With the world's largest cancer epidemic, China has been one of the most rapidly expanding markets for oncologic drugs for years. Now, an alternative approach is growing about twice as fast: traditional Chinese medicines.

Sales of traditional cancer treatments, often containing ingredients as unlikely as toad skin and turtle shell, surged 35 percent to almost 17 billion yuan ($2.7 billion) last year, market researcher Sinohealth Intelligence estimates.

China's overall cancer drug market of 65 billion yuan grows at a compounded annual rate of 17 percent, estimated Citigroup analyst Richard Yeh.