Li Peiwen Translated by Mao Shuzhang and Bao Liling Donica Publishing, 2003. Hardback, 616 pages, £45
(Reviewed by Steve Kippax, EJOM Vol. 4 No. 6)
The title obviously gives away the subject matter and information that this book focuses on.
After the foreword (written by Giovanni Maciocia), acknowledgements and prefaces, the main text of the book is divided into eight chapters: The origin and development of oncology theory in TCM etiology (sic), Pathology, diagnosis and treatments of tumours in TCM, The role of Chinese medicine in dealing with the side-effects of cancer treatment, Chinese medicine in the treatment of common side effects caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, Treatment of complications commonly associated with cancer, Qigong therapy, Diet therapy, Chinese medicine and the management of cancer: Clinical experience and case studies. These are then followed by Appendices: Less common materia medica used in treating cancer, TCM formulae used in treating cancer, Selective glossary of TCM terms used, and a bibliography.
This book is clearly a Chinese translation, and as such has laudable explanations of an integrated approach - ‘TCM considers radioactive rays as Heat toxins, which can scorch Lung Yin to desiccate Body Fluids and dry the Lungs...’ (page 131). It also shows the different approaches to treatment options found in China as opposed to the West. Some of these options are clearly relevant in China whereas in this country they probably are not. For instance, whilst it is common to have acupuncture treatment daily in China here this is not usually the case. I again imagine that most practitioners are not totally au fait with intramuscular or intravenous injections of huang qi.
Cultural differences are again exposed in the dietary advice offered; even though pigs intestines with Chinese prickly ash and peanuts may go down well in Beijing I think that I may have problems advocating such dietary recommendations for a patient from these Isles. Also, the advice that ‘during radiotherapy or chemotherapy patients should take food with a high nutritional value.....such as milk, sponge cake...’ (page 433) may make some nutritionists blanch.
In the author’s preface, which contains interesting tables of the top 12 cancers in different countries (showing for instance that the number one cancer in the US in 1997 in men was prostate as opposed to lung for men in the UK), it does mention CITES and provides a note on the legal status of materia medica varying in different countries, and the repetition of lists of herbs such as bie jia or mu tong, whilst potentially interesting to see the principle of treatment, is not immediately of direct use to the TCM practitioner outside China. As early as page 9 the basic treatment strategy of ‘Consolidate the Root and support Vital (Zheng) Qi’ was introduced but it was not until page 64 that we are told that ‘The Root’ is actually pre and post heaven ‘constitution’, as opposed to, for instance, the kidney or spleen function, or jing or yuan qi.
However, this book does have some very useful pharmacological information, such as long dan cao preventing a decrease in hepatic glycogen (with references), or that ling zhi reduces ALT levels, or that ‘..the deoxyschizandrin and gomsin A, B, and C contained in wu wei zi limited the increase in ALT induced by liver damage during in vitro trials.’ (page 109).
The basic TCM understanding of cancer is laid out, going from a classical historical perspective (Nei Jing) up to the current understanding with emotional factors being juxtaposed with external and dietetic/environmental ones.
Information such as the trial carried out by Xie et al looking at ultrastructural changes of bone marrow by electron microscopy, which suggested that Chinese materia medica can promote the recovery of haematopoietic cells, is just the kind of information which will help to convince a still sceptical medical orthodoxy that TCM has a useful role to play across the spectrum of healthcare, not just for the alleviation of pain.
Also, a number of the empirical formulae that are used are of interest, such as Zhi han fang (formula for stopping sweating) used in the treatment of late stage cancer patients being wu wei zi 15g, fu xiao mai 60g, he zi 15g.
It is very heartening to see a separate chapter on qi gong, which may not be earth shattering but nicely explains the three line relaxation technique and a number of other breathing exercises as well as offering different postures. The chapter on diet follows, which, cultural differences aside, is still of importance in a holistic approach.
When considering this book it is important to look at a number of factors. - How good was your education on oncology? If you feel that it was somewhat lacking then this book will be of benefit. - How many patients do you actually see who have cancer? - How comfortable are you with the 'Chinese’ method of passing on information i.e. repetition of long lists, which are at times fairly basic, with more advanced information interspersed?
Bearing in mind the points made, I would probably buy this book if I wanted to impress a sceptical orthodox practitioner as to the efficacy of TCM, had some specific patients who I was treating at the time who had cancer, and was feeling flush.
Steve Kippax Steve Kippax qualified from the School of Herbal Medicine (Phytotherapy) and became a Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in 1985 when he commenced practice in Suffolk and London. From 1988-1990 he learnt Chinese herbal medicine at The School of Chinese Herbal Medicine. In 1991 he studied and worked in the Herbal Medicine department in TCM University Hospital in Guangzhou PRC. He learnt acupuncture in 1993 at the same hospital and returned for advanced courses in 1995. He worked at The Gateway clinic, and is now Joint Head of Medical Services at The Third Space Medicine, London’s leading integrated medicine centre. He has an MSc in Herbal medicine and lecturers internationally.