The world’s ancient systems of healing have prevailed despite the saturation of modern conventional medicine for one reason… they work. And because of this, they have been incorporated into the everyday lives, spiritual philosophies, health habits, and cultural customs of billions of people on the planet. Perhaps in no other healing tradition is this more evident than in the ancient practice of Ayurveda.
Let’s explore what Ayurveda has to say about the very modern dis-ease of cancer and look at the Ayurvedic treatment for cancer.
Ayurveda’s Herbs Are Already Being Studied
A quick look through the National Institutes of Health research database reveals studies investigating the most common Ayurvedic herbs. They tell the tale. To date there have been close to 500 studies conducted on cumin, 650 on fennel, and 2,500 on ginger.
Interestingly, there have been just under 10,000 research studies done on turmeric and curcumin − including 3,500 studies on how turmeric alone, as well as in combination with other herbs, can help fight cancer.
Most health-conscious individuals are aware of the healing power of these Ayurvedic spices and may even be aware of some of the other principles around Ayurveda. However, few grasp how these individual modalities are part of a cohesive and complex system of medicine that has been in existence for over 5,000 years.
The Basic Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine
The term Ayurveda translates to “the science of life.” Thus, Ayurveda does not just deal with the treatment of the physical body. It also focuses on balancing and harmonizing all aspects of a person’s mind, body, and spirit as well as that of society as a whole.
In Ayurveda, a person is seen as being made up of five primary natural elements: ether (or space), fire, water, air, and earth. These elements manifest and combine in the body in certain physiological ways. How these elements express themselves are called Doshas − Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Dosha-balancing is at the very heart of the Ayurvedic healing system.
In basic terms, each Dosha is responsible for specific functions in the body. Vata, for example, is associated with the air and ether. It is responsible for movement − including circulation, respiration, elimination, and nerve impulses. Pitta is said to be associated with water and fire and is responsible for metabolism, including cellular metabolism.
Finally, the Kapha Dosha is governed by water and earth. It is responsible for growth and protection, including the protection of the cerebral and spinal fluid and the mucosal lining of the stomach. It is also responsible for the growth of new tissue.
Each individual is unique within the Ayurvedic model, and thus each person expresses the Doshas differently. On your own or through a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, you can discover your own Dosha Type.
How Ayurveda Sees Cancer
In Ayurveda, any imbalance in the body system is caused by the overexpression or underexpression of one or more of the Doshas. Hence, all disease begins with them. Dosha imbalance can lead to dis-ease according to the following basic stages:
- Accumulation − where one or more of the Doshas has increased
- Aggravation − as levels increase for one Dosha, this causes the remaining Doshas to become imbalanced
- Overflow − the accumulated Dosha spreads into the body carrying Aama, or toxic waste products
- Localization − the Dosha settles at a weak site in the body
- Manifestation − i.e. symptoms
- Disease − this would be the point where a conventional doctor would make a diagnosis of dis-ease, such as a particular kind of cancer
One major indication of health and vitality, according to Ayurveda, is the ability of the body to adapt to changing environments and external stimuli. When the body is not able to adapt, this disrupts communication between body functions. The process of communication disruption can also be aggravated by Aama.
Aama is the accumulation of toxins in the form of non-digested matter in the circulatory system which eventually becomes deposited in tissues and cells.
According to information from the European Institute of Vedic Studies (EIVS), the concept of balanced Doshas can be equated to the modern concept of homeostasis. In Ayurveda, Dosha balance means that all body systems, functions, and communications both within the body and between the body and the external environment are operating smoothly. Ayurveda acknowledges that cancer cells are always present in the body, but when the body is in a state of Dosha balance (or homeostasis), this is not a problem.
Dr. Virender Sodhi (MD, ND) of the Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Medical Clinic in Washington State says,
According to Ayurveda, unbalanced physiology (Doshas) leads to faulty inherent intelligence leading to malfunctioning of genes and gene behavior leading to diseases like cancer.
We all make cancer cells every day but our immune system is very sharp and not only recognizes the bad faulty cells but also sends its own army to destroy it. That is why the balance of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health is a very important part of healing.”
In Ayurvedic Medicine, Prevention is Key
Of course, the concept of prevention is not strictly relegated to Ayurveda. Changing your lifestyle to include more live foods, vegetables, and organic, grass-fed meats while reducing processed foods is part of it. In addition, reducing stress, getting adequate amounts of sleep and exercise, reducing your toxic burden, and fortifying the body with quality supplements are all good practices for health and vitality no matter who you are.
These days, more people are learning about ancient systems such as Ayurveda in order to provide an overall game plan for preventing cancer. They are doing this not only for their physical health, but for a quality life in general. Today all over the world, millions of people practice daily stretching, meditation & prayer, and take healing herbs associated with Ayurveda every day.
6 Ayurvedic Medicine Modalities You May Have Never Heard Of
There may be some Ayurvedic modalities you may not be as familiar with, however:
Abhyanga means massage and is a key part of Ayurvedic therapy. It usually involves oils prepared with specialized Ayurvedic herbs and essential oils for lymph drainage, detox, and relaxation.
Shirodhara is a kind of massage that is done by gently pouring warm herbalized oil over the forehead. Shirodhara is said to synchronize brain waves patterns and help to coordinate and calm the body as well the mind. For those who wish to prevent breast cancer, Stanya Shodhana massage uses castor, coconut, olive, or other herbalized or non-herbalized oils to gently massage the breast area. This is for detoxification and to help immobilize accumulated toxins in the mammary glands.
Swedana is an herbalized steam bath. In this procedure, the head and heart are kept cool while gentle hyperthermia is applied to the rest of the body. This procedure is said to remove both physical and emotional toxins lodged deep within the tissues.
This is dry lymphatic skin brushing. This procedure helps increase circulation and cleanses the pores of the skin.
Basti is an enema using Ayurvedic herbs in order to pull toxins out of the colon.
Panchakarma means “five treatments.” It is designed to use up to five of the above modalities (and others not mentioned) in order to engage all five senses for a deeply detoxifying experience for mind, body and soul. Panchakarma is individually tuned to each individual’s health needs. Check with an Ayurvedic center near you to see if they offer this service. Basti (enema) is usually performed at the end of a Panchakarma treatment in order to get rid of loosened impurities. It is also used to introduce Ayurvedic medicines into the blood and tissues in the most effective way possible.
Ayurveda offers a rich body of information and practices for the health of the body, mind and spirit − indeed, this article barely scratched the surface of that knowledge. Ayurvedic treatment for cancer is an excellent adjunct to any healing journey and its contribution to what we now call the modern science of “natural healing” is beyond compare.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2016. It has been updated and republished in November 2019.
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