Cancer Care
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Chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy are highly toxic, and both harm adjacent healthy cells. Some critical side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mucositis, alopecia, constipation, digestion, fatigue, or weight loss. According to ancient Vedic literature and contemporary scientific evidence, Ayurveda based interventions might help alleviate the side effects. Many Ayurvedic remedies and treatments are readily available and safe. 

How does Ayurveda view treatment of Cancer?

Ayurveda is an ancient system of traditional medicine practiced in India since 5000 BC. In Ayurveda, cancer appears to be a manifestation of aggravated Pitta dosha that includes a group of disorders related to Raktapitta (hemorrhage) and Raktadushti (vascular inflammation). Aggravated  Doshas are responsible for different stages of carcinogenesis that cause impaired immunity, aberrant cell growth and ultimately cancer. Furthermore, different theories suggest that interaction between vitiated doshas and weak dhatus (body fluids) ) manifests as cancers of a specific organ.  Ayurvedic approach for treating cancer is divided into four categories:

1.Prakritisthapani chikitsa: Maintenance of health

2.Rasayana chikitsa: Prevention of recurrence of disease and restoration of function

3.Roganashani chikitsa: Cure of disease

4.Naishthiki chikitsa: Spiritual therapy

All of the categories can be achieved by Vyadhiharam (removal of causative factors), pathyam (diet), aushadham (drugs) with the help of a physician and attendant.  All these therapies focus on maintaining the good health of the patient while treating the medical condition with mind-body therapies to help restore the normal function of the body.

Ayurvedic treatment for cancer helps the patient by improving the quality of life through rejuvenation. Ayurvedic formulations are also helpful as an adjuvant or a co-therapy along with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.  In addition, Ayurvedic treatment can help minimize side effects after chemotherapy treatment. Therapies such as Panchakarma and Shirodhara have shown evidence to help cancer survivors deal with side effects.

According to ancient Vedic literature and contemporary scientific evidence, Ayurveda based interventions might help alleviate the side effects. Many Ayurvedic remedies and treatments are generally available and safe. These easy Ayurveda based solutions may function as an important adjuvant to chemo-radiotherapy and increase the quality of life of cancer patients. The time-tested practice of Ayurveda provides an integrative therapy strategy into the practice of modern medicine. This combination offers not only therapeutic benefits but also makes sure that the patient saves money and time. 

See: Panchakarma

Common Ayurvedic herbs for cancer care

What are some of the common herbs and medicines in Ayurvedic Therapy for Cancer Care?  

Ayurvedic herbs and plant extract have scientifically proven to prevent radiation-induced side effects such as; body and organ weight loss, reduced quality of life and mortality.

Herbal medicine focuses on the whole health of the person including diet and lifestyle changes rather than treating only illness. Other medicinal treatments for cancer therapy include Chinese herbal medications like acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal remedies, traditional breathing, and movement exercises.

Some of the plant extracts that have been approved for possible cancer treatment include: 

Taxotere, vincristine, vinblastine, topotecan, taxol, etoposide, teniposide navelbine, and irinotecan. 

In addition, other plant derivatives that are under clinical trials include monocrotaline, curcumol, curdione, lycobetaine, and indirubin. Research also shows that more than 20-25% of anti-cancer drugs available are from plant extracts.

Commonly used herbs and medicine for treating cancer in Ayurveda therapy include Narasimha Rasayana, Amritaprasham, Ashwagandha Rasayana, Chyavanaprasha, Brahma Rasayana, and Triphala. There are also a wide variety of Ayurvedic plants that are known to possess the anti-cancer property that include Allium sativum, Cannabis sativa, Annona muricata, Bolbostemma paniculatum, Nervilia fordii, Gossypium hirsutum, Hypericum perforatum, Picrorrhiza kurroa, Camellia sinensis, Curcuma longa, Withania somnifera, and berberine. Some other selected examples of the plants possessing anti-cancer properties include Daphne mezereum, Oroxylum indicum, Rubia cordifolia, Nigella sativa, Picrorrhiza kurroa and many more.

See: Ayurvedic herbs for detoxification

Ayurvedic home remedies for relief after chemo

Are there any Ayurvedic home remedies to help find relief after Chemo? 

 

Ayurvedic therapies help in healing by reducing side effects and cancer-associated complications that come after and during chemotherapy treatment. Following a healthy diet can delay cancer progression or acceleration by protecting healthy cells. Recommended Ayurvedic foods and supplements include green tea, wheatgrass juice, broccoli, grapes, soybeans, myrrh, lycopene, and aloe vera. Scientific studies have been done on these to help remove harmful toxins from the body and regulate body metabolism.

