Today diseases like cancer, HIV-AIDS, hematological, and autoimmune disorders are increasing. They are very complicated as the complexity is at every level of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and gene expression.
So treating such diseases is a big challenge. Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, MDT, hormone therapy, blood transfusion, etc., are being tried to cure such diseases—but with limited success (like in cancer, with all conventional therapeutics, overall 2.4% survival for five years after diagnosis) due to various factors like resistance, difficulty in targeting the specific disease area and additionally, toxicity of the drugs, ablative surgery, radiation damage and chemotherapy hazards.
The word ‘cancer‘ may be new to the field of Ayurveda, but ancient Ayurvedic classics do mention the clinical features resembling cancer with the titles of Apachi, Gulma, Granthi, and Arbuda. The disease was prevalent even during the Vedic period. The story of Acceptance of Matsyagandha reveals that the King Shantanu was afflicted with a type of cancer (Pundrika Arbuda). Arbuda is a Vedic numerical term meaning innumerable numbers. This has been true when one notices development as well as the destruction of innumerable cells in Arbuda (cancer) patients.
Keeping this truth in mind, it can be stated that Ayurveda can be helpful in the management of cancer in many ways—prophylactic, palliative, curative, and supportive—and no doubt it helps to improve the quality of life (QOL) as follows:
- As adjuvant or co-therapy along with chemotherapy or radiotherapy and post surgery care to minimize the side effects of these therapies.
- To slow the progress of cancer when chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery is contra-indicated due to many reasons and patients have no other choice with anti-tumor action with the help of herbal/herbo-mineral compounds.
- Cell protective activity of drugs prescribed in Rasayana therapy: to improve comfort and the quality of life for individuals with cancer.
Anti-Tumor Herbal Drugs
In the US, the Cancer Chemotherapy National Service Centre (CCNSC) has screened thousands of plant extracts against standard tumor systems consisting of solid tumors and leukemias.
At the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) in Mumbai, India, more than 600 species of indigenous (drugs) plants have been screened using standard transplantable tumors. Eight plants have exhibited meaningful anti-cancer properties. In 1964, the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) at Lucknow started a program for the screening of plant extract for a wide range of biological activities. CDRI has found out about 70 plants whose anti-cancer activity has been confirmed. Certain common drugs in Ayurveda like Ginger (Ardraka), Tagara, Sariva, Bala, Saptaparna, Shallaki have been reported for their specific anti-tumor activities by various researchers.
Cell Protective Activity
There are many herbs which can protect cells from various toxic effects. For example, regular blood transfusions at regular intervals develop chronic iron overload in the body, which ultimately produces many hazardous effects like cirrhosis of the liver, cardiac problems etc. in the body. Certain poly-herbal drugs can also be useful for cell protection against the detrimental effects of RT-CT.
Drugs and Herbs of Ayurveda in Treatment of Cancer
Every plant contains thousands of various alkaloids, steroids, flavonoids, terpenoids and other molecules with bioactivity. Ayurveda preparations may consist of many different plants. The presence of such a wide variety of ligands suggests that the preparation may be acting on a wide variety of tissues through a number of different mechanisms. So it is always advisable to prescribe the drug as a whole instead of a specific derivative.
Here is a list of some important poly-herbal, herbo-mineral compounds which have been proven very useful in different types and stages of cancer: Drugs and herbs of Ayurveda.
Adding Life to the Years
Alternative cancer treatments can be of great benefit to patients struggling with cancer. Ayurveda for cancer typically takes into account the patient’s physical constitution when determining the dietary and lifestyle changes that can help treat the patient’s cancer. Ayurveda helps to support the patient’s overall state of health and can help support antioxidant activity within the body. Ayurveda often proposes cancer treatments that generally focus on dietary changes, herbal remedies, and lifestyle changes, like meditation, to support good health.
In nutshell, it can be concluded with a word that Ayurveda can be very useful both ways—to add years to life, and to add life to years. To combat cancer, combining traditional healthcare knowledge with conventional systems will make a complete health care setup under one roof. With sincere efforts and with a multidisciplinary approach of devoted Ayurveda physicians, Oncologists, surgeons, Pharmacologists, experimental biologists, an appropriate solution may be found out for the dreaded disease.