To evaluate the feasibility of a novel program facilitating patient-provider communication about appropriate use of herbal medicine at a large academic cancer center and its impact on patient wellbeing.
In the Herbal Oncology Program (HOP), integrative medicine providers counseled patients about unmet symptom needs and prescribed traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbs when indicated, taking into consideration the clinical context, patient preference, and research evidence. To evaluate the feasibility and outcomes, we performed a retrospective analysis using medical record data (symptoms and other concerns that motivated patients to seek herbal products, types and numbers of dispensed TCM herbs, and demographic characteristics). We also conducted a survey to assess patient experience and satisfaction.
All 851 participants were outpatients, with 712 (84%) in active treatment. HOP dispensed 1266 herbal prescriptions for a range of symptoms, most commonly GI symptoms (467, 37%); pain (353, 28%); and treatment-related fatigue, sleep, and mood disorders (346, 27%). Of 269 patients invited to the survey, 107 (40%) completed it. A majority of respondents 70.9% (73/103) were satisfied with the effectiveness of dispensed herbs in relieving their symptoms, and few 6.7% (7/104) had experienced mild adverse events that resolved after discontinuing herbal use.
The study’s findings support the feasibility of integrating herbal medicine into an academic oncology setting. Patient satisfaction with HOP was high, with limited adverse events. The patterns of herbal prescriptions in HOP suggest future areas for clinical research to strengthen the evidence base around safe and effective use.

© 2023. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.