Cancer treatment often involves a unique combination of drugs, radiation and other medical therapies designed to not only rid the body of cancer, but also to treat other underlying symptoms and illnesses. These are the conventional treatments designed to keep cancer in check, prevent it from spreading and, hopefully, push it into remission.

Some patients also employ other therapies in their treatment programs, though it’s important for patients to consult their physicians about the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine treatments before making any changes to their treatment regimens.

What are complementary and alternative medicine treatments?

Complementary medicine refers to treatments that are used in conjunction with standard medical treatments. These may include massage or acupuncture, each of which may help cancer patients deal with the side effects of their treatments.
Alternative medicine is the treatment that is used instead of standard medical treatments.

Integrative medicine involves a total approach to care that will combine standard medical treatment with CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) practices that can be safe and effective.

Individuals interested in CAM therapies should discuss their options with their oncologists and other healthcare providers. says the following therapies can be helpful in alleviating a wide range of symptoms.

  • Mind/body practices: Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can improve physical strength and flexibility and mitigate stress and pain. These practices also may improve mood and reduce risk for depression.
  • Massage: Research indicates that massage therapy can ease anxiety and depression, help with sleeping issues and reduce pain and tension.
  • Acupuncture: This form of therapy has been used for decades to stimulate key pressure points on the body. Acupuncture may release beta-endorphin and serotonin in the brain to relieve pain. It may help alleviate chemotherapy-related nausea as well as many other symptoms.
  • Exercise: Physical activity may help people with cancer live longer, build strength and endurance and cope with stress.
    Doctors are unsure of the safety or efficacy of certain CAM treatments, such as herbal remedies. Patients should always speak with their physicians about their options before beginning a therapy, as certain alternative practices may interfere with standard treatment.

Medical Cannabis – A Historical Look Back

By Serina Marshall

These days, when people hear the word “cannabis”, they automatically think of an illegal activity. However, cannabis is not a new trend on the scene. And it also isn’t used solely for the above-mentioned example.

Throughout history, the cannabis plant has been used for medicinal purposes to improve various ailments and pains. To understand the historical significance of this particular controversial herb, we must go back many centuries to understand where it all began and how we ended up here.

Man has used cannabis as a medicine for over 4000 years. It has been utilized for many different reasons in many different civilizations across the world. In China c. 2900 BC, cannabis mixed with wine was used as an anesthetic to relieve symptoms of gout, rheumatism, and malaria. Egypt used the plant for childbirth pain, glaucoma, and hemorrhoids c. 1000 BC. Childbirth pain, insomnia, headaches, dysentery, and gut ailments were treated with cannabis in India c. 600 BC. And in Medieval Islamic civilization c. 900 AD, diuretic, antiemetic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic were treated with, you guessed it, cannabis. The reality is, history proves the establishment and success of cannabis, well before our own civilization was a thought.

In the 19th century, many medical physicians in the West recognized cannabis as a medicine. Circa 1830, Dr. William O’Shaughnessy conducted clinical trials using cannabis for dysentery, rheumatism, seizures in infants, and spasticity in tetanus and rabies. In 1799 Napoleon brought cannabis to France from Egypt. Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau c. 1840, wrote of cannabis use to suppress headaches, improve appetites and improve sleep. Another doctor, Dr. E.A. Birch (c. 1889), reported his success in treating opioid addiction with cannabis. Cannabis and its healing properties were used as various treatments for varying diseases well before modern medicine took the reins. These discoveries were made long before modern doctors or activists came across their healing properties.

The pharmacopeia of the United States saw the arrival of cannabis in 1850. The extract of cannabis was a common type of medicine, before it was actually outlawed in 1937 by the American Medical Association. In the early 20th century, prohibition became a progressive soap box for those who wanted to control the flow of alcohol, as well as drugs. Cannabis at this point was beginning to be seen as such. The Federal Income Tax in 1903 had to be passed by the progressives of that era in order to pass the 18th amendment in 1919 to reach the goal of prohibiting alcohol. Ultimately, the prohibition of alcohol failed in just thirteen years, but the idea that the government should control drugs, succeeded.

Harry Anslinger became the leader of the Bureau of Alcohol, followed by the Bureau of Narcotics. Anslinger was a notorious racist who criminalized cannabis, and blamed the satanic rise of the herb on Negroes, Mexicans, Filipinos and entertainers. Not only did he support the victimization of African Americans and spread discrimination, he also spread anti-drug campaigns. He also sponsored prohibition laws in the United States and United Nations General Conventions. After Anslinger, Richard Nixon picked up where he left off by speaking out strongly against marijuana. Nixon also used strong discriminatory stances just as Anslinger did with his campaigns, this time, saying those that are legalizing marijuana are Jewish. Richard Nixon forced cannabis to a Schedule I status, even though his own independent commission advised him not to.

“Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants” was a patent presented on October 7th, 2003, owned by Health and Human Services to prove that cannabis was indeed a medicine. The inventors of this patent were Aidan J. Hampson of Irvine, CA., Julius Axelrod of Rockville, MD., and Maurizio Grimaldi of Bethesda, MD. This patent helped to introduce the research needed to present cannabis as a medicinal purpose. A poll by MTSU in 2018, confirmed the support for medicinal use. It showed 81% of Tennesseans support medical cannabis by a 4 to 1 margin. 44% supported medical use, 37% supported unlimited use, while only 16% opposed all usage.

According to the epidemiology of conditions in Tennesseans, North Carolinians, and Virginians, a large number may benefit from cannabinoid medicines.

The American Cancer Society, 2020., states that there are 39,360 new cases of those that suffer from cancer. The CDC 2018., says that 1,990,380 Tennesseans have arthritis, 193,584 of those with severe arthritis. 120,000 Tennesseans suffer from Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the CDC estimates 63,900 adults and 10,000 children have epilepsy.

In North Carolina, the estimated new cases of cancer according to The American Cancer Society in 2020 is 59,620. According to America’s Health Rankings, North Carolina is the least healthy when it comes to arthritis, at 47.3%. The Alzheimer’s Association, 2020., says that nearly 180,000 North Carolinians will suffer from Alzheimer’s in 2020 and nearly 210,000 by 2025. And the CDC estimates that 94,900 adults and 15,200 children suffer from epilepsy.
Virginia’s statistics follow those of Tennessee and North Carolina. The estimated number for cancer patients in Virginia according to The American Cancer Society is 47,550 new cases in 2020. The CDC says that over 1,513,000 Virginians suffer from arthritis. An estimated 150,000 Virginians suffer from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and that number is expected to rise to 190,000 by 2025, and the CDC reports that an estimated 11,000 children and 73,800 adults live with epilepsy.

Due to the statistics listed above, it would seem that a large number of patients would benefit from the use of cannabis treatment.

Despite the obvious advantages to using cannabis within the medical realm, there are still many oppositions to the use of the plant at all. One objection claims that marijuana is dangerous. The truth is, all medicines can be dangerous. Cannabis is far safer than most OTC medicines approved by the FDA.

Another objection says we need more research. However, research has been outlawed by progressive policies. “Medical use leads to recreational use” is another concern. All medicines can be abused. Yet, it is always immoral to prohibit a medicine. Another objection is the fact that we already have medical marijuana. Marinol and Epidiolex are not competitive products and are rejected by patients who have options in free markets. The worry that children will gain access always has been a concern. An illegal market is the real risk with no restrictions on inappropriate access. And finally, the Gateway Theory, stating that if you smoke marijuana you will end up partaking in harder drugs, has already been proven many times over to be false.

A patient with epilepsy suffers every day with the unknowing onset of seizures at any minute. Currently, there is a Tennessee law that allows patients with epilepsy to possess CBD oil. The problem is, it provides no legal means for acquisition, making these vulnerable patients look like criminals. A patient with epilepsy may possess CBD oil with less than .9% THC if they have a diagnosis from a Tennessee doctor. These doctors can recommend, but cannot actually “prescribe” the medicine to the patient. Also, there is currently no provision to legally acquire or produce the CBD oil and it is a violation of Federal law to cross state lines.

Another addition to diseases that could be assisted by cannabis treatment, is schizophrenia patients. The National Institute of Mental Health states that across certain studies that use household-based survey samples, clinical diagnostic interviews, and medical records, the prevalence estimation of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders in the U.S. range between 0.25% and 0.64%.

The usage of cannabis has been present in the medical industry for thousands of years. This plant is not just used for illegal and recreational activities. It is a very important part of historical and modern-day medicine to help a series of ailments and diseases. The fight to make this herb legal across the board has yet to be achieved. However, we are on a closer path that we have been in previous years and that gap seems to be closing further with every year and successful patient story.

