This week, I am pleased to present a guest article written by Virgil Anderson. Virgil was unfortunately exposed to asbestos in the workplace at a young age and diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. At the time of his diagnosis, Virgil was without health insurance and turned to the National Cancer Institute for treatment. He also discovered information on integrative therapies for cancer such as Ayurvedic medicine. I am thrilled to present his article providing an overview of Ayurveda and evidence for its use in combination with traditional cancer treatments. Enjoy!
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurvedic medicine is a system of medicine, meaning that it encompasses all areas of healthcare, and it is several thousand years old. It is a holistic type of medicine, which means that practitioners treat the whole patient, not just a disease or symptom. The philosophy of Ayurveda is that imbalances between the spirit, mind, and body cause disease and that using herbs, diet, yoga, meditation, and other practices can restore that balance.
A visit with a trained Ayurvedic practitioner involves a complete interview and physical examination. Even if you visit a practitioner for a specific reason, they will want to know everything about your life to provide holistic treatment. The practitioner will then suggest a course of treatments that may include herbal medicines, changes to diet, massage, breathing strategies, or yoga.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Cancer
Some cancer patients may seek out Ayurvedic treatment for the cancer itself, although there is no conclusive evidence that the medications can shrink or slow tumors. If you choose to try Ayurveda for cancer, talk to your doctors first and find out if there are any herbal medicines you should not use. There is some evidence that the herbs used in Ayurveda have anti-cancer properties.
For instance, studies have found that mangosteen, commonly used in Ayurveda, can kill cancer cells in laboratory setting. In laboratory animals, different Ayurvedic botanical extracts have been found to slow tumor growth. Other Ayurvedic herbs that may have anti-cancer properties include curcumin (active compound in turmeric), cumin, boswellia, and ashwagandha.
Ayurveda to Complement Cancer Treatment
There is no reason to believe Ayurvedic medicine can cure cancer and it should not be a substitute for traditional cancer treatment. However, there is evidence that many of the Ayurvedic practices can help patients get relief from side effects and symptoms. Gentle massage, for example, can relieve both stress and pain. Yoga and meditation, also often prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners, can reduce stress, increase mobility, and reduce pain. Yoga is also a gentle way for cancer patients to get the benefits of exercise.
While most of the practices of Ayurveda are low-risk, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you try any new kind of medical treatment. There may be herbal medicines that interact with your chemotherapy drugs or there may be reasons that you should not be physically active or have a massage. Your medical team can tell you what is safe and what is too risky. If you are given the go ahead, find a trained and qualified practitioner who has experience working with cancer patients.