Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

What I made today – Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentian Drain Liver Formula) for seizures and skin/eyes

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

This formula is a good one coming into Thanksgiving. To me the herbs in it look like a Thanksgiving feast. Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Xie is pronounced like Shay) is a great formula for draining fire out of the head. One of its most common uses is for treatment of excess seizures.

Other uses are for extreme itch up in the head, and many of the eye disorders such as glaucoma, pannus, and uveitis. Note – glaucoma is a serious condition and should be treated with western medicine as well. It can also treat infections in the head however if there is a potential or proven bacterial infection antibiotics should be considered and used in most cases.

His formula treats yang liver fire flaring. In Chinese medicine seizures are often caused by fire wind flaring up into the head with phlegm obstruction of the head where it can not exit. This formula anchors yang, drains heat out of the liver and heart, treats phlegm, and supports the yin that controls yang. Animals needing this formula tend to run hot, they may be agitated, anxious or have aggression issue. For seizures this is a formula to treat the more violent grand mals. You would not use this for very mild seizures or for older animals who are very debilitated. Animals needing this formula may have a very red or purple red tongue and may be thirst.

While this formula is most often used for animals with excess conditions (not the very weak or debilitated) I have used it in older or weak animals when combined with other formulas or modified.

My own older cat is a good example of an animal with some deficiency who has done well on this formula. She is currently on this formula for sinus and eye inflammation with extreme itch to her head. She was at the point of scratching so hard that she was in danger of injuring her eyes and was making her head bleed. The itch is about 90% better since I started Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. In western medicine a steroid shot would be in order but with her early kidney issues this would be a bad idea, as steroids are very hard on the kidneys. Because this formula contains a large amount of rehmannia it helps to support her kidneys while taking care of the itch.

So what is in this formula –

  • Sheng Di Huang (rehmannia)
  • Dang Gui (Chinese angelica root)
  • Long Dan Cao (gentian root)
  • Ze Xie (alisma tuber)
  • Mu Tong (akemia)
  • Chai Hu (bupleurum root)
  • Che Qian Zi (plantian seed)
  • Gan Cao (licorice root)
  • Huang Qin (scutellaria root)
  • Zhi Zi (gardenia fruit)

This formula can be very draining and drying. The Sheng Di Huang helps to support the yin and blood and keep this formula from drying out the body. Dang Gui prevents stasis in the body and also supports the blood.

Long Dan Cao, Huang Qin and Zhi Zi drain fire out of the upper body. Huang Qin also known as Skullcap is also often used in western herbal medicine for seizures and to calm anxiety. Long Dan Cao or gentian root is used as a digestive tonic or bitter in western herbology. All these herbals also have some anti-bacterial properties, especially the yellow root of Huang Qin.

Che Qian Zi because it is a seed helps to sink the yang back into the body. Mu Tong, Ze Xie and Che Qian Zi help to drain dampness or treat phlegm.

Gan Cao harmonizes the formula and prevents side effects, while supporting the digestive system.

Chai Hu helps to get this cool formula to work in a hot animal. Paired with Huang Qin it also helps to treat triple burner obstruction and get energy flowing properly in the center of the body so that you don’t have excess yang up in the head. Chai Hu can also help with anxiety and agitation.

I often use this formula along with western seizure drugs. It helps to support the liver which is helpful as many seizure drugs are very hard on the liver.

While this formula has the potential to cause diarrhea, in the form I use with the large amounts of sheng di huang I have not seen any issues. If your cat or dog is prone to diarrhea it may not be the one to use or may need to be combined with other formulas.

Available in my etsy store, Kingdom of Basil.

What I made today – Xiao Feng San – dispel wind powder for itching

Monday, October 1st, 2012

I made this one for my own dog Alli, who is prone to getting itchy especially when she goes to the dog park, eats too many treats, or finds a hot dog bun in the bushes. Most of the time this is fairly under control through her grain free raw diet but occasionally she has a super itchy day. I did get a look from her yesterday when she was eating her food with herbs in it slower than normal, “why you put stinky herbs in my food mom, yuck!?”, so next time I may stick them in gel caps for her.

Xiao Feng San is one of the first formulas that I learned about from my first herbal teacher, Richard Panzer. At first I had a lot of disappointment with the formula. It can be a great formula for itchy dogs however I thought it would be my cure all. Since then I have found that I wasn’t using it in a high enough dose and that it doesn’t work that well for the very bad chronically itchy dog.

Where it does work well is for the dogs that are itchy but their skin is actually in pretty good shape. However they still bite or scratch at themselves like they are being attacked by invisible bugs. Usually the itchiness is shifting, a little itchy on the ear and then the belly and then the side.