Medicine helps billions of people across the globe stay healthy. Medicines are used to treat existing illnesses and reduce a patient’s risk of developing others. As effective as medicines can be, no two humans are the same, so medications that may help one person could prove harmful to another.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology notes that all medications can cause side effects, but only 5 to 10 percent of adverse reactions are due to allergies. Allergic reactions begin in the immune system, which controls how the human body defends itself. If a person is allergic to a certain type of medication, his or her immune system identifies the drug as an invader or allergen and it can respond in various ways. The AAAAI notes that the most common immune response to medication is a result of the expansion of T cells. These cells identify the drug as foreign and create a delayed immune response that most often affects the skin.

While allergic reactions to medications may not be very common, the AAAAI says that such reactions can be life-threatening. That highlights the importance of learning the signs of allergic reactions.

Symptoms of drug allergies
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology advises anyone who experiences these symptoms while taking medication to speak with their physicians, including an allergist, immediately:

  • Skin rash or hives
  • Itching
  • Wheezing or other breathing problems
  • Swelling
  • Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a rare but severe allergic reaction that can occur suddenly and quickly worsen. Symptoms of allergic reactions to medication are not often life-threatening, but anaphylaxis can be deadly. The ACAAI notes that anaphylaxis occurs when an over-release of chemicals forces a person to go into shock. Even people who have already administered epinephrine, the drug used to treat severe allergic reactions, should visit an emergency room immediately at the first sign of anaphylaxis, which may include trouble breathing, tightness of the throat, hoarse voice, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and dizziness. Rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, a feeling of doom, cardiac arrest, and fainting are some additional signs of anaphylaxis. According to the AAAAI, most anaphylactic reactions occur within one hour of taking a medication or receiving an injection of the medication. However, such reactions also can take place hours after a medication has been taken.

Antibiotics are the most common cause of anaphylaxis, but the AAAAI notes that recent research has shown that chemotherapy drugs and monoclonal antibodies also can induce anaphylaxis.

People take medicine to feel better, but sometimes their bodies and certain medications are not a match. As a result, people must be vigilant when taking medications for the first time, paying particular attention to how their bodies react. More information about allergic reactions to medication is available at

Pain is a significant concern for many people. Estimates from the International Association for the Study of Pain suggest that one in five adults across the globe suffer from pain.

Pain can affect anyone, even people who have not been in an accident or suffered an injury while playing a sport or performing another physical activity. For example, lower back pain, which can be caused by sitting at a desk for long stretches of time, is the most common type of chronic pain in the United States. Such pain may be unavoidable, but that does not mean it and other types of everyday aches and pains cannot be overcome.

  1. Begin a well-rounded exercise regimen.
    Regular exercise that includes both strength training and cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow and helps build a strong core. A strong core supports the spine and reduces the pressure on it, making it less likely people who sit for long stretches at a time will end their days with lower back pain. Routine exercise also helps other areas of the body by keeping muscles loose and flexible. Before beginning a new exercise regimen, men and women, especially those with existing aches and pains, should consult their physicians about which exercises they should do and which they might want to avoid.
  2. Employ RICE.
    RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, can help men and women overcome the aches and pains that result as the body ages and tendons begin to lose some of their elasticity. RICE might be most helpful for people who have been diagnosed with tendinitis. Athletes over 40 who engage in activities that require repetitive motion might need to take more days off between rounds of golf or other competitive and/or repetitive activities. If tendinitis flares up, take some time away, icing any sore areas, wrapping them in bandages, and elevating them while resting. Athletes rarely want to sit on the sidelines, but a few days off can go a long way toward alleviating the pain associated with tendinitis.
  3. Recognize your body may develop some limitations.
    Age should not prevent you from being physically active, and numerous studies have touted the benefits of continuing to exercise into your golden years. However, as the body ages, muscle fibers become less dense, resulting in a loss of flexibility that increases the risk of injury and/or soreness. As men and women grow older, they shouldn’t abandon activities like gardening or strength training. But they may need to scale back on the intensity with which they perform such activities. Doing so can prevent the kinds of muscle strains associated with aging.

Pain affects more than one billion people across the globe. But some simple strategies can help people overcome pain and enjoy a rich quality of life.

Nutritious diets have long been touted as essential components of healthy lifestyles. Many people have a tendency to view diet as something that’s purely physical, associating the foods they eat with how they look and how much energy they have. While accurate, it doesn’t paint the full picture of just how big and positive an impact healthy diets can have on overall health.

In regard to healthy diets, it’s hard to dispute the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods and, as a result, includes lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and olive oil. The diet is so healthy that the World Health Organization even recognizes it as a healthy, sustainable dietary pattern. Long touted for its ability to promote heart health and reduce risk for heart disease, which the WHO notes is the number one cause of death across the globe, the Mediterranean diet has also been found to protect against cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Each of those benefits makes the Mediterranean diet worthy of consideration at the very least, but the benefits of this approach to eating don’t stop there. In fact, people unfamiliar with the Mediterranean diet, or even those who subscribe to it, may not realize that the diet can have a positive effect on mental wellness.