 In addition to a balanced diet, Ayurveda physicians recommend avoiding certain foods and lifestyle habits that can cause vitiated doshas like (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). 

Panchakarma as an Ayurvedic therapy is highly effective to flush out toxins. Restoration of healthy digestive functions, Rejuvenation through rasayanas, performing yoga and exercise can help effectively in promoting optimal health.

See: Vomiting, Fever, Diarrhea Symptoms Relief from Ayurvedic Medication

Research on Ayurveda treatment of cancer

Is there any research done to showcase the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatment for Cancer Care? 

 

A number of scientific studies conducted on humans have proven that traditional Indian medicinal plant drugs can be successfully used in cancer treatment. In ancient times, different plant extracts have been used to help treat cytotoxicity. 

In terms of Ayurveda cancer is a state that arises as a state of inflammatory or noninflammatory swelling which is termed as Arbuda. Ayurveda also believes that no disease can manifest without some imbalance in the Tridoshas which are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. 

Ayurveda's approach for treating a person's ailments involves the use of herbal decoctions that are made of multiple herbs that possess great potential.  Similarly, these herbs are also found to provide symptomatic relief in patients by targeting multiple biochemical pathways and influencing different organ systems that altogether help and nourish the body as a whole by supporting the body‘s defense systems.

A number of herbs have exhibited and scientifically proven their anti-cancer properties. 

Some of them include: 

- Podophyllum hexandrum linn, This herb is the most active cytotoxic natural product that contains several lignans termed as podophyllotoxin. Podophyllotoxin possesses an anti-tumor property that acts as an inhibitor of microtubule assembly. This herb is used for treating cancers like testicular cancer, lung cancer, hepatoma, neuroblastoma, and other tumors.

- Andrographis paniculata, Andrographolides an active component of the herb possess strong anticancer and immunomodulatory properties and is used to treat advanced stages of esophageal cancer by inhibiting the different 

Esophageal cancer inhibited the in vitro proliferation of different tumor cell lines, anticancer and immunomodulatory activities

- Annona atemoya/muricata, The active components of this herb possess a very strong antioxidant and cytotoxic property. Clinical trials on this herb are known to show healing effects in patients suffering from pancreatic cancer histiocytic lymphoma, uterine cervical cancer, and leukemia.

- Phyllanthus niruri/amarus, P. amarus extracts:  Phyllanthus amarus and its extracts possesses antimutagenic and antigenotoxic property and is used to treat various types of cancer.

- Semecarpus Anacardium: Semecarpus Anacardium nut milk extract has shown to possess the anti-cancer property and is used to treat liver cancer.

- Tinospora cordifolia:  T. cordifolia possess a strong free radical scavenging capacity, and can downregulate the pro-inflammatory cytokines that are found to be increased in cancer patients. Thus this herb helps improve the quality of life in patients who have undergone chemotherapy for cancer.

- Piper longum:  Piper longum also possess cancer-protective properties by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) to a higher cancer cell and thus prevents cellular stress.

See: Ayurvedic Diet

Scientific studies for Ayurveda after chemotherapy

Are there any clinical trials or scientific studies that show effectiveness of Ayurvedic treatment after Chemotherapy? 

1. A scientific study named "A case report of acute lymphoblastic leukemia - an ayurvedic approach" [1] that included a 4-year-old patient who suffered from leukemia was treated with an Ayurvedic formulation that included a mixture of Heeraka bhasma/ Incinerated Dimond, Suvarna bhasma/ Incinerated Auram, Abhraka sahastraputi bhasma/ Incinerated Mica, Lauha bhasma/ Incinerated Iron and Tamra bhasma/ Incinerated Copper all of them mixed with the help of Shyama tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), bilva leaves (Aegle marmelos) and sadaphuli (Catharanthus roseus). 

Ayurvedic formulation was administered twice a week for  6 months and then followed by another 5 months to prevent possible relapse.  Treatment showed the effect of bone marrow transplant and the patient got significant relief from leukemia with  help of Ayurvedic medicines.

 

2. In another clinical trial titled Effectiveness of combinations of Ayurvedic drugs in alleviating drug toxicity and improving the quality of life of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy [2] that included a total of 67 patients with cancer scheduled to receive cancer therapy were randomly assigned for ayurvedic treatment.  

Ayurvedic treatment for Cancer therapy  was divided into three categories which included:

Mauktikyukta Praval Panchamruta (MPP) is an herbal formulation in the form of a tablet or powder that is a combination of pravala bhasma and other bhasma. This formulation is useful in balancing Vata and Kapha dosha. 