Where I have found it doesn’t work well is for those dogs with bad skin infections or inflammations who have thickened skin, oozing sores, and massive hair loss. For those guys you really need to work closely with an herbalist and also focus on nutrition. See Itchy Dogs the link between inflammation and diet. Most of the dogs I work with who have severe skin disease get started on Si Miao San or Qing Ying Tang and often both together. Occasionally I will use Xiao Feng San in combination with these formulas.

So in Chinese medicine shifting itching is said to come from wind that moves through the skin. It is often worse in the windy seasons of fall and spring, which are also our allergen seasons. This formula helps to dispel wind from the body and also has an effect to tonify blood, so there is good blood flow to the skin and decreased inflammation. It also helps to cool down the skin. Wind doesn’t effect an animal without some imbalances or it wouldn’t be able to get inside. Similar to folks with suppressed immune systems being sick more often, animals with deficiencies are more prone to itchiness. By the way there is a great formula for those who always get sick called Jade Wind Screen (more about that later). Additionally Xiao Feng San also has a mild effect in improving leaky gut and helping digestion.

I do have to say this is one of the most beautiful and diverse formulas. Just look at the colors and textures.

So how does this formula work?

First what is in it

Jing Jie (schizonepeta stem)
Fang Feng (siler root)
Niu Bang Zi (greater burdock fruit)
Chan Tui (cicada molt)
Cang Zhu (atractylodes root)
Ku Shen (sophora root)
Shi Gao (gypsum)
Zhi Mu (anemarrhenae rhizome)
Sheng Di Huang (rehmannia root)
Dang Gui (chinese angelica root)
Hei Zhi Ma (black sesame seeds)
Gan Cao (licorice root)
Mu Tong (akebia)

Let’s start with Jing Jie, I love the smell of schizonepeta stem. It also has a lovely green color. With Fang Feng , Niu Bang zi and Chan tui it helps to open the pores and release wind – aka stop itching. Yes you read that right, this formula contains chan tui, the molted exoskeleton of cicada. If there is one thing is my pharmacy that makes people feel like they have walked into a witch’s apothecary it would be the cicada. My son used to like to impress visiting guests by showing them off and often eating one. He learned early on what was ok to eat in my pharmacy. And these little ghosts of insects really do help with itching.

Cang Zhu helps to drain inflammation and support digestion. Ku shen and Mu tong both decrease inflammation and clear heat. Shi gao and Zhi mu take that one step deeper and clear heat at a deeper qi level. In other words they are trying to get rid of the core or root of the heat that causes inflammation and keep it from getting worse.

Sheng Di Huang and Dang Gui help to tonify the blood, increasing blood production in the bone marrow and keeping a healthy blood volume to nourish the skin so that it stays healthy. Hei Zhi Ma aids in this process also keeping the skin moist. Some anti-inflammatory herbs can be drying and these ingredients help to balance that out.

Finally Gan Cao or licorice comes in and to harmonize the other herbs. Gan Cao also supports the adrenal system and removes toxicity in the body.

This formula should never be used in very old or sick animals unless they are under the care of a veterinary herbalist. Available in my etsy shop Kingdom of Basil.

What I made today – Zhi Xie San – anti-diarrhea formula

Monday, September 24th, 2012

If you have had a dog you have probably had to deal with diarrhea at least once. Dogs love to find things on the side of the road and eat them quickly before we can take them away. Just last night I was fighting Alli over an old hot dog bun she had found in the bushes across from the 7-11. To her it was the greatest delight ever, to me it was a night with an itchy dog.

While Alli tends to get itchy from finding random things to eat, a lot of dogs will get diarrhea. This is not always a bad thing if it only lasts for a day. Diarrhea is the body’s way of getting rid of bad things fast. I always say better out than in. However sometimes the diarrhea continues. This can be a great formula for getting it under control fast. Also see my article Natural solutions to treat acute diarrhea.

So on to one of my favorite herbals, Zhi Xie San is a great anti-diarrhea formula. I learned this one from my wonderful acupuncture teacher, Richard Panzer, and it works like magic in many dogs.

It contains six simple yet effective ingredients
Shan Yao (chinese yam)
Yi Yi Ren (job’s tears)
Ge Gen (kudzu root)
Fu Ling (poria rhizome)
Bai Zhu (atractylodes rhizome)
Mu Xiang (costus root)
Lian Zi (lotus seeds)

Shan Yao is a great anti-diarrhea herb. In addition to this formula I often add a little of this to any formula that is moving if I am using it in a dog prone to diarrhea. Shan Yao is a tonic which helps with digestion, in addition it is a qi tonic and one of the herbs that makes this formula safe to use in older and sicker animals. Bai Zhu is also a qi tonic which helps support digestion and pairs well with chinese yam.

