Ayurveda believes that whenever the body is not in harmony with its prakruti (basic constitution), a build-up of ama (toxins) and an imbalance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha is created, which can lead to diseases such as cancer.
Cancer prevention is targeted towards creating balance and harmony through diet, lifestyle, herbs, meditation, pranayama, yoga and cleansing the body of its toxic load through an Ayurvedic cleansing program called Panchakarma. Towards the end of this article, there are notes on which imbalanced doshas are associated with specific types of cancer.
How can Ayurveda help cancer and life after cancer?
Before Chemo: tonify and build up body and ojas (immunity and inner strength).
During Chemo: healthy diet, meditation, pranayama, yoga as tolerated, gem therapy, aromatherapy, body treatments as tolerated. Doing chemotherapy between the hours of 6 and 10 has been found to help chemo to mostly go after diseased cells and protect healthy cells against chemotherapy. The reasoning is that Kapha represents the strong structure, strength, and ojas, and that’s what is promoted in the body between the hours of 6 and 10.
After Chemo: cleansing to remove toxins from treatment, and rejuvenating herbs to begin building healthy tissues.
Role of Patient: People need to be open to exploring the deeper meaning of cancer, what does it have to teach me? How can I make different choices?
- Tonification for weak patient.
- Rejuvenate the body so the immune system becomes stronger.
- Purification for strong patients, possible panchakarma; the digestive system is considered the root of disease therefore proper diet, removal of ama, herbs and cleansing therapies are very important.
- Sattvic foods - organic milk, almonds, sesame, honey, rice, and fruits).
- Herbs can reduce tumor growth and perhaps limit metastasis; herbs can be taken internally or applied externally as a paste or lepas (herbal pastes).
- Sweat, oiling, shirodharas (oiling for the forehead), nasaya oils (nasal oils), purgation, bastis.
- There are several herbs that can destroy tumors such as red clover, burdock root (available at health food stores), dandelion root, guggul, turmeric, and chaparral, green tea, cat’s claw, manjishtha, Madagascan periwinkle, shatavari. Herbal usage should be gauged by an Ayurvedic practitioner.
- Herbs for mind & oiling of the forehead.
- Positive thinking activates the immune system and supports healing; mental and emotional challenges produce blockages of energy flow in the body; physical body is capable of manifesting what the mind imagines. The nervous system is aware of emotional turbulence and this information flows into cell formation so that issues can become tissues; So much of one’s mental power of healing lies in one’s capacity to experience self-love. A lack of self-love, contentment, and compassion equates to lack of mental ojas, and are the additional roots of all diseases including cancer. Mental purification is the process of removing these negative feelings.
- Examining lessons to be learned.
- Working to change/heal samskaras (habitual patterns) and underlying karma that generated the samskara (habitual pattern); Lessons often surround destructive lifestyle habits, thoughts, and emotions, and exist to give us the opportunity to grow, learn, and evolve on our journey toward enlightenment. Without suffering, we would have no feedback about how we are living or progressing on our spiritual journey.
- Make better choices; what can I do to better align my energies with nature?
Healthy Diet and Ayurvedic Practices for Cancer Prevention:
* Consume plenty of foods full of prana (life-force) whole, fresh, sun-ripened, enzyme-rich, alkalizing, organic and mostly plant-based.
* Avoid processed foods, refined flour products, hydrogenated fats, fast food, excessive low-quality meat and dairy, microwaved food and leftovers.
* Eat low glycemic foods that have a low sugar content. (Tumor cells love sugar).
* Reduce/eliminate caffeine & alcohol.
* Eat dark green leafy vegetables, especially those that are in the cabbage family such as kale and collards.
*Almonds, rice, honey, fresh sweet fruits, mung dal beans and easy-to-digest, fresh seasonal vegetables and leafy greens are examples of sattvic foods (foods that lead to clarity in the mind and body).
* Do regular rejuvenation and purification practices such as regular Panchakarma. Discover your unique body-mind constitution and use herbs, spices, and foods according to your unique individual needs.
* Do the Abhyanga (Ayurvedic self-massage with oil) every morning, which will stimulate the lymphatic system to eliminate toxins.
Ghee: Clarified butter which helps to build healthy tissues and ojas (immunity and inner strength). Ghee helps to dissolve wastes allowing the body to carry away toxins-ama.
Spices for Cancer Prevention
Spices not only lend irresistible aromas and flavors to dishes but have potent cancer-fighting properties.
