Herbal Medicine, Lifestyle, & Cancer with Chanchal Cabrera MSc, FNIMH, (RH)AHG
The Power of Herbal Remedies in Modern Oncology
Imagine a world where the power of herbal remedies joins forces with modern oncology to create a holistic approach to cancer care. If you've ever wondered about how herbs can work in the realm of oncology, this episode is for you! I'm thrilled to introduce you to Chanchal Cabrera MSc, FNIMH, RH(AHG) , a medical herbalist with a focus on oncology and a wealth of knowledge and experience. In this discussion, we'll journey through the fascinating intersection of herbalism and cancer care, exploring how our food systems and herbs can offer support, empowerment, and comfort to those facing this disease. So, fasten your seatbelts, because you’re about to embark on a unique and enlightening adventure into the world of herbal oncology!
A Medical Herbalist, With A Specialty In Cancer Care
My discussion with Chanchal started out about her path to becoming an herbalist, and how it was ignited by the brilliant medical herbalist and author of 'Medical Herbalism', David Hoffman, who was working with her dad to teach him about the amazing medicinal plants they had on their land. driven by a deep desire to help patients navigate the complexities of cancer. David helped her realize that these plants and flowers were much more than just beautiful botanical specimens.
After 15 years of studying and practicing in the field of herbal medicine, she got bored. Thankfully she was inspired to dive deeper in her herbal studies decided to specialize in the world of herbal cancer care and support. She dove deep into the research, and partnered with Donald Yance to deeper her experience and knowledge.
Chanchal realized that cancer isn't just a physical battle; it's an emotional and spiritual one as well. Patients often grapple with fear, uncertainty, and the overwhelming stress that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. She began seeking ways to enhance her patients' overall well-being and provide them with a more holistic approach to cancer care.
The Intersection of Conventional Medicine and Herbalism
We talked about the importance of bridging the gap between conventional oncology and herbalism, and how these two approaches do not need to be at odds with each other but can work together to benefit patients. The use of herbal remedies isn't about replacing traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. Instead, it's about complementing these therapies to improve their effectiveness and mitigate their side effects. Herbal medicine can offer patients relief from the harsh symptoms of conventional treatments, such as nausea, fatigue, and pain, making the journey through cancer more manageable.
Food Systems and Accessibility
Chanchal and I turned the conversation to our food systems and how much of an effect the food we eat has on our health. We discussed the societal and cultural challenges related to accessing good food and making healthier choices, as well as the concept of food deserts and food swamps, where inequalities in society can hinder individuals, particularly those of marginal income, education, or immigrants, from accessing nutritious options, even if they are aware of them.
We also touched on the genetic factors driving our cravings for calorie-dense, sugary foods, emphasizing the need for societal change and government efforts to make healthier options more accessible.
Herbs for All Stages of the Cancer Journey
What sets Chanchal apart is her comprehensive approach to herbalism in cancer care. She's worked with patients at every stage of the cancer journey, from those with suspicions and early diagnoses to end-of-life care. We discussed how herbs have an important role to play in all these phases.
In cases where the prognosis is less optimistic, Chanchal uses herbs to help patients "die better." This isn't about hastening the process but ensuring that patients experience mental clarity, reduced pain, and minimal collateral damage from conventional treatments. It's about granting them peace and a sense of autonomy in their final moments, an approach allowed in certain jurisdictions like Canada and Oregon.
Embracing the Inevitable: Death and Herbal Support
Chanchal’s story about a close friend with cervical cancer was particularly poignant. This friend had chosen not to pursue aggressive treatment, and Chanchal learned a valuable lesson in honoring a patient's readiness to embrace the end of their life. Rather than imposing her medical expertise, she supported her friend's choice, helping her navigate the final stages of her journey with grace and compassion.
We discussed the fact that death is an inevitable part of life. Herbal medicine's role isn't just about preventing or treating diseases; it extends to helping individuals transition with grace and dignity. This holistic approach, often neglected in modern healthcare, can be a source of great solace for patients and their families.
Reimagining the Role of the Herbalist
Our conversation turned to the role that herbalists have in conventional medicine. Chanchal has redefined her role as a herbalist. She recognizes that her primary duty isn't to dictate what patients should do but to support them in making the choices that align with their unique circumstances and desires. Herbalism, in her view, is about empowering patients to take charge of their health journey.
For those interested in reaching out to Chanchal or exploring her work further, there are several avenues available:
Book: Her book, 'Holistic Cancer Care: An Herbal Approach to Reducing Cancer Risk, Helping Patients Thrive During Treatment, & Minimizing Recurrence' can be found here. It’s a brilliant piece of work and a go-to resource.
Chanchal offers internship programs on her farm in British Columbia, where participants can gain hands-on experience in herbalism. Additionally, she has a series available on the Shift Network, providing insights into oncology care for beginners.
Advanced Series: In the coming year, she will be offering an advanced series for practitioners interested in deepening their knowledge of oncology care.
I truly enjoyed my discussion with Chanchal about her journey as a practicing medical herbalist, shifting into cancer care and research. This is an inspiring testament to the power of integrative medicine. Her work demonstrates that herbalism and conventional medicine can coexist harmoniously, offering patients the best of both worlds. In a world often defined by the fear of death, her approach reminds us that herbal medicine can bring grace, beauty, compassion, and care to the inevitable end of life. As we continue to explore the evolving landscape of healthcare, her story serves as a beacon of hope for those seeking a more holistic and compassionate approach to healing.
If you want to learn more about how to build your own herbal apothecary to safely and effectively to help your own family, check out my How to Start your Herbal Apothecary mini-course.