According to ayurvedic thought, having the three doshas out of sync might be a cause of cancer. One possible explanation for the rise in cancer diagnoses in modern times can be traced to the increased use of chemicals and other synthetic materials in our diets. These chemicals prevent us from obtaining the natural minerals our bodies need in order to function correctly. Also, anxiety and stress lead to increased toxins in the body, which then puts us at higher risk for cancer. Because there are so many different types of cancer, this makes determining the causes and treatments that much more difficult for ayurvedic practitioners.
Panchakarma is a set of five ayurvedic remedies that may or may not all be used as part of a therapeutic cleansing program.
The five parts of panchakarma are:
- Nasal application of herbal remedies
Prior to starting Panchakarma, oiling and heating of the patient is done to bring the excess doshas from the limbs to their proper reservoirs in the digestive tract, from which they can be expelled. The doshas are then excited by a procedure called utkleshana, a therapy that makes the excess dosha anxious to leave the body. One to three nights prior to the start of Vamana, the patient is asked to drink one cup of oil two to three times a day until the stool becomes oily, or he feels nauseated (This treatment is called oleation or sneehana). Kapagenic diet is given to aggravate Kapha. On the morning of the Panchakarma, kapha aggravating foods such as basmati rice and yogurt with salt is given to further aggravate the kapha. Oil massage and fomentation are administered on the night before the day of Vamana. The application of the heat to the chest and back will liquefy kapha.
Therapeutic vomiting (Vamana)
This treatment is used when there is congestion in the lungs causing repeated attacks of bronchitis, cough, cold or asthma. The objective of the therapy is to induce vomiting to get rid of the mucus causing excess kapha. A drink consisting of licorice and honey, or calamus root tea is given to the patient. (Other substances used include salt, and cardamom) Vomiting is induced by rubbing on the tongue. 4-8 vomiting is the target. After vomiting the patient will feel very comfortable; most of the congestion, wheezing and breathlessness will disappear along with the clearing of the sinus.
Therapeutic vomiting is used for cough, cold, symptoms of asthma, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, anemia, poisoning, skin diseases, diabetes, lymphatic obstruction, chronic indigestion, edema (swelling), epilepsy (between attacks), chronic sinus problems, and for repeated attacks of tonsillitis.
Purgation Therapy (Vireka, Virechan, herbal laxative therapy)
Virechan is the cleansing of the pitta and the purification of the blood toxins. Generally, it is administered three days after the Vamana treatment. If Vamana therapy is not needed, Virechan can be administered directly. Virechan cleanses the sweat glands, small intestine, colon, kidneys, stomach, liver, and spleen. A number of fine herbs are used as a laxative. These include senna, prune, bran, flaxseed husk, dandelion root, psyllium seed, cow’s milk, salt, castor oil, raisins and mango juice. When taking these laxatives, it is important to adhere to restricted diet. Vireka is used for treatment of skin diseases, chronic fever, piles, abdominal tumors, worms, gout, jaundice, gastrointestinal problems, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Medicated enemas are used for various specific reasons. In general, this treatment is used to flush the loosened doshas out through the intestinal tract. There are over 100 specific enemas listed in Ayurveda.
Basti involves introducing medicinal substances such as sesame oil, calamus oil, or other herbal decoctions in a liquid medium into the rectum. Basti is especially good for vata disorders. It alleviates constipation, distention, chronic fever, the common cold, sexual disorders, kidney stones, heart pain, vomiting, backache, neck pain and hyper acidity. Such vata disorders as sciatica, arthritis, rheumatism, and gout can also be treated by Basti. There are about 80 vata related disorders in Ayurveda. About 80 percent of them can be treated with medicated enemas.
Since vata is mainly located in the colon and bones, the medication is administered rectally.
