Cancer and tumors are basically the unrestricted growth of cells. A mechanism within the cell no longer tells the cell to rest and this can result in tumors.
Plant medicine and herbs that have been used to treat this kind of excessive growth and inability to rest are now gaining more acceptance by the scientific community.
Certain compounds found in many plants are being used successfully as part of the movement towards a more integrative and holistic approach to cancer. Ayurvedic herbs have shown many benefits in this regard.
Ayurveda uses complex combinations of whole herbs to create personalized cures. Just like any effective team or group when herbs are combined together they become more powerful than their individual parts.
In terms of Ayurveda the unmediated growth of cancer cells can have many causes depending on the tissue that is affected and the physiological functions that are compromised.
Cancer is an extremely complex process and just like there is not one herb that can cure cancer there is not one basic Ayurvedic concept that can explain how and why cancer develops.
We do however know that there is a strong relationship between free radical damage and cancer. Free radical damage is caused by pollution and stress as well as being the result of metabolic processes within the body.
Pollution creates toxicity. This toxicity is called ama in Ayurveda and is considered to be the breeding ground of disease.
Without ama rampant cellular growth would not occur because the channels of cellular communication would not be blocked.
Ama is a sticky, gooey substance that flows through the vessels and can become adhered to different parts of the body like glue. This augments the cellular nutrition in this area and may be one of the contributing factors to cancer.
So if we reduce the affect of free radicals on the body then we also reduce the amount of ama that is able to accumulate.
Remember that your body is attuned to health. It’s primary goal is to maintain balance and so there are many mechanisms that can assist the body in fighting free radicals and the damage they cause.
It is only when this damage goes beyond the natural regulatory activities of the body that damage occurs. For example free radicals are naturally produced during the production of energy in the body. If the body did not have a mechanism for removing them then we would all be in trouble.
Plants have also developed a sophisticated system of protection and maintenance just like humans.
Plants produce antioxidants in response to being exposed to the sun’s radiation and to the oxygen that causes the oxidation like rust on a car. This is the essence of nutrition.
Eating plants that contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants naturally protect us regardless of whether we are a plant or a human. This is the beauty of nature. She does not discriminate.
The main antioxidants that plants produce and that are utilized by humans are vitamins c and e, beta-carotene, polyphenols and bioflavonoids. It is these polyphenols and bioflavonoids that are being touted as the next superfood ingredient such as resveratrol in grapes and epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC) in green tea.
Similar less well known flavonoids are found in a class of Ayurvedic herbs called Rasayanas. The most well known among these type of herbs are Ashwagandha, Licorice, Shatavari, Amalaki, Guduchi, Nirgundi and Guggulu.
All of these have been shown to have antioxidant properties that are enhanced when they are used in conjunction with other herbs. The sum is greater than its parts.
A specific formulation of these Rasayanas referred to below as ‘AA’ has been well researched in regards to its effect on different types of tumors.
• Breast tumors and carcinomas have been linked to free radical damage. In lab animals who were given AA there was 60% less breast carcinomas and 88% fewer tumors compared to controls (Sharma et al 1990)
• The most malignant type of skin cancer, melanoma, was shown to have inhibited growth when AA were put in contact with human melanoma cells (Prasad, Parry, and Chan 1993)
• The liver is our main organ of detoxification and when lab animals were given a therapeutic dose of AA there was a 27% reduction in liver cancer and 35% fewer tumor nodules (Penza et al 2007)
Other types of cancer are also being researched to see how they may respond to antioxicant therapies that include Ayurvedic herbs. Most of this research was compiled using standardized formulations called Amrit Kailash Nectar paste and Ambrosia Tablets which can be found at MAPI.
If you are interested in learning more about how Ayurvedic herbs may be able to assist you in either preventing the growth of tumors or as an adjunct treatment consider contacting The Society for Integrative Oncology. Otherwise consider taking one of the formulas mentioned in order to reduce your risk.