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Ayurveda and Cancer

A holistic view

cncrBy Dr. Satish Kulkarni

Cancer is not a single specific disease according to ayurved. It is a group of chronic disorders related to long term unattended disturbance affecting various dhatu (body tissues) and dosha (basic body constituents). Cancer could manifest as a tumor or as a non healing ulcer. The ayurvedic synonym for tumour is arbuda or granthi and that for a non healing ulcer is dushta vrana.

Along with these manifestations, we can see additional symptoms such as weight loss, weakness, chronic fever and a few other disturbances in dhatu which ayurved describes as thetiryak gati of dosha. This means that the dosha have been displaced from their original setting and are now creating disturbances in dhatu which are manifested in terms of the symptoms mentioned above.

Ayurvedic diagnosis is different for different patients diagnosed to have the same type of cancer by allopathic physicians. It changes according to the prakruti (constitution) of the patient. For example, the arbuda (tumor) of a kafa prakruti patient is different from that of a pitta prakrutipatient. The same goes for dushta vrana. A dushta vrana of a vaat prakruti patient is different from that of a kafa or pitta prakruti patient. Thus diagnosis and treatment both change according to the prakruti of the patient.

The assessment of dosha, dhatu, agni (body fire) and ojus (subtle principle which reflects vitality, strength, etc.) are important for establishing ayurvedic diagnosis as well as treatment.

In ancient times, modern tests like pathological investigations, X rays, scans, etc. were not known and available. However, today, we can use these tests for ayurvedic diagnosis and management of the patient as well.

Cancer simply defined

Ayurved emphasizes prevention of the disease and thus on appropriate ahara (proper food),vihara (healthy life style) and vichara (positive thoughts and emotions.) However, if the disease starts, treatment is based on shodhan (detoxification and purification of dosha and dhatu),shaman (pacification and rebalancing of the disturbed dosha and spoilt dhatu) and rasayana(rejuvenation.) For shodhan, ayurved suggests methods like snehan (oiling of the body internally and/or externally) and swedan (induced sweating.)

Although there is no certain treatment for cancer in ayurved, it can help in restoring the normal functioning of organs and enable the body to fight disease to a certain extent. It does not have specific medicines to kill cancer cells, but works more as a supplemental therapy towards overall management of the disease. Some ayurvedic physicians claim having achieved positive results in treatment with heerak bhasma (a medicine prepared from diamonds.)

Ayurved also helps in reducing body reactions to chemotherapy and radio therapy to a certain extent. Praval pishti, a preparation made from sea coral has a cooling effect and thus reduces the intensity of reactions to these procedures. It is better to consult an ayurvedic physician for this treatment, because it changes from patient to patient.

Complaints like nausea, vomiting, etc. can also be effectively controlled by some ayurvedic combinations like shredded ginger, lemon juice and honey. A mixture prepared from equal parts of these ingredients taken before food usually helps to reduce nausea and vomiting.

Nutritional supplements with natural vitamins and minerals (available in fresh fruits and vegetables), a light and easy-to-digest diet, fresh air, positive thoughts and support from family members all add to the results of ayurvedic therapy. Ayurvedic tonics like shatavari kalpa (in which asparagus racemosus is the chief ingredient), badam pak (in which almond is the chief ingredient) and chyavan prash (in which amla i.e. emblica officinalis is the chief ingredient) also help in coping with the disease.
Learn More About Ayurveda and the terms used here.

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