Dang Gui & Estrogen-dependent Breast Cancer
by Bob Flaws
For a number of years now, many Western practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine have been concerned over the effects of the phyto-estrogens in Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis) on estrogen-dependent cancers, such as certain cell lines of breast cancer. While Chinese medical oncologists in China routinely prescribe Dang Gui as part of polypharmacy formulas based on pattern discrimination to patients with breast cancer, Western practitioners have been hesitant to prescribe Dang Gui to the same sort of patients in the face of concerns voiced from across the aisle by our co-professionals within Western medicine. Unfortunately, till now, there has not been any real clinical or experimental evidence one way or the other concerning these possible deleterious effects of Dang Gui in breast cancer. However, in the June 2008 (14:2) issue of the Chinese Journal of Integrated Medicine (Epub 2008 Aug. 6), H. Liao, L.K. Banbury, and D.N. Leach published an article titled “Effects and Potential Mechanisms of Dan Zhi Xiao Yao Pill on the Proliferation of MCF-7 Human Breast Cancer Cells in Vitro.” MCF-7 cells are an estrogen-dependent line of human breast cancer cells. After subjecting cells from this genetic line to a 50% ethyl alcohol extract of Dan Zhi Xiao Yao Wan (Moutan & Gardenia Rambling Pill), this extract was shown to significantly inhibit the proliferation of these cells. It did not stimulate their proliferation. As all professional practitioners of Chinese medicine know, Dang Gui is one of the main ingredients of Dan Zhi Xiao Yao Wan. Therefore, I believe that this study helps to prove that Dang Gui is not contraindicated in patients with estrogen-dependent cancers when part of a well designed and appropriately prescribed polypharmacy formula.