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The ancient Indian system of natural medicine known as Ayurveda offers a uniquely holistic perspective on the disease with genuinely effective methods of supporting the greatest health possible even when conventional medicine has run out of treatments.

If you get cancer and you go to see an oncologist, you will get treatment for your disease. If you get cancer and you to go see one of the world's 400,000 practitioners of Ayurveda, you will get supportive therapy for your life force. The two approaches have different goals and they get different results, but they are complementary to each other.

Ayurvedic Practitioners Are Well Trained

A licensed practitioner of Ayurveda should not be confused with someone who works the counter at an herb shop. Ayurvedic physicians spent six years in university to earn a BAMS degree, and then another three years in training before they develop a specialty as an MD. Many highly-effective Ayurvedic physicians maintain practices in both the United States and India.

What Is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda, or Ayurvedic medicine is a system of healing that emphasizes the interconnectedness of the body and the mind and the importance of maintaining balance with the individual. It includes herbal medicines and dietary prescriptions, but it is about a great deal more than just herbs and diets. The Ayurvedic physician understands patients in terms of three doshas, or general principles of human being:

  • Vata is a general principle of movement.
  • Pitta is a general principle of transformation.
  • Kapha is a general principle of substance.

All three principles are at work all the time in every living human being. The proportions in which they exert themselves in the life force is known as the pakruti, and the results of imbalances are known as the vikruti. The physician uses knowledge of pakruti and vikruti to make multimodal recommendations for better health that can include herbs, diet, motion (for instance, yoga), lifestyle changes, and breathing exercises. 

How Does Ayurveda Conceptualize Cancer?

The Ayurvedic practitioners of 5,000 years ago did not have a diagnosis that corresponds to the collection of diseases we now call cancer. However, they did have an idea of the kinds of imbalances that are involved in the development of cancer. In Ayurveda, there is a concept that various environmental influences, not just "toxins" but including toxins, interfere with the normal transformative processes of tissues. These tissues become deformed, in ways we now understand to be cancer, and become both over-excited, in that they produce new cells and "grow," and deficient, in that they fail to perform their normal functions. Ayurvedic doctors understand the conventional theory of cancer, but they can relate Ayurvedic theory to medical treatment. It's not a matter of either-or.

Ayurvedic Physicians Don't Recommend Ayurveda as the First Treatment for Cancer

When researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School interviewed Indian-trained practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine in the United States, physicians who had BAMS and/or MD degrees, none of them recommended Ayurveda as the first line of treatment of cancer. One described cancer as a "medical emergency," requiring destruction of the cancer rather than the rebalancing of doshas. However, all of them also recommended Ayurveda as a way of strengthening the body to deal with the side effects of conventional cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. When biomedical treatments are not available, however, they offer Ayurveda.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Dhruva A, Hecht FM, Miaskowski C, Kaptchuk TJ, Bodeker G, Abrams D, Lad V, Adler SR.Correlating traditional Ayurvedic and modern medical perspectives on cancer: results of a qualitative study. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 May. 20(5):364-70. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0259. Epub 2013 Dec 17. PMID: 24341342.
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