Yi Yi Ren has so many uses, it is good at draining dampness and often used for arthritis and cancer in addition to diarrhea. Ge Gen also has actions to help stop diarrhea and adds in the ability to expel pathogens. Fu Ling is also a great drainer of dampness, in addition its sweet nature helps with digestion.

Mu Xiang helps with food stagnation and treats pain in the gut. It helps relieve straining in the intestine and helps to regulate the other herbs in this formula. It makes sure that the other herbs which drain dampness do not hurt digestion of lead to stagnation in the gut.

Last is lotus seeds, these are often used in malas but they also have uses in herbal medicine. Lotus seeds help to support the digestion of the body and stop diarrhea. They also can help with anxiety and calm the spirit of the heart. They are said to lighten the body and slow aging. Not a bad addition.

This formula has a wonderful almost white color and it is light and soft to the touch. It feels to me like it could work as a sponge to soak up liquid and in fact that is what it does in the body. It is a great alternative to kaopectate or peptobismol.

I have used this formula in a number of animals however I do not use it if there is a lot of blood in the diarrhea or if there are know parasites. In many chronic inflammatory bowel disease cases this formula can help but often I use different formulas depending on how animals present.

Now available in my etsy shop Kingdom of Basil.

What I made today – a custom formula for arthritis

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Today I did a refill of a custom formula for a beautiful yellow lab named Mali who I have been working with for almost five years now. Mali had both ankle surgery and a fracture of her front leg when she was younger and has some arthritis issues secondary to that. She is now 10 years old and slowing down a little. In addition, like most labs she is prone to inflammation both in her skin and joints. About a year ago her people switched her to raw food and that has really helped with the inflammation.

Arthritis in Chinese medicine is considered a combination of damp, wind and usually cold that has gotten in the joints. Do you notice that people and animals with joint issues are often times worse when it rains or in the cold of winter?

In addition there can be a blockage of blood flow to the joints which increases pain and leads to further degeneration because there is not enough blood flow to repair damage. With herbs we attempt to address all this, decrease pain and promote healing. Most of my dogs with arthritis are also on an acupuncture protocol. The herbs support this and make it so my acupuncture treatments hold longer.

Mali’s formula contains:
Bai Shao
Dang Gui
Yi Yi Ren
Yan Hu Suo
Du Huo
Gui Zhi
Chuan Xiong
Hong Hua
Du Zhong
Cang Zhu
Huai Niu Xi

Bai Shao, peony root and Dang Gui, angelica root, are a great combo for any animal with arthritis. They both work with blood to increase blood flow into the joints, and have a secondary ability to help with pain. In this case I also add in Chuan Xiong to help with increased blood production and flow. Many animals I will also add Rehmannia or Shou Di Huang. In Mali’s case because she is prone to inflammation I leave it out.

Yan Hu Suo or corydalis is a wonderful blood mover which helps with pain.

Yi Yi Ren (job’s tears), Cang Zhu (Atractylodes), and Huai Niu Xi(Achyranthes Root) all help with inflammation and dampness both directly and in the case of Cang Zhu by also helping digestion. They help to pull inflammation out of the joints.

Gui Zhi(cinnamon twig) and Du Huo (a different angelica root) help to release wind from the joints. These two also help with joint issues and pain. Du Huo helps support tendons and has a very strong smell that some people do not like.

Hong Hua, safflower flowers, I add in to invigorate the blood, to help with her vitality and make sure the blood flows smoothly in her body.

My final ingredient is Du Zhong, eucommia bark, which is a yang tonic but also helps support tendons to keep them elastic and flexible. If you look at the bark it is held together by what looks like stretchy elastic. I love when function can be seen in an herb.

This is one of two formulas Mali is on, the other being a qi tonic which helps prevent stagnation in her middle. The pair of the two work well together because qi moves blood. If you are using a blood tonic and feel like it is not working as well as you would like often times pairing with a qi tonic or moving the middle with something that works with triple burner obstruction will make a large difference. In Mali’s case we are using a modification of Xiao Chai Hu Tang as her second formula.

Prostate cancer in dogs – herbs and holistic support

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Prostate cancer wasn’t originally on my list when I began this book, as it is rare and I hadn’t treated a dog with it before. However I recently started treating a very energetic lab named Joey who has prostate cancer. He is one of the most rambunctious, friendly dogs I have met and oh so strong. His coat shines, his eyes sparkle, and he has the most powerful tail I have encountered. I swear he could fuel my whole house with it.

There is no way you would know he has cancer if you met him and he was diagnosed almost three months ago.

In dogs, prostate cancer is highly aggressive with the prognosis after detection often times being less than a month. Prostate cancer is fast to spread and also in a delicate area of the body. As the cancer grows it can block the urethra making peeing impossible. This is a disease of neutered male dogs, the one cancer that is more common in fixed dogs.