Spices and herbs are concentrated forms of Nature's healing intelligence. They are particularly revered in Ayurveda for their ability to enhance digestion and assimilation, help cleanse ama (toxins) from the body and their ability to transport the healing and nutritive value of other foods of the diet to the cells, tissues, and organs. Details of spices are presented at the end.
Tri-doshic Spice Recipe with cancer-fighting components: Grind in a coffee grinder or spice grinder:
- 3 parts coriander seeds,
- 3 parts fennel seeds,
- 1 part black pepper,
- 1 part cumin seeds.
- Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric.
- Store in an airtight jar. Saute´ briefly in ghee or olive oil then add to vegetables, meat or rice dishes. When eating out, bring a small jar of your spice mix and sprinkle it on food.
A few Examples of Powerful Cancer-fighting Spices/Herbs:
Curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow color, is said to inhibit tumor-promoting enzymes and interfere with the growth of cancerous tumors. As a powerful antioxidant, curcumin neutralizes free radicals that increase the risk of cancer or heart disease.
Rosemary has potent cancer-fighting properties by blocking carcinogen-binding to DNA, and modifying metabolic enzymes to decrease the toxicity of a carcinogen. Since whole rosemary seems to be more beneficial than its isolated compounds, the addition of fresh rosemary to one’s diet may have more benefit than taking it as a supplement.
Eat a little ginger with each meal and your risk of developing cancer drops significantly. Ginger not only kills cancer cells, it also prevents them from building up resistance to cancer treatment.
Coriander seeds are the most cooling of all the spices that significantly improves digestion and are a good choice for people high in Pitta.
Coriander, rich in coriandrol, helps combat breast and liver cancers. Fresh coriander is known as cilantro, and is particularly powerful in detoxifying the body of heavy metals, such as lead or mercury.
In recent research, fenugreek seeds were experimentally shown to protect against cancers of the breast and prostate cancer. A naturopathic doctor from Germany told me that fresh fenugreek is particularly beneficial for individuals with bone cancer. Both the seeds and the fresh leaves are good for blood sugar and fat metabolism, prevent hair loss and are beneficial for the bones.
It nourishes ojas and can enhance immunity in the treatment of cancer.
Cleanses the blood of toxins, builds strength, rejuvenates all the tissues, boosts the immune system especially in cancer, offsets the toxic effects of chemoradiotherapy.
Clears tumors and growths.
Sebastian Pole’s Ayurvedic Medicine
Anti-Cancer: ashwagandha, guduchi (decreases effects from chemo/radiotherapy, guggulu, kaishor guggulu, kanchanar guggulu, rhubarb, shatavari (immunity), turmeric.
Anti-tumor: guggulu, kaishor guggulu, kanchanar guggulu, kanchanar, Krishna jeeraka, manjishtha, safflower, salt, turmeric.
Dabur Research Foundation’s Major Herbs of Ayurveda
Herbs with Anticancer Properties: garlic, shatavari (asparagus racemosus), neem, papaya (flowers), Himalayan cedar Deodar, vidanga, eucalyptus, pippali, licorice, mango ( stem bark extract), bitter melon, tulsi (holy basil), black pepper (piper nigrum specifically for colon cancer), manjistha (rubia cordifolia), arjuna, haritaki, guduchi (tinospora cordifolia), ashwagandha (winter cherry).
Dr. Marc Halpern’s Clinical Ayurvedic Medicine
cat’s claw, green tea (breast, lung, stomach, colon), manjistha (ovarian, uterine), Madagascan periwinkle (leukemia, lymphoma), Chandra prabha (urinary, male/female reproductive, menstrual system), shatavari, guggulu, red clover, burdock, turmeric, chaparral, dandelion (leaves, root), burdock root, ginger, astragalus (similar to ginseng, good for immunity), saffron, frankincense (boswellia), goldenseal, wormwood.
Essiac Tea ( burdock root, slippery elm inner bark, sheep sorrel, Indian rhubarb root, watercress, blessed thistle, red clover, kelp).
Gem and Flower Elixirs (can be drunk, used as a tea, rub water on body area that needs help, add it to bath water).
[Mary Bruck is an Advanced doctoral Ayurvedic Practitioner, Yoga teacher, Panchakarma therapist, and Herbalist. She presides the Vibrant Health Ayurveda and Yoga in Colorado, United States.]