Monday, May 07, 2007

Another Medical Doctor praises salves for cancer

Botanical Surgery

Removing Tumors with Herbs

By Lev G. Fedyniak

Medical Doctor — Ukraine

Bloodroot is a common component of herbal salves in escharotic therapy

Bloodroot is a common component of herbal salves in escharotic therapy

A method of treating cancer that spans centuries is returning to vogue. Long considered effective but not contemporary and therefore something less, it's getting a second look. Both affected individuals and healthcare practitioners are resurrecting this ancient approach to removing tumors.

Currently known as botanical surgery, it is more frequently referred to as escharotic therapy. The procedure involves the use of herbs, minerals and non-organic compounds in a salve form that is topically applied to a tumor, particularly skin cancers, and results in the tumor literally falling off!

Today, there is a resurgence of interest and availability of these products both in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The How and Why of Botanical Surgery

An aversion to surgery or “fear of the knife”, particularly when the surgery calls for the removal of more than just the tumor (i.e. the whole breast), has caused many to seek alternative approaches to cancer treatment, particularly herbal based ones. Escharotic surgery is one such alternative.

Essentially, the herb(s) and other components are made into a paste and spread onto the tumor site. The salve or paste splits the skin and the underlying tissue, forms around the abnormal cancer tissue, and separates it from the surrounding normal tissue.

It then forms a large scab called an eschar (from whence we have escharotic therapy), which eventually sloughs off, taking the tumor with it. What's amazing is that the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor is left intact! The morbid and necrotized tissue separates from the underlying healthy tissue in about two to four weeks on the average. Because of this mechanism of distinguishing healthy from diseased tissue, it has proven to be an effective treatment method for inoperable tumors. In these cases, underlying vessels and even nerves remain intact – an unlikely result if traditional surgery were to be employed.

What's also interesting is that when the eschar detaches, the site is bloodless and the underlying tissues, including vascular and neural tissue, are visible to the naked eye.

The salves and pastes employed in this botanical surgery procedure essentially all work the same way. It is also worth noting that, at its height in the mid-1800s to early 1900s, these salves and pastes were available in Europe and America in almost every pharmacy, were popular and quite effective.

A Short History of Botanical Surgery

One of the earliest references we have about botanic surgery is from the Hindu classic, Ramayana (about 500 B.C.) where an “arsenic paste” is described. Hippocrates, in about 400 B.C., also makes mention of caustics as a treatment approach.

Other mention is made by the great Persian physician Avicenna (also known as Ibn Sina) in about 1,000 C.E., as well as the early 12th century Christian abbess, Hildegard von Bingen, both making references to herbal salves in the treatment of “bubos”, which we now call tumors.

Even the Native American Indians maintained the practice of botanical surgery in very much the same way.

However, of the modern researchers, the two most respected and well-known authorities in the use of this approach were Dr. J. Weldon Fell and Frederic E. Mohs, MD, both of the United States.

Fell was a faculty member of New York University and later was one of the founders of the New York Academy of Medicine. In the early 1850s, he moved to London and built up a very successful cancer treatment practice based on escharotic therapy using bloodroot ( Sanguinaria canadensis ) as the herbal base. He published his results extensively. We know today that the alkaloids in bloodroot do indeed have a strong anti-tumor effect.

Frederic Mohs called his approach chemosurgery and used a fixative paste. His was more an integrative approach that combined the use of the escharotic paste with surgical tumor removal and analysis, rather than allowing for the sloughing off of the eschar. His contribution is immense as he put the procedure on a very sound, scientific footing, with a tremendous amount of research that spanned decades. The soundness of his approach was underscored in a 1990 report that stated he had a verifiable and documented 99% success rate in his treatment of skin cancers!

Components and Procedure

There are both single- and multi-herb salves and pastes as well as herb/chemical combinations. The single herb ones tend to be of more limited effectiveness, used more with small skin tumors, or require multiple applications to bring about a deeper penetration.

Remember that if a salve or paste cannot penetrate the tumor completely, it will not be completely destroyed and can grow back.

