourish Yin. Epimedium is an ivy-like shrub, also known as horny goat weed. We try this with young dogs with cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) to attempt to aid proper positioning into the scrotum. Cryptorchidism occurs in about 10% of male dogs, and abdominally retained testicles are much more likely to lead to testicular cancer.
We do have herbs for renal support, arthritis, pain management, bladder support, liver support, and cancer support and treatment.