Ayurveda can Help Combat Big C

An integrative approach works best to manage side effects symptoms induced by chemotherapy and radiation.,

Published: 04th February 2016 05:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th February 2016 05:39 AM   |  A+A-


BENGALURU: Cancer is claiming more people every year, with no break to its morbidity and mortality.

Ayurveda has helped with neurological disorders (vata vyadhi), allergy, skin diseases and many more systems by its holistic approach and yet to shoulder the responsibilities of treating cancer. It is high time we looked at the integrative treatment including yoga, achara rasayana (Good health practices)

The oldest known description of human cancer is found in seven Egyptian papyri written between 3000-1500 BC. Ayurveda also describes arbuda (cancer) with its all aetiology to treatment.

Cancer is a malignant or uncontrolled growth of undifferentiated cells in the body. Normal cells are continually transforming into cancer cells in our bodies all the time, but our immune system, if it is working properly, is able to destroy these cancerous cells before they can divide and grow into palpable tumours.

The mechanism by which the immune system destroys cancer cells is fascinating. Very obviously, our bodies have sophisticated mechanisms for destroying cancerous cells, just as we have systems designed to destroy bacteria and viruses. Normally in the repair and reproduction of cells the lymphocytes serve to eliminate cancerous cells before they multiply and destroy.

This being the case, it would appear that cancer is the result of not only carcinogenic substances producing cancerous cells but also the failure of normal immune mechanisms to eliminate the cancerous cells. Cancer cells can exhibit amoeboid motion, which means that they can squeeze through the walls of blood vessels like an amoeba and travel to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis.

Cancer diagnosed by any system of medicine is referred to an oncologist for a full-fledged systemic treatment.

Chemotherapy is known as systemic treatment, where drugs used in this therapy attack the cancer cells by entering directly into the blood stream, It travels throughout the body and kills cancer cells at their sites. The drugs may rarely be intended to have a local effect, but in most cases, the intention is to destroy cancer cells wherever they may exist in the body.

In radiation, high-energy radiation is given to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA and which produces local and systemic side effects. So both chemotherapy and radiotherapy results in side effects irrespective of drugs and radiation used.

This article reviews the best integrative approach in the management of chemotherapy and radiation induced side effects.

The writer is  Research Officer

(Scientist - 2), National Ayurveda Dietetics Research Institute, (CCRAS),

Ministry of AYUSH, Govt of India.

Scope for Ayurveda

In Shotha chikitsa, Charaka describes granthi (tumor), galaganda, apachi (scrofula) etc. while Sushruta as well as Madhava both described arbuda and mentioned  similarity in the symptoms of their respective granthis and stated that granthi and arbuda are similar in site, etiology,  characters, doshas and dushya etc

Management of cancer in ayurveda

Pancha karma-Purification procedures

Vamana (emesis), mild virechana(purgation), vatahara basti ( medicated enemata) and raktamokshan (blood letting) are advocated according to doshic involment and other procedures such as siravyadha (venous section), upanaha (fomentation ) ,agni karma  ( cauterization) and shastra karma  (surgical procedure)

Dhatwagni chikitsa

(Correction of metabolic defects)

It can be corrected with pippali, ballataka, etc. and can be used wherever necessary 

Vyadhipratyanik chikitsa

(Anticancerous drugs)

Allium sativum (rason ), aloe vera(ghritkumari), alstonia scholaris(saptaparna), curcurna longa (haridra), heliotropium indicum (vrischikali), moringa oleifera (shigru), nigella sativa (Krishna jeeraka) ,ocimum sanctum(tulsi), taxus buccata(talisha patra ), withania somnifera (Ashwagandha).

Lakshanika chikitsa

(symptomatic treatment)

According to dosha specific line of treatment for arbuda mentioned. Internal administration of trivrit tail in vataj arbuda, yestimadhu grith in pittaj arbuda and karanj tail in medoj arbuda.

Shastra chikitsa

(Surgical treatment)

Ayurveda recommends surgery at a later stage when the disease does not respond to therapy.

Rasayana prayoga


It is used for maintaining the health of healthy and improves the resistance against a disease (naimittika rasayana)

Management of side  effects through Ayurveda

Before surgery

In India because of less awareness of the disease, it diagnosed only in the advance stages. This not only complicates the treatment but also reduces the chances of integrating treatment with ayurveda. Ayurvedic treatment can be planned with modern physician cooperation. Integrated hospitals are necessary for that.

After surgery/ before chemotherapy

Generally chemotherapy and radiation therapy begin within three weeks after surgery. Wisely, ayurvedic management can be administered as follows  

■ Mild shodhana can be recommended for the patient who can withstand the shodhana by giving Haritakyadi yoga which leads to mild shodhana and patient also can withstand the chemotherapy treatment.

■ Manasopachar - Patient can be convinced that interventions of ayurvedic medicines are also helpful to prevent and manage the side effects produced from radiation and chemotherapy.

■ Aharopchar can be planned systematically by using Samsarjana krama type of food, which can be digested.

During chemotherapy

Sore Mouth: Normal brushing by toothpaste may be painful, so use a cotton swab dipped in karanj(Pongamia pinnata) tail or Arimedatail (Acacia farnesiana) which clears the fungal infection like Monilia in the oral cavity. The same oil can be used for Kaval and Gandusha which heals the mucositis. Chewing of Yastimadhu (Glycerrhiza glabra) prevents the dryness of mouth and throat. Haridra, Vasa, Asana, and Arjun kashaya gandusha to avoid the poor oral hygiene and loss or change of taste.

Nausea and vomiting : At present use of shunti tea (zingiber officinale) is being practise during chemotherapy and radiation induced nausea and vomiting. Shunti rasa with honey is also very useful in lesser dose which prevents the nausea and vomiting and gives good appetite. Allium sativum - Rason (garlic) stimulates the intracellular enzymes which detoxify carcinogens.

Loss of appetite: Methodical administration of panchakarma samsarjana pathyadikrama(Peyadi) helps improve the appetite.

Constipation: Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Draksha (Vitis vinifera) churna at bedtime relives constipation and acts as a mild laxative without causing any side effects or dehydration.  

Diarrhoea: Aegle marmelos (Bilwa), Holarrhena antidysenterica (Kutaja), Cyperus rotundus (Musta), Emblica officinalis (Amla) and Plumbago zeylanica (Chitraka) can be used as anti - diarrhoeals. Takra basti would be choice of treatment if patient has repeated diarrhoea.  

Chemotherapy neutropenia: Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) can be used as an adjuvant during cancer chemotherapy for the prevention of bone marrow depression associated with anticancer drugs and other drugs.

Alopecia (hair loss):  Application of Abrus precatorius, gunja lepa on the scalp and also Karanja thaila to prevent the alopecia and also discoloration of the scalp. 

Fatigue/Anaemia: Amalaki swarasa in medicinal doses takes care of fatigue and also anaemia. Amalaki rasayana, aswagandha rasayana can be used.

Memory Changes/Insomnia: Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) and Tagar(valeriana wallachi) relieves the mental tension and leads to sound sleep.

Allergic and Dermatologic Reactions: Haridra/Turmeric (Curcuma domestic) powder in combination with Lodhra (Symplocos racemosa) is mixed with honey and this is used as an external remedy.

After chemotherapy

Ayurveda can help greatly with the restoration of health Rasayana -Rasayana is the process by which all the body tissues are nourished, by delivering nutrition (to tissues). It possesses nutritional, regenerative, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, adaptogenic cytoprotective and nootrpic anabolic properties.

Some of the best anti cancer rasayana s are: · Pippali Rasayana and Brahma Rasayana


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