There are no good western treatments for prostate cancer in dogs. Surgery is usually impossible because of the location and the early spread of this cancer and radiation and chemotherapy add little time to a dog’s life. Because of this and the effectiveness of herbal therapies with this disease, holistic treatments are a good option.

A while back there was a product on the market to treat prostate cancer in people called PC-SPES. This herbal combination actually helped quite a few people but was taken off the market because of problems with contamination. I am not suggesting that you should use this product or some of the others that have replaced it but I do think it is worth considering the ingredients. It contains some of the same ingredients as in one of the main herbals I use for cancer, Xiao Chai Hu Tang and reishi mushrooms which are known to be quite effective again cancer.

This is my protocol against this deadly cancer (follow links for more information about herbals and links to buy on or other places)

  1. Acupuncture every two weeks if possible, every week if there are significant clinic signs. It is important to keep these guys peeing and acupuncture can help and also slow down the cancer.
  2. Xiao Chai Hu Tang – this is a great herbal for cancer especially when there is an obstruction in the abdomen like you get with an enlarged prostate. This formula will also help keep cancer out of the lungs
  3. Artemisinin – this compound helps to slow down cancer and prevent spread.
  4. Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang – cousin to Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang for the lower abdomen, this is a very effective formula for prostate and urinary bladder cancer, especially when they manifest with bloody urine. I add San Leng and E Zhu to mine for extra cancer fighting ingredients.
  5. Mushrooms – these really help with prostate cancer with their direct action against cancer and their ability to strengthen the immune system. I like Reishi, Shiitake, Cordyceps, and Maitake. Make sure you use reishi for prostate cancer. These can be added to food or given as a supplement.
  6. Hoxsey like formula – This formula can be especially helpful in dogs with excess personalities and lots of energy. Do not use it in dogs that are old, thin or very sick.
  7. Diet for cancer – this is a most for any animal with cancer – see Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

Joey has already exceeded my main expectation which was to keep him happy and pain free. I don’t know what the future holds for him but I know he enjoys every day he is here and the more days we can give him the better.

As with all advice on this website please check with your dog’s primary veterinarian before starting any treatments or herbals.

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods for Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs.

How to treat liver tumors in dogs holistically and with herbs

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Believe it or not liver tumors are some of the easier cancers that I work with. They are often slower to grow then other malignancies, and herbs and acupuncture seem to work very well to control them.

I have had a number of dogs who were diagnosed and given three months or less to live, who ended up living over a year. Most importantly they were happy and healthy while they were here. I think this is one of the most important considerations in treating cancer holistically. While I find in almost all animals I can extend life, their quality of life also stays very good. I have had many clients comment that their dogs actually seem healthier than before they had cancer, when they are on an protocol with acupuncture, herbs, and a good quality diet. I think this is because we are treating underlying deficiencies that were present before the cancer occurred.

I just lost a beautiful lab, named Hunter, who made it 22 months after diagnosis of a liver tumor. Up until the very end he was happy and he always got comments on his coat and how good he looked when he went out. Lou, see Lou’s story, is still doing well 20 months after diagnosis. I have seen these tumors shrink with just holistic medicine. These dogs really do quite well.

Liver tumors in dogs are most commonly hepatocellular carcinomas. There are also benign tumors that can start in the liver and although they are not technically cancer can end up rupturing or bleeding and sometimes can lead to death. This article is about treating liver tumors that start in the liver. Because of the liver’s placement and function in the body many cancers can spread to the liver, including lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. There are other treatment strategies for these cancers.

I have found many of these dogs present with an episode of bleeding or collapse. Sometimes elevated liver enzymes are what leads to a diagnosis.

Occasionally surgery is helpful if there is a good prognosis and most or all of the tumor can be removed. I think this is worth consideration in some cases.

My protocol can vary from animal to animal but here is a list of some of the most common treatments I use.If the cancer has already spread to the lungs at the time of diagnosis then see Breathing through cancer – holistic herbal therapies to control lung metastasis. Follow links for more information about herbals and links to buy from

  1. Acupuncture – I consider acupuncture to be essential for treating liver tumors. I had one dog I treated live for over a year with just acupuncture and her tumor shrunk during that time.
  2. Artemisinin – This is one of the most effective herbals for treating liver tumors and always part of my protocol.
  3. Yunnan Baiyao – If there is bleeding or suspected bleeding this is a must. Yunnan Baiyao is the most effective tool to stop internal bleeding out there (except when surgery is called for). The western vet I work the most with has even started sending this clients to the international district for it recently. Most of the time I will use this for a month or two and then stop if the bleeding does not reoccur.
  4. Xiao Chai Hu Tang can be a great herbal to use against liver tumors especially if the signs fit or there are lung mets. Xiao Chai Hu Tang powder can be purchased through my etsy store Kingdom of Basil
  5. Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang with added San Leng and E Zhu if possible is commonly used for liver tumors. This is a great herbal for any type of liver cancer.
  6. Mushrooms – I recommend a combination of Shiitake, Maitake, Reishi and Cordyceps or the Host Defense My Community from Fungi Perfecti. They are a excellent company. Mushrooms help to strengthen the immune system and have strong cancer fighting properties. These can be added to food.
  7. Sanshedan Chuanbeiye – this is a great cancer fighter and should always be used if there is concern about cancer spreading to the lungs.
  8. Milk Thistle and/or SamE if there is liver function compromise
  9. A cancer fighting diet is an easy way to help your dog and they usually love the higher protein, less proceed foods – see Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