Type of Enemas:
- Oil Enema or Nirhua Basti – 1/2 to 1 cup of warm sesame oil (for chronic constipation)
- Decoction enema or Anuvasana Basti (Herbal enema) – 1/2 cup of gotu kola or comfrey decoction with 1/2 cup of warm sesame oil
- Nutrition Enema – 1 cup of warm milk, 1 cup of meat broth or 1 cup of bone marrow soup
The enema should not be given to persons suffering from chronic indigestion, bleeding from rectum, cough, breathlessness, diarrhea, diabetes, severe anemia, to aged or to children under 7. Don’t give decoction enemas to people suffering from acute fever, diarrhea, cold, paralysis, heart pain, or severe pain in the abdomen.
- Nasal Administration Nasya (herbal inhalation therapy)
This treatment involves inhaling vapor from medicinal herbs that have been infused in boiling water. It is used mostly to eliminate kapha-oriented problems, of ear, eyes, nose, and throat disorders such as migraine, sinusitis, catarrh, and bronchitis.
The nose is the gateway to the brain and to consciousness. Prana, or life energy, enters the body through breath taken in through the nose. Nasal administration of medication helps to correct the disorders of prana affecting the higher cerebral, sensory and motor functions. Nasya is indicated for dryness of the nose, sinus congestion, hoarseness, migraine headache, convulsions and certain eye and ear problems.
- Types of Nasya
- Virechan (cleansing with use of powders or herbs)
- Nutritional Nasya (for vata)
- Sedative Nasya
- Nasya decoctions
- Ghee or oil Nasya
- Nasal massage
Substances such as calamus powder, gotu kola, onion, garlic, black pepper, cayenne, ginger, ghee oil decoctions are used in Nasya. Nasal medication should not be administered after a bath, food, sex, drinking alcohol, during pregnancy, or menstruation.
- Blood Letting (Rakta Moksha)
Blood letting is used to eliminate toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract. This process purifies the blood. It is used for disorders such as repeated attacks of skin disorders such as urticaria, rash, eczema, acne, scabies, leucoderma, chronic itching, and hives. It was also found effective for enlarged liver and spleen, and for gout.
Blood letting, which should only be administered by a qualified physician, is useful to relieve several pitta disorders such as acne and rash. If administered properly, it stimulates the antitoxic substances in the blood stream, thus developing the immune mechanism in the blood system.
Do not administer blood letting in cases of anemia, edema, weakness or to very old and very young persons
Diet is also considered a very important part of treatment. Visiting an ayurvedic practitioner is important in order to develop the proper diet for your body. The practitioner will determine which of the three humors is the predominant one in your body, and then based on this information, can develop a diet for you that will bring the three humors back in balance.
Another important aspect of diet is maintaining the energy level of the food. According to ayurvedic thought, making food cold, for instance, by refrigerating, destroys the natural energy of the food. They believe that this causes the loss of more energy than is lost through cooking. This then leads to poor metabolism, which in turn may lead to someone eventually developing cancer. Of course, not all people who eat refrigerated foods develop cancer. This is because everyone is different. Some people are capable of producing the proper stomach acids to counteract the coldness of the food. These people have what is referred to as “agni” or fire. These people more frequently develop fevers and diarrhea more often than do people who eventually develop cancer, which seems to imply that they are better at excreting the toxins.
Based on these ideas, here are some suggestions:
- Take supplements to increase your hydrochloric acid levels
- Eat spicy foods to help stimulate the gastric juices
- After eating, use digestive bitters to make sure the food moves quickly through the digestive system before the toxins can build up
It is also important to note that ayurvedic medicine does not have to be used to the exclusivity of Western medicine. They can be used together as long as you make sure that all practitioners are aware of what the others are doing. Using ayurvedic techniques for cancer treatment in addition to receiving treatment via Western methods often helps to reduce stress levels which then leads to a better reception of the other treatments.
In particular, be careful when taking herbal supplements when also taking other medications, as they may interact with each other and produce undesired effects. Ayurvedic treatments like yoga and massage are usually safe and provide more benefit than harm.