In ayurveda's ancient texbooks there may be no mention of the word cancer, but there are many references to the growth of masses, tumors, malignancy, with Sanskrit names like, apachi, gulma, granthi and arbuda. Cancer is a disease in which certain of our bodies' cells develop defects, caused by a mutation in their DNA. These mutant cells, dependent on several factors, like the strength of the immune system, and pathogens, sometimes duplicate at enormous speed, causing growths, tumors, that are adversarial to the body's tissues. Not all cancers produce tumors. Some - leukemia - cause rapid cell growth in the bone marrow or blood. In metastasis, cancer cells multiply and travel through blood and the lymph system to the rest of the body.
Conventional medicine treats cancer as a focal disease with local symptoms. Ayurveda sees the whole body-mind as a system, and recognizes that the malfunctioning of this system can lead to cancer. Ayurveda treats the whole individual.
According to ayurveda cancer involves all three doshas - vata, pitta and kapha, it is tridoshic disease. But the root of the cancer may be either in vata, pitta, or kapha, and consequently it is disease of vata, disease of pitta, or disease of kapha, and the treatment will be accordingly. Also the tissue in which the cancer is found, will ask for different herbal treatment, so there really is no one way to treat cancer in the ayurvedic system. Specific herbal formulations and therapies will be directed towards the cancer, but it doesn't stop there. The therapeutic approach is prophylactic, palliative, curative and supportive. Ayurveda offers a lifestyle of prevention; it can soothe symptoms through lifestyle, dietary and herbal adjustments; it can cure, especially when the cancer is in earlier stages, offering powerful internal and external herbal applications in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle adjustments; and it can support conventional medical treatment, and counteract its side effects.
Ayurveda sees the fundamental cause of tumor, or uncontrolled cell, growth to be a build-up of pathogens, toxins, in the organism. This then leads to deficiency in the immune system. If we consider the immune system our protection against external pathogens, we can see the weakened immunity as a "giving up or a giving in", since, as Dr. Robert Svoboda says so poignantly, "the hallmark of cancer is the rebellion of cells against the organism's self-identity", our body is allowing cellular mutiny to take over. The causes are poor lifestyle choices, wrong diet, stress and anxiety, poor sleep, mental/emotional incoherency, overuse of stimulants, intoxicants, chemical drugs, and nowadays, exposure to environmental toxins. Ayurveda uses the word ama for this toxic build-up in the organism. It is partly self-generated, by poorly digesting all that we ingest, and choosing industrial foods that are already full of ama, like pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, preservatives, and packaged in xeno-estrogenic plastics. But even the most beautiful organically grown, free-range, grass-fed foods can turn into ama if the digestive system cannot properly digest, absorb the nutrients and eliminate the waste products. It is this ama, that confuses the immune system, makes it overwork. Then it will tire and give into the fast-growing ama that is cancer.
The mental-emotional component of the weakening immunity is addressed nowadays by physicians like Dr. Lawrence LeShan, Christiane Northrup, Wayne Dyer and many more. The experience they have working with cancer patients is that they see that same "giving in or giving up", and they will encourage and guide their patients to use the cancer as a "Turning Point, to take charge of their lives and bodies and gently coax the cancer into remission.
Understanding the cancer as being either caused by excess vata, pitta or kapha, outlines a specific disease development, based on a person's inherent constitutional tendencies, and specific lifestyle and dietary choices. Vata, being composed of space and air, will bring a different etiology from kapha, being composed of water and earth, or pitta, made up of fire and water. They come with their own digestive disturbances, dietary preferences, behaviors and mental-emotional tendencies. All leading to the same manifestation of cancer, but with specific characteristics.
Strengthening of the immune system, healthy lifestyle, diet, appropriate exercise and as Deepak Chopra suggests, "access to the Divine consciousness within, through yogic and meditative disciplines, can correct the wrong information that triggers uncontrollable cell multiplication, and cure cancer from the quantum level of the body". Ayurveda, the medical system and "science of life", offers many internal and external herbal and metal-based medications to help remove cellular overgrowth.
by: Simone de Winter, MA, certified ayurvedic specialist