If you can, find a holistic vet to help you determine a protocol for your dog companion. If you can find one who does acupuncture even better! Please check with your animal’s regular vet before starting any herbals or supplements.

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods for Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs

Where do I find herbs?

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

This is a great question that I get quite often.

There are a few options

Note: As of September 2012 I am now selling a few of my formulas through my other business Kingdom of Basil on This is an experiment for now. I still highly, highly recommend working with a holistic vet before starting any herbals. I am happy to make special orders if you are working with a vet who recommends something but does not carry it, just have them contact me.

  • The best is to find a local holistic veterinarian to work with. Not only do you get excellent herbs but you also get excellent advice.

    I have my own herbal pharmacy and make most of the formulas I talk about from scratch. I know my herb sources, most of my herbs are from the companies Spring Wind and Mountain Rose Herbs. Both of these companies are very careful to only supply good quality, pesticide free, toxin free, and correctly identified herbs. Because I make herbal formulas from scratch I can adjust them for the animal I am making them for. Not all holistic vets make their own formulas but most have a good supplier of quality herbs and tinctures.
    Pros – good quality herbs for animals, advice and support
    Cons – may be hard to find in some places

  • The International District in your city aka Chinatown can be a good place to find some hard to find Chinese herbals. I send all my clients to a local store in Seattle called Lucky An Dong for SanSheDan ChuanBeiYe. It is the best place to find it and it is cheaper than I can buy it wholesale. Most large cities have an international district. You can also often find other formulas in your local ID. There is a couple problems with buying in the ID. The first is that there is sometimes a language barrier unless you speak Mandarin and sometimes you can end up with the wrong product. The second is that many of these products may be high in pesticides or toxins because they are not tested as well (or at all) then herbs through other companies.
    Pros – cheap, can find just about any Chinese formula
    Cons – language barriers, quality of herbs, need to be near or in a large city
  • Many herbs can be found online. My favorite place to send people is . They have many quality herbals available both Chinese and western although do not carry everything. Make sure to read the ingredients of the products and match them to what should be in the formula. In most of my herbal and supplements articles I have included a link to for that product if it is available. I choose my link based on what I feel is the best quality product available online. There are other places online that also sell herbals such as Modern Herb Shop. For artemisinin I always send people to Holley Pharmacy since I have used their product for years and know it to work and be high quality. Use some caution when buying online as not all companies are as reliable as Amazon.
    Pros – easy, more reliable then ID, can be ordered from anywhere
    Cons – not as high quality as custom made herbals, no ability to modify formulas
  • Many cities have western herbal stores that can make up formulas or sell pre-made formulas. In Seattle we have The herbalist and Tenzing Momo and Dandelion Botanical where you may be able to find some of the herbals I recommend or similar products.
    Pros – good quality herbs, easy to communicate with staff, local
    Cons – may not be able to find what you want as usually are more western
  • Sometimes western vets will be willing to order herbs for you. There are many companies that sell directly to vets. Here are a few.
    Natural Path Herbs
    Kan Herbs
    Goldern Flower Chinese herbs
    Dr. Xie’s Jing Tang Herbal
    In addition I will sometimes sell my formulas directly to other veterinarians.
    Pros – high quality herbs, right formulas, open up your vet to new options
    Cons – more work to convince your vet to order herbals, may not be able to convince your vet
  • It is possible to make your own herbal formulas. It takes time, access to ingredients and a good blender or grinder. I use a Blendtec blender to grind my herbs. It’s a powerful little machine that can get even my shells and heavy twigs and roots ground down to a powder.

    Because of the risks of making an animal or a person sick from using herbs incorrectly the best Chinese herbal companies will only sell to practitioners. This makes it harder to get good quality herbs if you don’t have a veterinarian to work with. If you are looking to buy western herbs and make formulas yourself, Mountain Rose Herbs does sell to anyone. They do also carry some Chinese herbs that are used in western herbal practice but they are under the western names.
    Pros – high quality herb formulas with some ability to modify
    Cons- a lot of work, requires equipment and knowledge, hard to find suppliers for some Chinese herbs

Good herb hunting!