To overcome this, some practitioners like Dr. J. Weldon Fell would make cuts into the eschar scab and add more of the salve to allow for deeper penetration. Dr. Frederic Mohs, MD, on the other hand, would surgically remove the eschar and examine it under a microscope to determine if a line between healthy and abnormal tissue was evident. He would repeat applications of the salve until there was no more evidence of abnormal tissue.

Upon application of the salve or paste, the site may become red, grey, yellow or black until the eschar begins to form. A discharge, usually pus-like, is common and, in my experience, is often quite foul smelling!

If the eschar falls off on its own, there is no bleeding. However, if it is prematurely pulled off, there may be a little bleeding. Even though the eschar may have detached, expect the site to continue to release pus or fluid which must be drained and the wound kept clean. Also, look carefully to determine if there is any additional abnormal tissue evident, as a re-application of the salve may be necessary.

While there are “solely herb” salves, most of the formulations in use today are a combination of herbs and zinc chloride. The zinc chloride causes the skin to split more readily allowing the salve or paste to more readily get at the tumor. It also is taken up by the tumor tissue more quickly.

The herbs most commonly employed include bloodroot, as already mentioned, goldenseal ( Hydrastis canadensis ), chaparral ( Larrea tridentata ), cayenne ( Capsicum frutescens ) and red clover ( Trifolium pratence ). There are, however, many other herbs in other formulations that are also used. In Ukraine, where I live and work, greater celandine ( Chelidonium majus ) is more commonly used.

Many of these formulations are commercially available today, being sold under names like “Black Salve” or “Compound X” but are nonetheless based on the old prescriptions.

Wound management, including cleaning, as there is often a discharge and a potential for infection (plain old hydrogen peroxide works just fine), in addition to healing support, i.e. use of turmeric and vitamin E, after the eschar falls off, are also necessary additional procedures.

The Downside of Botanic Surgery Treatment

Patients may need to resort to painkillers during escharotic therapy

There are several direct concerns in the use of escharotic therapy that need to be addressed. The first is pain. The application of the paste or salve to the skin causes it to split as the compound makes its way to the tumor. That can produce pain ranging from mild irritation to almost unbearable. Therefore, access to pain medication is a strong inducement to proceed under the care of a physician. The pain medication can range from readily-available-without-a-prescription types like ibuprofen, to the very strong painkillers like Demerol (meperidine hydrochloride).

As we are dealing with an open wound, the next direct issue is the potential for infection. While some practitioners advocate the use of antibiotics, most do not. The herbs used in the escharotic procedure are, for the most part, antimicrobial as well, and if the wound is kept clean, the potential for infection is minimized.

The third direct concern is the potential for significant scarring. But with proper supportive care, the amount of scarring can be reduced as well. And let's not forget that surgery produces scarring as well, not to mention the disfigurement that breast removal, for example, will cause.

Bear in mind that it's important to know a person's cancer stage. Treating a tumor and excising it by botanic or traditional surgery may not lead to a cure if there are other tumors in other parts of the body. Also, even if there is only one tumor that has successfully been eliminated, it's important to follow-up with your health practitioner regularly, as there can be recurrence at the same or another site in the body.

Just an Option- Not a Cure-all

Botanic surgery is only one of numerous options in the treatment of cancer. What's more, no procedure should be undertaken as a sole treatment, as no treatment exists in a vacuum. Supportive therapies, detoxification, dietary changes, etc. all accompany successful treatment of cancer. There is no single magic bullet in either allopathic or alternative approaches.

But, integrating alternative and allopathic treatments usually proves to be the most effective approach of all!

Lev G. Fedyniak, MD began his medical career in alternative medicine, studying acupuncture, herbs and other healing traditions in China, Hong Kong, Canada, Ukraine and other parts of the world. Recognizing that the allopathic tradition was a necessary component in treating illness, he trained in allopathic medicine to obtain the doctor of medicine degree.

Dr. Lev makes his home in Ukraine and continues to study new approaches to treating illness and optimizing health from traditions all over the world. He publishes articles and books in the hopes of bringing such information to all who need it.

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