The Hard Truth
Modern science is yet to discover effective remedies for deadly diseases such as cancer, AIDS, or other hematological and auto-immune disorders. These diseases are very complicated in nature with complexity at every level—anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and gene expression. So treating such diseases is a big challenge.
Numerous techniques are employed to combat these diseases, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, interferon therapy, hormone therapy, and blood transfusion. But the remedies that are currently in use are either only for reducing the immediate complications associated with these diseases or for slowing down the proliferation of the diseases.
There has been only limited success in the cure of these diseases due to various factors such as resistance, difficulty in targeting the affected area, and the huge costs involved. Additionally, toxicity of the drugs, ablative surgery, radiation damage, and chemotherapy hazards make the situation worse. With all conventional therapeutics, an overall 2.4% survival of cancer patients has been reported within 5 years after diagnosis.
The Ayurvedic Perspective
The word ‘cancer’ may be new to the 5,000 year old Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, which relies on natural substances for healing. But ancient Ayurvedic classics are aware of the clinical features, resembling cancer, with the names such as Apachi, Gulma, Granthi, and Arbuda. Following are names of some of the conditions mentioned in Ayurvedic classics that have relevance to cancer manifestations in modern medicine.
|Modern Manifestations of Clinical Features Described in Ayurvedic Texts
Manifestations in Ayurveda
|Manifestations in Modern Medicine
||Tumours of Uterus / Ovary
|Rakta, Mamsaja, Medoja, Oshta Roga
||Carcinoma of Lips
||Tumours of Larynx
||Various Type of Leukemia
Knowing More about Cancer
Cancer has largely remained incurable due to its complexity and its ability to spread rapidly and uncontrollably. It is a condition in which our own body cells turn hostile. Let us elaborate on the occurrence of cancer in human beings.
Cell division in the form of mitosis is an essential continuous process in our body that keeps the cells reproducing. Through cell division a mature cell divides itself into two daughter cells. This is responsible for keeping our constituent body parts alive and healthy. A daughter cell, thus produced, must be an exact replica of its mother. In case of an error in the duplication at the genetic level, the daughter cells might become mutated or modified. These mutated cells start duplicating themselves in an abnormal way, often giving rise to a situation where extra tissue is formed, which is antagonistic to the rest of the body cells. We call this disease cancer.
Sometimes, in worse situations, the mutations are such that they are carried away to another similar body organ located at a different place inside the body through the lymph fluid. This type of mutant cell is then said to exhibit ‘metastasis’. For example, in the case of metastatic renal cell carcinoma, mutant cells in the kidney can move to the lungs and then to the bone. Here, the patient might show symptoms of cancer of the kidney, lungs and bones.
Cancer usually spreads very fast and a patient can meet death in less than 6 months. Therefore, remedial measures need to be undertaken as soon as cancer is detected in the body.
Various remedies available for cancer either try to put a check on the duplicating process of the mutant cells at genetic level or kill the entire collection of affected cells. The process, whether done chemically or through radiation, always runs the risk of affecting the neighbouring normal cells. Further, there are always significant side effects involved, which include hair loss, skin rashes, body pain, loss of body weight, weakness and debility, loss of appetite, diarrhea, bleeding, impotence, etc.
Usually, when patients reach the final or terminal stage, doctors stop all remedies and ask patients to leave hospital for home. Patients then die a slow, miserable and painful death.
What Ayurveda Can Do
The excruciating experience of dying cancer patients can be ameliorated by making use of Ayurvedic principles. Ayurveda can be helpful in the management of cancer in many ways such as—prophylactic, palliative, curative and supportive. Ayurvedic medicines help to improve the quality of life of the patients as listed below:
Ayurvedic preparations can act as an adjuvant or a co-therapy along with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is also helpful in post-surgery care.
Ayurvedic medicines help to minimise the side effects of these therapies.
Ayurveda helps in reducing the therapeutic doze of the various drugs used as proved in some studies using cow urine.
They can be helpful in targeting the specific tissues as shown in some allopathic studies on nano-particles of gold.
Ayurvedic preparations help to slow the progress of cancer in cases where chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery is contra-indicated, due to some reasons and patients have no other choice.
Some Ayurvedic preparations can fight against tumours.
The cell-protective activity of drugs prescribed in Rasayana therapy helps to improve comfort and the quality of life of individuals with cancer.
Let me describe some of the above benefits of Ayurvedic drugs in cancer patients.
As an Adjuvant or Co-therapy Along With Chemotherapy or Radiation therapy:
Chemotherapy is the first and significant medical modality of cancer remedy, which involves the introduction of strong chemicals. These chemicals target the fast-multiplying mutant cells. However, the toxicity they cause to normal tissues of the body proves as an obstacle.
The use of antioxidants during chemotherapy enhances therapy by reducing the generation of aldehydes. Natural drugs, which are used as Rasayanas in Ayurveda, have also been proved to have antioxidant properties.
Most commonly, all the drugs which are used in Rasayana therapy have the ability to reduce the three doshas or imbalances related to vaata, pitta and kapha. The most commonly prescribed Rasayana drugs are Triphala (Terminalia Chebula, Embellica officinale, and Terminalia ballarica), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifoia) and Punarnava (Bohhervia diffusa). According to clinical studies, such drugs have shown very impressive effects on protecting body from the side effects (of chemo and radio therapies) like alopecia, nausea, constipation, anorexia and vomiting. The patients who receive Ayurvedic treatment along with chemotherapy have shown more regularity in maintaining the chemotherapy cycles as the hematological levels can be maintained up to a normal state. More than 50 research studies on cancer carried out at various post-graduate institutes, have shown that Ayurvedic preparations are very effective as chemo-preventive and radio-preventive agents.
Interestingly, Snehana, i.e., intake of various medicated oil preparations in a classical way a week or 10 days prior to the start of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, has been found to reduce the toxic effects of such therapies.