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods for Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs

Squamous cell carcinoma – holistic, herbal and integrative treatments in dogs and cats

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

The good news about squamous cell carcinoma is that it is very slow to metastasize; the bad news is that is locally very aggressive, eating through anything in its path. In addition because this cancer commonly occurs in the mouth, there isn’t a lot of space to easily remove it. While I see more squamous cell carcinoma in cats it also occurs in dogs.

White cats and black dogs

Most squamous cell carcinomas occur in the mouth. However it is also a common cancer on the ears and noses especially of white or light colored cats who go outside in the sun. Another very common spot for squamous cell is in the toes of dogs especially black toed dogs.

Squamous cell often starts with chronic irritation of infection. On the ears of cats it is often from repeated sunburn. In the mouth it is many times secondary to tooth issues and infections.

The prognosis with squamous cell carcinoma is very good if you can remove the whole tumor but unfortunately this is many times not possible. Without removal, the prognosis is pretty poor and these animals experience a lot of pain if it works it way into the bone. However there are therapies that can slow things down and significantly improve quality of life.

I am going to break this article into three sections and talk about squamous cell in toes, in the mouth and then a section on the other places squamous cell can form and a little about cats. Follow the links for more information about herbals and therapies.

Squamous cell on the toes of dogs

Most squamous cell carcinomas start on the toes as a broken nail or a non-healing infection in the nail bed. Often times a few rounds of antibiotics are prescribed before the cancer is diagnosed. I have only seen squamous cell carcinomas in black furred toes, however it is possible to get the disease in dogs of other colors also.

In some dogs squamous cell causes infection secondary to the cancer and is some animals it is chronic nail bed issues and infections, which cause it to develop.

The treatment of choice is to remove the toe as soon as the diagnosis is made. If the whole tumor can be removed then this is almost always curative.

Many dogs will be done at this point and can live normal lives however I have had some dogs who go on to form multiple cancers in other toes, usually this is because their immune system is not working correctly and also most likely has a genetic component.

Occasionally surgery is not an option to remove the toe because of poor health or heart conditions and then other treatments need to be used.

I treat a wonderful happy Gordon Setter named Hudson, known to most of those who love him as Huddie. He has lost three toes to this disease and also has Cushings disease, which makes his immune system not as strong as a normal dog.

With Hudson we have developed the following protocol, which I recommend for any dog who has had multiple squamous cell carcinomas in the toes.

  1. Remove toes as soon as diagnosis is made
  2. Artemisinin – I have found artemisinin to be very effective in slowing squamous cell down.
  3. Mushroom supplements – these help to strengthen the immune system and have anticancer properties. I recommend a supplement with a combination of Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi and Cordyceps mushrooms.
  4. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang – this herbal helps to move blood down into the toes and extremities and also has some strong anti-cancer herbs.
  5. In Hudson’s case we also have him on long-term antibiotics. It seems like his squamous cell started with chronic nail bed infections that could not be cleared with antibiotics once they took hold. As much as I would prefer not to use long-term antibiotics, in his case I believe they are a good precaution. This is not a recommendation I make in every dog.
  6. Acupuncture – we know Hudson has a weak immune system so we try our best to strengthen what is there with monthly acupuncture.
  7. Cancer diet – see Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

So what about the dogs where toe removal is not an option? Here are some options

  1. These guys need pain control. Squamous cell is a very painful disease once it gets in the bone. Many times a multiple drug approach is needed
  2. Artemisinin – see above and link
  3. Acupuncture – can help to slow down progression of this disease and help with pain. If there is active cancer treatment should be at least every two weeks.
  4. Xian Fang Huo Ming Yin – this can be a powerful formula for treating active squamous cell carcinoma in the toes but should be used with caution, as it is very cooling. Never use this in a very debilitated, weak or cold dog and always check with a holistic vet before using it. (no article up yet).
  5. Hoxsey like formula with boneset or its gentle cousin Cancer Detox Support – this can also be a very powerful formula against squamous cell, like XFHMY this formula is very cooling. See link for more information. Boneset should be added to this formula to control bone pain.
  6. Antibiotics – many times there are secondary infections in these dogs. Antibiotics are often needed.
  7. Prednisone – this western drug can help slow this cancer down although it also has some side effects. Talk to your vet about if it is a good option for your dog.
  8. Cancer diet – See Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

So on to Squamous cell carcinoma in the mouths of cats and dogs.

This is a horrible place to get a squamous cell carcinoma. The only way to get a cure is to remove a fourth of the jaw if it is in the lower jaw and there is no such option if it is in the upper jaw. Because this disease is so painful many animals will not eat and that is usually the factor that ends up ending their life. That being said I have seen animals do well for about a year after diagnosis, with integrative treatments. Usually dogs do a little better than cats, who usually don’t make it a year. This really varies animal to animal and involves being able to medicate an animal with a painful mouth.

