An herb is a plant or part of a plant that people take for health benefits as dietary supplements or medication. Herbal medicine may also be referred to as phytotherapy or use of botanicals. Herbal medicine interventions include a variety of substances and combinations of substances. Herbal medicine is contraindicated with some chemotherapy agents.
Meyer-Hamme, G., Beckmann, K., Radtke, J., Efferth, T., Greten, H.J., Rostock, M., & Schroder, S. (2013). A survey of Chinese medicinal herbal treatment for chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: ECAM, 2013, 284959.
PHASE OF CARE: Active treatment
All reviewed studies reported positive effects of Chinese herbal treatment for chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis.
Additional well-designed RCT studies are needed, especially to look at the mechanism of action for each herbal remedy. Due to poor design in terms of treatment and control groups, it was almost impossible to evaluate which parts of the treatment concepts are responsible for the measured effects in the reviewed trials.
Some studies used more than one herbal treatment with different routes of administration; therefore, it was difficult to determine which agent may have been more effective in treating oral mucositis. In general, most trials had a poor design.
No recommendations for use in clinical practice were made; recommendations were made for further studies. These studies could use placebo capsules or placebo liquids. It also was recommended that future studies decrease the complexity of the treatments in order to determine what treatments were effective.
Giacomelli, I., Scartoni, D., Fiammetta, M., Baki, M., Zei, G., Muntoni, C., . . . Livi, L. (2015). Oral lapacho-based medication: An easy, safe, and feasible support to prevent and/or reduce oral mucositis during radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. Nutrition and Cancer, 67, 1249–1254.
To demonstrate the benefits and tolerance of a multicomponent herbal oral agent for mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer receiving radiation or combination therapy
Orasol plus solution (a mixture of lapacho, hyaluronic acid, green tea, calendula, erisiom, propolis, marigold, plantain, and mauve) was administered to patients from the first day of radiotherapy until the end of therapy. It was given at a dose of 10 ml three times daily. The authors indicated that it can be swallowed, but did not state how patients were instructed to use it.
Of the patients, 47.5% developed grade 1, 27.5% developed grade 2, and 10% developed grade 3 mucositis. Median Gy doses to the oral mucosa were lowest in those with grade 1 mucositis. Six patients did not develop mucositis. None of these patients was receiving radiation and chemotherapy. The prevalence of grade 2 or greater mucositis was higher among smokers (p < 0.02). One patient developed itching and one developed glossitis. Twenty-five percent needed an increase in dosage or additional analgesic therapy.
The herbal nutritional supplement tested here may have some benefit for the prevention of severe mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer during therapy. Additional research is needed to establish any benefit.
Very few interventions have been shown to be effective for the prevention and treatment of oral mucositis in patients receiving cancer treatment. The substance tested here appeared safe, and findings suggest that it may be beneficial; however, numerous study design limitations exist. Further research with this agent is needed to determine efficacy.
Luo, Y., Feng, M., Fan, Z., Zhu, X., Jin, F., Li, R., . . . Lang, J. (2016). Effect of Kangfuxin solution on chemo/radiotherapy-induced mucositis in nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients: A multicenter, prospective randomized phase III clinical study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016, 8692343.
To evaluate the efficacy and safety of Kangfuxin solution, a pure Chinese herbal medicine, on mucositis induced by chemo/radiotherapy in patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma
The treatment patients gargled three times a day after each meal. Patients were monitored from the first day of chemotherapy or radiotherapy until the emergence of grade 3 oral mucositis or when the patients finished the entire course of radiotherapy using the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE), version 3.0. Oral mucositis and pain were measured according to guidelines.
Randomized, parallel-group clinical trial
Kangfuxin solution reduced the incidence of all levels of mucositis, especially high-grade mucositis, to improve patients' tolerance to radiation, ensuring the continuity of radiotherapy. So, it demonstrated its superiority to compound borax gargle on mucositis induced by chemo/radiotherapy.
Kangfuxin solution effectively prevented chemo/radiotherapy-induced oral mucositis, reduced the incidence of upper gastrointestinal inflammation, and decreased the severity of oral pain compared with compound borax gargle. It improves the quality of life in patients. Additional research to confirm the effects is warranted.
Mutluay Yayla, E., Izgu, N., Ozdemir, L., Aslan Erdem, S., & Kartal, M. (2016). Sage tea-thyme-peppermint hydrosol oral rinse reduces chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis: A randomized controlled pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 27, 58–64.
To see the preventive effect of a sage tea–thyme–peppermint hydrosol oral rinse used in combination with oral care
This study aimed at discovering the preventive effect of sage tea–thyme–peppermint hydrosol oral rinse four times a day in addition to oral care (saline rinse and teeth brushing) in patients receiving chemotherapy regimens using 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). The study collected data through a patient questionnaire, the World Health Organization (WHO) Oral Toxicity Scale, oral cavity photos, and compliance checklists. The study completed assessments at 5 and 14 days after the completion of chemotherapy.
PHASE OF CARE: Active antitumor treatment
Patients receiving bolus or infusion of 5-FU chemotherapy were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group.
Measurement tools used included a patient questionnaire, the WHO Oral Toxicity Scale, oral cavity photos, and compliance checklists (self-reported by the patients).
Using kappa analysis, the kappa coefficient on day 5 was 0.98 and on day 14 was 0.85 in the intervention group. Oral mucositis in the invention group occurred in 30% of patients compared to 60% of patients in the intervention group. Grade 1 mucositis was statistically lower in the intervention group (10%) versus the control group (53.3%) on day 5 (p < 0.001). Grade 2 mucositis occurred more in the intervention group (20%) versus the control group (6.7%); on day 5, there was no statistical significance. On day 14, 93% of patients in the intervention group did not have mucositis and 96% in the control group did not have mucositis. No grade 3 or 4 mucositis occurred during this study.
Oral mucositis occurred in only 30% of the intervention group compared to 60% of the control group. The sage tea–thyme–peppermint hydrosol rinses are cost-effective, well tolerated, safe, and noninvasive. This intervention may be effective, but more randomized, controlled clinical trials of different types of treatment, as well as larger sample sizes, are needed.
This intervention is a low-cost, effective, and well tolerated intervention. One downside is that this hydrosol needs refrigerated, and the solution needs to be analyzed in the pharmacy for consistency. Nurses need to educate patients and reinforce the importance of oral hygiene and adherence to the schedule of oral rinsing with this solution four times a day. This intervention may be effective but needs more research and data to show its effectiveness.