A 2015 study published in the scientific journal Ageing Research Reviews found that strong adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 40 percent reduced risk for cognitive impairment. Another study from researchers in Spain found that older adults who supplemented their Mediterranean diets with extra olive oil or nuts had superior cognitive function, including better memory and thinking skills, than those who ate low-fat diets. Reasoning, attention and language were better among the former group as well.

In addition to improving cognitive function, the Mediterranean diet also may improve mental wellness by reducing adherents’ risk of developing depression. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging found that people who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely were nearly 99 percent less likely to develop depression that those who followed the diet the least closely.

While diet is often thought of in physical terms, the Mediterranean diet can benefit mental wellness while also helping people maintain healthy weights.

Addiction to opiates is a growing problem in the United States and Canada. Pain relief therapies, such as massage therapy, can be viable alternatives to the prescription pain medicines that often serve as a gateway to illegal drugs such as heroin.

Addiction to prescription painkillers is common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 4.7 million people in the United States are dependent on painkillers, the sale of which has increased by more than 300 percent since 1999. Retail pharmacies across Canada dispensed 19 million prescriptions for opioids in 2016, which was up slightly from 18.9 million in 2015, according to the health data company QuintilesIMS. When prescriptions to oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl run out, many people turn to heroin as a less expensive and more readily available means of pain relief.

NIDA says that up to 7 percent of people who are prescribed opiate or analgesic pain killers will become addicted. To help reduce the overprescribing epidemic and keep people from becoming addicted to pain meds, people can look for other ways to alleviate pain.

Massage therapy is a viable option that can work wonders to improve flexibility and offer relief from pain in different parts of the body. In addition to alleviating pain, massage therapy can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety and improve quality of life.

Research indicates that massage therapy can reduce the incidence and frequency of back pain, headache and leg pain and can even reduce stress and tension. Massage therapy can be an asset to those with myalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and other conditions.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that massage therapy affects the activity of certain genes, which directly reduces inflammation in muscles — the same results that would occur if a person took pain medication. Researchers tested people who exercised and received massages afterward against a control group, discovering that “massage dampened the activity of proteins known as inflammatory cytokines, which cause inflammation and pain. It also increased levels of proteins that signal the muscles to produce more mitochondria, the cell structures that produce energy and help muscles recover from activity.”

A review published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice noted that moderate pressure massage can lead to decreased cortisol levels, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Massage may help stimulate serotonin products, improving mood and feelings of well-being. Also, according to AMTA, deeper massage stimulates blood circulation to improve the supply of oxygen and nutrients to body tissues while helping the lymphatic system to flush away waste products. It also eases tense and knotted muscles and stiff joints, improving mobility and flexibility.
Massage therapy can be a viable alternative for pain sufferers who are reluctant to take potentially addictive prescription pain medications.

Nurses wear many hats. In addition to tending to patients and helping families of patients, nurses incorporate the latest technologies into patients’ treatment. Some even work outside of hospitals and doctor’s offices to train the next generation of nurses.

Nursing has also branched out to include holistic nursing, which employs alternative medicine to care for patients. Alternative medicine is sometimes combined with traditional western medicine, requiring holistic nurses, who are sometimes referred to as “complementary health nurses,” understand both holistic and traditional nursing methods.
According to the Campaign for Nursing’s Future, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, holistic nursing is rooted in the idea that nurses cannot treat a patient’s physical health without addressing the whole person. In addition to addressing their patients’ physical problems, holistic nurses will also try to address their patients’ mental, spiritual and emotional well-being.

Holistic nursing is a growing field, and it’s entirely possible that the role of holistic nurses will expand in the years to come. Some of the things today’s holistic nurses do include:

  • acupuncture
  • assisting patients with managing stress
  • aromatherapy
  • massage
  • hypnosis, hydrotherapy and balneotherapy
  • Chinese and Eastern healing practices
  • wellness coaching

According to the American Holistic Nurses Association, holistic nursing is not intended to negate the validity of conventional medical therapies, such as traditional nursing. Holistic nursing serves to complement, broaden and enrich the scope of nursing practices while aiming to help patients access their greatest healing potential.
The AHNA notes that holistic nurses must be registered and/or licensed. Such nurses may be found working at hospitals, universities and private practices.

Men and women interested in pursuing a career in nursing can learn more about holistic nursing at