How can we help these animals with squamous cell in the mouth?

First let me start off by saying in cats I often times just rely on injectable antibiotics, steroids and pain meds plus acupuncture. The amount of pain with oral administration of herbals is not worth any benefit we get from my experience. Occasionally I recommend oral pain meds as well. Below anything oral is mainly for dogs.

  1. Consider removing part of the lower jaw if it is in that area. I know it is a large and very harsh sounding surgery but these animals usually do quite well. This surgery is not for everyone so if you can’t do it there are other options below.
  2. Prednisone – I know it is a western drug and yes it has side effects but it really slows things down and also stimulates appetite in the process. This is one place I highly recommend considering it.
  3. Artemisinin – this herbal can really help slow things down. I treated a little Pomeranian named Panda who lived quite well for over a year on just Artemisinin, antibiotics as needed and pain meds.
  4. Acupuncture– can help with appetite, pain and slow this cancer down. Usually treatments need to be no more than two weeks apart.
  5. Hoxsey like formula with boneset – can help to slow this cancer down and help with bone pain.
  6. Pain medication – these animals need pain control!
  7. Antibiotics as needed. Having squamous cell in your mouth is like having a giant ulcerative wound open sometimes even up into the nasal passages. Antibiotics are sometimes used long-term and sometimes just as needed.
  8. Soft food and a cancer diet. These animals need to eat so give them what they will eat and use appetite stimulants if needed. Use very soft, easy to swallow foods. If they will eat a cancer fighting diet even better. See Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

Squamous cell other places in the body

Squamous cell can also arise other places in the body. The ear pinnae of white cats are a very common place and also the tip of the nose. Many people will make the decision to remove the ear pinnae and get a cure. For the nose usually a few radiation treatments is curative. Usually squamous cell on the pinnae or nose is slower moving then in the mouth and sometimes if the cat is old the decision will be made to just leave it. When squamous cell occurs other places, surgical removal is the treatment of choice if at all possible. If surgery or radiation is not an option then the treatments above can be used.

An extra note on cats

In many cats giving more than three drugs or herbs can cause side effects and reduced appetite. Depending on how many western treatments a cat is on usually I only recommend adding in two or three herbals and focusing on diet and acupuncture to supplement their effects.

Some cats cannot tolerate anything going in their mouth if they have cancer there in which case I only treat with acupuncture to try to make them have quality of life while they are here. If only one thing can be given it should be pain medication as this is a very painful disease.

As with all articles on this website please check with your animal companion’s veterinarian before starting any herbals or supplements. This disease more than any other of the cancers I have talked about really needs an integrative approach to treatment involving western drugs and interventions.

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Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang – Chemotherapy herbal support for dogs and cats

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang is one of the formulas I take myself when I’ve been under too much stress and my adrenals are a little deficient. It has a deep root flavor with just a hint of citrus – yum!

In my practice, this is the main formula I use for chemotherapy support. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang helps to support digestion, the immune system, blood cell counts, and adrenal function in the body and at the same time has some strong anti-cancer herbs.

So what is in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang?

  • Huang Qi – Astragulus
  • Bai Zhu – Atractylodes
  • Gan Cao (sometimes Zhi Gan Cao is used instead) – Licorice
  • Ren Shen – Ginseng
  • Chen Pi – Tangerine peel
  • Dang Gui – Chinese angelica root
  • Chai Hu – Bupleurum
  • Sheng Ma – Black cohosh

In 2007 a study was done out of the University of Minnesota by K. HWa Choi DVM. This study looked at dogs being treated with chemotherapy (including doxorubicin) for lymphoma and the side effects from treatment. It was found that dogs administered BZYQT had much less diarrhea and vomiting then dogs getting just chemotherapy. They also did much better than dogs getting chemotherapy and western drugs to control vomiting and diarrhea. In addition the dogs on BZYQT had better appetites. BZYQT also significantly raised white and red blood cell counts. Overall the dogs getting chemotherapy and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang did much better than dogs just getting chemotherapy or those being treated with western drugs for the side effects.

Not bad for an herbal therapy!

There has also been some success in the herbal veterinary community with this herbal to help manage hemangiosarcoma.

So how does it work?

Bupleurum has some amazing cancer fighting abilities. Bupleurum can induce apoptosis or cell death in cancer cells and inhibit cancer cell growth and division. Many studies have been done on this plant especially for lung cancer.

Many of the herbs in this formula work in pairs. Astragulus and ginseng strongly support the immune system and have direct anti-cancer effects. Ginseng and licorice support adrenal function. Dang Gui with Huang Qi stimulates the bone marrow to increase blood cell production. Licorice and tangerine support digestion.

