on angiogenesis

Categories: Articles, Western Medicine

A few months ago I came across a TED Talk given by Dr William Li, of the Angiogenesis Foundation. He talks about a “diet to starve cancer” by blocking angiogenesis.

Well, what exactly is angiogenesis? Simply put, it is the creation of new blood vessels within the body. This can be a good thing in the case of deep wounds, strokes, or arterial damage; when it goes wrong we see inflammatory conditions like endometriosis, arthritis, psoriasis, pulmonary fibrosis, even cancer and Alzheimer’s. Anti-angiogenic substances block the formation of blood vessels to abnormal tissues so that they die off and are digested by the body. Read on here for more information.

After watching this video, I started to follow the Foundation on Twitter. They regularly post new research on both foods and medicines that are antiangiogenic. I’ve been fascinated by the correlations between their findings and what I have learned so far about Chinese herbal therapy.

One of the most-researched substances right now is curcumin, the active constituent in turmeric. It treats heart disease, kills esophageal cancer cells, helps the body fight tuberculosis, dissolves endometriosis, reduces inflammation in arthritis

Of course, turmeric has a long history of treating these conditions, both in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. The three forms used in Chinese medicine- jiang huang, yu jin, and e zhu- are specifically indicated for “accumulations” such as tumors, cysts, abnormal uterine tissue growth and for “static blood” causing pain and obstruction in the heart and chest (Bensky 609-13, 631-2).

Another recent study appears to show that cinnamon extract mediated blood vessel formation to tumors. Cinnamon twig, one of the first medicinals we learned in Herbs 1, is traditionally used to remove obstruction from the network vessels (Bensky 9).

Seaweed, used both as food and medicine, has been used for centuries to treat “phlegm nodules” such as scrofula and goiter. It also appears to prevent the growth of lymphoma.

In the TED talk I mentioned earlier, Dr Li shared a list of foods that are antiangiogenic, among them blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, red grapes, dark chocolate, cherries, and kale. These foods are all traditionally used in Chinese dietary therapy to “strengthen and invigorate” the qi and blood.

Keeping up with research like this is a truly valuable way to maintain our credibility as practitioners. Being able to talk about the antiangiogenic properties of turmeric with a straight face doesn’t just make you seem smart; it provides us with the knowledge that our medicine is valid and real and not just a placebo effect.

A friend of mine recently told me that she has adopted an antiangiogenic diet because breast cancer runs in her family. In a time when carcinogenic factors can be found in our water, soil, and air, carefully choosing what we put into our bodies may be the best defence.


Bensky, Dan et al. Materia Medica. 3rd ed. Seattle: Eastland Press, 2004.

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