Mauktik Yukta Kamdudha (MKD) during and after chemotherapy, this is a mineral preparation that is to be taken under doctor supervision. This helps in treating various inflammatory conditions, and Suvarnabhasmadi (SBD)

In addition,  the patients were given MKD, MPP, and Suvarnabhasmadi (SBD) after chemotherapy for 16 weeks followed by observation for a total of 6 months.

Patients who received ayurvedic treatment before and after chemotherapy did show significant improvement in appetite, regular bowel movement, nausea, fatigue, Karnofsky score and overall improved quality of life.

See: Chronic fatigue resolved by Ayurveda massage

Real world outcomes from real patients

Are there any success stories from real patients who used Ayurvedic treatment for cancer or its side effects? 


1. Herbo-mineral ayurvedic treatment in a high risk acute promyelocytic leukemia patient with second relapse: 12 years follow up [3]  documented a success case of a 47-year-old diabetic male patient with high risk acute promyelocytic leukemia who was diagnosed with a second relapse. He did not want to undergo any further chemotherapy sessions and volunteered himself for a pilot ayurvedic study. He was treated with a proprietary Ayurvedic medicine that included Navajeevan, Keharuba Pisti and Kamadudha Rasa for one year. Treatment was continued for another five years followed by three months of intermittent Ayurvedic treatment every year. The patient was very happy to see the results as he achieved complete disease remission, with the help of ayurvedic treatment.  The patient has so far completed 13 years of survival without noticing any adverse side effects. 


2. Research: Herbo-mineral ayurvedic treatment in a high risk acute promyelocytic leukemia patient with second relapse: 12 years follow up


3. Cancer patient case study: Integrative oncology. [4]. https://www.ayurvedicscience.com/15.php.

72-year-old male suffering from metastasized Prostate cancer who had undergone a prostatectomy showed a relapse of cancer with an increase in the Prostate marker.   His treatment with ayurvedic formulations included: Ashwagandha, Rentone, Co- Curcumin, Boswelya Plus, Neem Plus, and AmlaPlex. 

After one year of treatment, the prostate marker was reduced from 102 ng/mL to 16 ng/mL. He was counseled to follow a comprehensive diet therapy as well as lifestyle modifications such as Yoga and breathing exercises as part of his daily regimen. 

See: Turmeric Curcumin Health Benefits & Side Effects

Summary

Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are subjected to a lot of side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, reduced immunity and have a low quality of life. Ayurvedic therapies such as Panchakarma and herbs as prescribed by a qualified Ayurveda practitioner can help mitigate not only side effects but can help achieve a better quality of life. Ayurveda based solutions to enhance the quality of life patients and help them to cope better. Natural herbs and plant extracts used in Ayurveda formulations work on multiple biochemical pathways that occur in the body and help to balance the doshas that in turn helps to achieve optimal health. 

See: Ashwagandha benefits for anxiety

References

1. Renu. R., Bharat. R., A case report of acute lymphoblastic leukemia - an ayurvedic approach.1.    (2014). Ayurpharm International journal, Ayur Alli Sci., Vol.3, No.3., Pages 48 – 51.

2. Vineeta.D., Arvind.K., Sudhir.B., Tushar.P.,  Vijay.R., Sudha. G., Vasanti.G., Shrinivas.D., Shweta.G., Sadanand.S., Effectiveness of combinations of Ayurvedic drugs in alleviating drug toxicity and improving the quality of life of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy.2   (2014). 

 3. Balendu. P., Purvish. M., Parikh., Sanjoy K. P. Herbo-mineral ayurvedic treatment in a high risk acute promyelocytic leukemia patient with second relapse: 12 years follow up.3 (2010). J Ayurveda Integr Med. Jul-Sep; 1(3): 215–218.

4. Cancer patient case study: Integrative oncology.4. https://www.ayurvedicscience.com/15.php.

5. Kashinath.M., Praerna. C., Hemant. B., Prasad S .K., Ayurveda for chemo-radiotherapy induced side effects in cancer patients(2014).5 Journal of stem cells 8(2):115-29.

6. Paramasivan.P.,  Efferth.T., Ayurveda for Cancer Treatment (2016).6  Med Aromat Plants.  5:5 DOI: 10.4172/2167-0412.1000e178

7. Roopesh. J., Susmit. K.,  Archana.T., Ayurveda and cancer.(2010).7. Pharmacognosy Res. 2(6): 393–394.

8. 10.1023/A:1008138230896

9. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-00934-x DOI: 10.1016/j.apjtm.2017.08.009 

11. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1573(199905)13:3<183:: AID-PTR420>3.0.CO;2-5 

12. 10.1016/j.jep.2016.04.047



See: Functional Medicine Treatments After Chemotherapy for a Breast Cancer Patient

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