This formula also works to increase peripheral circulation and can help to prevent some skin and nail inflammatory disorders. Many animals with deficient immune function also do well on this formula. I also often use it to support animals with deficient adrenal function (Addison’s disease). Some of its other uses are for incontinence and prolapse.

In Chinese medicine terms Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang lifts up sinking qi, supports the liver and spleen and tonifies lung qi.

When do I use this formula?

Any dog or cat getting chemotherapy which includes the drug doxorubicin also known as adriamycin should be on this formula. This drug is one with the most potential for side effects and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang can help reduce these.

I also use it for dogs or cats on other chemotherapeutic agents who are having side effects or problems maintaining cell counts.

In addition I will sometimes use this formula in very debilitated animals to help them gain strength and balance. I currently have one dog I treat who has a weakened immune system and is prone to getting nail bed infections that turn to cancer. He had lost three toes to this process before we found a protocol which included his formula.

How is Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang dosed?

I usually dose it twice a day and use powdered whole herbs in my patients. I use 1/8 teaspoon once or twice a day for cats and small dogs, 1/4 teaspoon twice a day for dogs up to 25 lbs, and 1/2-1 teaspoon twice day for larger dogs. For tea pills use 2,4, or 8 twice a day for the above sizes of animals.

If I am using a tincture I use 0.2ml per 5lb once a day.

Many companies will substitute Codonopsis (Dang Shen) for ginseng (Ren Shen). If at all possible use a product that has ginseng as it is a much stonger and more powerful herb than codonopsis.

You can now buy Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang from my etsy store, Kingdom of Basil

As with all articles on this site, please check with your animal’s vet before starting any herbal treatments.

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods for Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs

Si Miao San – slowing down cancer and inflammation

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Si Miao San or Four Marvels Powder is truly one of the workhorses of Chinese medicine. It is probably the most common formula I use. You see, Si Miao San is very good at treating inflammation and our animal companions have a lot of inflammatory disorders. This is my top formula for inflammatory bowel disease, allergic dermatitis, Cushings disease, and diabetes.

Please follow this link to buy Si Miao San from my etsy store Kingdom of Basil Si Miao San powder.

For more information on Cushings disease see my article Managing Cushings Disease in Dogs Holistically.

In Chinese medicine it treats damp heat and is a simple yet powerful little formula of four ingredients.

  • Huang Bai (phellodendron bark)
  • Yi Yi Ren (coix seed)
  • Cang Zhu (atractylodes rhizome)
  • Huai Niu Xi (achyranthes root)

These ingredients are highly anti-inflammatory and often this formula can take the place of prednisone for inflammatory disorders but without the side effects.

So how does this formula work for cancer?

It’s two main ingredients, Huang Bai and Yi Yi Ren, both have anticancer actions. Huang Bai contains berberine, which has been shown in a number of studies to slow down tumor growth and induce apoptosis or cell death. If you search pub med you will find a large list of studies on berberine and its anti-cancer activities.
Here is a good one – Apoptosis of human leukemia cells and murine leukemia cells induced by berberine through activation of caspase

Coix seed also inhibits growth of cancer cells and can induce apoptosis. Here is a great article on coix seed and its cancer actions –
Healthy Doses Job’s tears

This formula can enhance the action of chemotherapy drugs and anti-microbials in a good way. So it can safely be used with chemotherapy. However often times I focus more on the herbals that have strong immune stimulant effects for animals who are receiving chemo.

The main cancer I use Si Miao San for is lymphoma and some of the leukemias. I also often use this formula if animals can not handle Hoxsey-like formula. Animals needing this formula will run hot and often times have a history of past inflammatory diseases.

The Cang Zhu in this formula helps to support good digestion, which can often be a large issue in animals with cancer. While most of this formula is very cold in nature, the atractylodes is warm and makes sure this formula is well tolerated by most animals. It also does not cool them down too much.

For the animals I treat I make my own Si Miao San from whole dried herbs and dose at 1/8 twice a day for cats and small dogs, ¼ teaspoon twice a day for dogs 15-25 lbs, ½ twice a day for dogs 25-50 lbs, 1 teaspoon twice a day for dogs 50-90lb and 1 ½ teaspoons twice a day for dogs greater than 90lbs.

With tinctures I use .2 ml per 5 lbs of animal twice a day. For tea pills and granules, use the human dose for dogs greater than 50lbs and dose down by weight for smaller animals.

If you are working with a holistic vet or Chinese herbalist, get this formula from them. I am now selling powdered Si Miao San out of my herbal shop Kingdom of Basil on etsy. Amazon does sell the Kan Herbs – Four Marvels pills

As with all supplements and herbals, please check with your animal’s regular vet before using this herbal.

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods for Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs