Santa Barbara Wellness Directory
Ayurveda and Cancer Part 2: Treatment

by Claudia Ward, L.Ac, Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist

Ayurveda distinguishes between Vata, Pitta and Kapha type cancers and the treatment needs to be adjusted accordingly. While a Pitta type cancer may respond well to a raw food diet or juice fasting, such a program could worsen the condition for Kapha and especially Vata type cancers.

Vata cancer:
In most cases this type of cancer involves emotional factors such as depression, fear and anxiety. The large intestines and lower abdomen are common sites for Vata type cancers. There may be pain in the in the neck and head and the patient feels cold. There are usually signs of digestive discomfort such as constipation, bloating, or gas. The mouth and skin are usually dry. Patients usually lose weight as the condition progresses. The skin, nails, and eyes typically become dark or gray. Pain is throbbing or stabbing. The tumor may appear to move about and change in size and shape. Often symptoms are worse on an empty stomach and during the Vata times of day.
Vata cancer benefits from anuvasana basti (Ayurvedic oil enema) if the tumor is below the umbilicus. A Vata type tumor above the umbilicus requires oral oleation such as castor oil taken in warm milk. Cleansing bastis with Ayurvedic herbs may also be performed in accordance with the principles governing such therapy.

Pitta cancer:
This type of cancer may involve heated emotions such as anger, jealousy or resentment. The small intestines, liver and skin are common Pitta cancer sites. Tumors often become inflamed, infected and associated with burning sensation or bleeding, or are aggressive in nature. Patients feel greater Pitta type digestive discomforts such as hyperacidity and diarrhea. Patients run fever and the skin, nails, and eyes may become yellow. Pain at the site of the tumor may be described as burning. Pain is naturally worse during the Pitta times of day and shortly after eating. Pitta cancers benefit from the intake of bitter medicated ghee as the preferred method of oleation. This should be followed by svedana (Ayurvdedic steam bath) and virechana (purgation). Milk bastis prepared with bitter herbs help to reduce the size of the tumors.

Kapha cancer:
This type of cancer may involve depression, fatigue, excess sleep and lethargy. Cancers in the chest or stomach such as lung or breast cancers are often Kapha type cancers. Those cancers often afflict individuals who are overweight, who overindulge in rich foods and are more sluggish or lethargic in nature. Patients present with typical symptoms of Kapha vitiation such as loss of appetite and nausea. There maybe a low-grade fever alternating with feeling cold. The skin, nails, and eyes take on a whitish hue. The tumor appears deep, hard, and heavy, does not move or produce much pain and grows slowly in size. Symptoms are worse during Kapha times and immediately after eating.
Recommended are fasting, no internal oleation, Dashmoola basti, castor oil virechana (purgation) and the application of a paste of castor or mustard seed oil to the site of the tumor followed by svedana or steam treatment. Herbs taken should have a strong pungent and/or bitter quality.

Detoxification and Tonification
The practitioner will determine a nutritional program based on the constitution and overall strength of the patient, and also decide if the patient requires tonification or purification therapy. Strong patients with ama (toxins) require purification therapies in accordance with their prakruti (constitution) and their vikruti (imbalances). By detoxifying the body through diet and gentle cleansing procedures prana can flow freely and support the healing process.
Patients who are weak should undergo strengthening or tonification therapy. These therapies attempt to build up the ojas (immune system) of the patient. Consisting primarily of oil therapies and rejuvenative herbs, these therapies invigorate the immune system and stimulate the self-healing properties of the body. A strong immune system is required for controlling the growth of cancer cells.

Dietary Therapies
According to Ayurvedic wisdom cancer patients should follow a diet appropriate to their prakruti (constitution) and vikruti (imbalances), state of ama (toxins), agni (digestive fire) and ojas (immune system). They should avoid all processed, genetically engineered foods, refined sugars, and foods that contain additives and need to also avoid over-eating.
For someone undergoing chemo or radiation a nourishing, warm, slightly oily diet is more appropriate.

Ayurvedic Herbs for Cancer
In the classical Ayurvedic literature there are hundreds of herbs listed that may have the potential to heal cancer. They are strongly purifying, and detoxifying. Most of these purifying and reducing herbs are bitter in taste. Several examples of strongly reducing, anti-carcinogenic herbs include red clover, burdock root, dandelion root, guggul, turmeric and chaparral.

