Top Ways Alternative Medicine and Natural Therapies Can Help People With Cancer

A healthcare worker holds up a red paper heart that says, "Mind, body + Soul"

According to statistics, there were 162,163 new cancer cases in Australia in 2022. The government estimates that before the age of 85, two out of five Australians will be diagnosed with cancer.  

Here’s a bright silver lining: according to the National Cancer Institute, at least 73 clinical trials in different phases are currently being done on complementary and alternative medicine procedures for cancer treatment. Patients are no longer limited to the conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and immunotherapy.

Natural Therapies and Cancer 

According to the Cancer Council, alternative medicine, or complementary therapies, are “therapies that are used alongside conventional treatments to alleviate symptoms.” More than traditional Western medicine, these therapies give cancer patients a balanced treatment plan that will heal the body physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

In Australia, studies say that up to 87 percent of cancer patients have used at least one form of complementary therapy to sustain their conventional treatment plan. 

The following are the most common natural complementary methods that can help with your cancer treatment. Read through them and discuss with your oncologist which ones would be best for you. 

Western Herbal Medicine and Nutrition

To keep your body and mind strong throughout cancer treatments, dieticians can design a healthy diet for you, while nutritionists can give you support in carrying out your nutritional goals. 

Herbalists, on the other hand, prescribe herbal medicines in the form of teas and health supplements. Herbs are still being clinically studied for proof that they can, in fact, contribute to curing cancer. However, there are existing studies that say herbs have been found to ease cancer symptoms, reduce the side effects of treatment, and slow the spread of cancer cells. 

Naturopaths take a more holistic approach. Rather than treat just the cancer, they care for the whole person. They prescribe lifestyle adjustments that can boost your immune system so that side effects from radiation therapy and chemotherapy are lessened, and healing after surgery can be quicker. 

Even without a cancer diagnosis, though, everyone can benefit from naturopathy, herbalism, and nutrition. These are, after all, effective and proven avenues for cancer prevention and a healthier lifestyle.

Traditional Chinese Medicine 

When cancer patients go through radiotherapy and chemotherapy, their qi (life force) is quickly damaged, aggravating other cancer symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and pain. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), because of its effectiveness in balancing qi, has been found to improve the efficiency of cancer treatment

Two basic methods of treatment using TCM philosophy are especially effective in helping ease cancer symptoms.

Acupuncture is a key component of TCM. It involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the skin to stimulate the nervous system, which would then release serotonin, a natural pain reliever. It’s one reason why acupuncture has been found to be an effective method of pain management after oncologic surgery. 

Another method of treatment under TCM is cupping. This involves placing upside-down cups on certain points of the skin to create suction. The suction, similar to the effects of acupuncture, stimulates the flow of qi, blood, and lymph fluid, clearing the way for healing. In fact, a study says that, when paired with regular exercise, cupping can significantly reduce upper limb pain in patients with breast cancer-related lymphedema (build-up of lymph fluid in the body).

Complementary Alternative Medicine for Mood and Mindset

One’s mindset is a powerful tool against cancer. As contemporary Western medicine targets tumors, a patient’s mood and mindset can boost their resilience and strength. Several natural therapies are known to carry out healing through the mind. 


An ancient Indian system of medicine, ayurveda aims to initiate an internal purification process by applying natural therapies and encouraging lifestyle interventions. Clinical studies on the effectiveness of ayurveda as a complementary cancer therapy are still ongoing. However, yoga and meditation—the core components of ayurvedic medicine—are known to help ease cancer symptoms by putting a patient in a healing frame of mind. Yoga strengthens bones and muscles and meditation boosts the immune system and lowers, if not completely removes, stress from the mind. 

Energy Therapies

Cancer patients use energy therapies not for physical relief from the side effects of cancer, but to help them relax and cope with their illness. 

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), for instance, is an energy psychology therapy that helps patients deal with fear and anxiety brought on by cancer. Described as “acupuncture without the needles,”  EFT involves using fingertips to tap on the body’s meridian points, whilst using talk therapy, to bring about calmness and relaxation. 

Matrix reimprinting, on the other hand, helps a person revisit old traumas and look at them from a different perspective so that emotional wounds are healed. As contemporary medicine treats the physical cancer, matrix reimprinting gets to work healing the emotional wounds. 

Another form of emotional support is art therapy. If EFT uses tapping and matrix reimprinting revisits past traumas, art therapy helps patients release fear and anxiety by letting them express their feelings through art. 

Therapies for Chemical-free Pain Relief 

Prescribed pain medication for cancer treatment sometimes comes with unpleasant side effects. The good news is that, as a cancer patient, you now have a choice on how to safely get pain relief during treatment. These natural therapies pose fewer side effects, and only if they are done incorrectly. Even better, they target holistic pain relief, not just physical. 

Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from plants to bring about holistic healing. These oils are applied through massages, topical application, inhalation, or water immersion. Peppermint oil is known to ease muscle pain, as do eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, and German chamomile. 

Complementing aromatherapy is sound therapy. A clinical trial in 2015 found that patients with bone tumours have experienced lower levels of pain after being exposed to different sound wave frequencies. This natural therapy involves patients listening to different kinds of sounds—from Tibetan singing bowls to gongs and chimes. The sound waves restore balance in the body, allowing healing to take place. 

It is important to consult your oncologist before deciding on which alternative therapies to use alongside your contemporary cancer treatments. This is a team effort, and many alternative therapies complement Western cancer medications and treatments. 

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