The use of herbal medicine in cancer-related anorexia/ cachexia treatment around the world

Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(31):4819-26. doi: 10.2174/138161212803216979.


Cancer-related cachexia, a condition in which the body is consumed by deranged carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism that is induced by inflammatory cytokines. Cachexia is associated with poor treatment outcome, fatigue and poor quality of life. Pharmacological intervention in the treatment and/or prevention of cachexia has been mainly aimed at the use of appetite enhancers to increase oral nutritional intake so far. Herbal remedies are part of traditional and folk healing methods with long histories of use. In this report, we have assessed which herbal approaches have had associated cancer cachexia case reports. Commonly used herbal medicines in western countries include essiac, iscador, pau d'arco tea, cannabinoids and so on. Some Kampo herbs and formulations are commonly used by cancer patients reduce the side effects and complications during the antitumor therapy. The relevant herbal medicines include ginseng, C. rhizome and radix astragali, and the related herbal remedies, such as TJ-48, TJ-41, PHY906 and Rikkunshito. However, there still have some adverse effects caused or amplified by herb and drug interactions that are difficult to separate. However, randomized effectiveness of herbal medicines shall be further identified in controlled clinical trials involving cancer patients with cachexia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anorexia / chemically induced
  • Anorexia / diet therapy
  • Anorexia / drug therapy*
  • Anorexia / etiology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Appetite Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Cachexia / chemically induced
  • Cachexia / diet therapy
  • Cachexia / drug therapy*
  • Cachexia / etiology*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Appetite Stimulants
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Plant Preparations