There are many herbs used reduce tumor growth, alleviate pain, nausea, stress and anxiety and other symptoms of discomfort. Herbs can be taken internally or applied over the tumor as a paste.

Some herbs are antioxidants such as amla berry or are detoxifying such as triphala.
Chyavanprash made from Indian gooseberry (amla) and 44 rejuvenating herbs can be taken for convalescence and tissue healing.
For pain and swelling: boswellia serrata, triphala guggul ashwagandha, punarnava,
Nausea: Ginger tea
Antacid: shatavari, amla
Nerve tonic, anti anxiety, stress adaptogen: brahmi, ashwagandha Insomnia: ashwagandha, almond and nutmeg in milk

Other specific herbs have been well studied, and include:

Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) has been shown to actually reduce cancerous cellular growth.
Manjishta (Rubia cordifolia) has been shown to be anti-carcinogenic and is often used as a part of uterine and ovarian cancer formulas.

Triphala is recommended and used more than any other Ayurvedic herbal formulation. Popular for its unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the system while simultaneously replenishing and nourishing it, this traditional formula supports the proper functions of the digestive, circulatory, respiratory and genitourinary systems.
Triphala has been shown to have strong anti-carcinogenic properties.
In a study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine triphala was fed orally to mice grafted with human pancreatic tumors and showed to be an extremely effective inhibitor of the cancer process. Triphala triggered the cancerous cells to die off and significantly reduced the size of the tumors without causing any toxic side effects.

Ayurvedic Therapies

The svedana (Ayurvedic steam bath) detoxifies and cleanses, while the body is gently steamed with a variety of purifying Ayurvedic herbs. The theory behind hyperthermia (heat therapy) is that raising the temperature of the body increases circulation and also increases the supply of oxygen to the cancer site. Cancer cells do not thrive in the presence of oxygen. Tumors and cells located near the surface of the body are more vulnerable to heat treatments than those protected deep inside. In the Ayurvedic steam sauna the head is always kept cool which makes it easier and more pleasant to endure prolonged high temperatures. In addition there are localized steam treatments available. Hyperthermia has produced excellent results in cancer therapy.

Abhyanga oil massage:
Daily self-abhyanga is the most important act of self–love because it rebuilds ojas (stability) in the mind.
Research suggests that sesame oil may have potential as a cancer fighter, particularly anti-skin cancer, but also other cancers as it penetrates the body through the skin during an Ayurvedic massage and possesses antioxidant qualities which help fight free radicals. Free radicals are the products of oxidative reactions in the body that promote cancer development. The abhyanga self massage also stimulates lymph drainage and detoxification through the body’s largest organ of elimination – the skin.

Mental and Emotional Purification
Healing begins with quieting the mind. Meditation, pranayama (yogic breathing), visualization, yoga asanas, periods of silence, walks in nature can all help to free up blocked mental energy and promote healing.

I cannot stress enough the importance of meditation!
Meditation is the king of all sattvic practices. By finding the inner silence the individual dives deep into the well of pure consciousness, unlimited potential; unlocking the body’s self- healing power.

Shirodhara, the pouring of warm sesame oil over the forehead will deeply relax and rejuvenate the mind and resolve deep-seated tension and traumas.

In this modern age cancer remains a great threat to society and Ayurvedic wisdom can significantly help patients cope with cancer and can be used as an adjunct to alleviate symptoms associated with conventional therapies, such as nausea, pain, or fatigue.

Obviously, the individual should never attempt self-diagnosis or self-treatment and needs to consult with an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner in addition to seeking the appropriate Western medical treatment.

About the Author

Licensed Acupuncturist and Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist in Santa Barbara, CA - Claudia Ward, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., CASClaudia Ward, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., CAS
is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist in Santa Barbara, CA.

She specializes in nutrition based on the principles of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western medical research. Her treatments focus on Ayurvedic therapies, detox cleanses, acupuncture, autoimmune diseases, women's health, and chronic pain management.

Claudia combines acupuncture, therapeutic massage, cupping, Ayurvedic therapies, reflexology, essential oils, and herbal recommendations in her work.

Claudia's Acupuncture page in The Wellness Directory

Read the article "Oh Baby! Prenatal and Postpartum the Ayurvedic Way"
- by Gina Tolleson, Santa Barbara News-Press, July 31, 2006

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