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Ayurveda and Cancer - A General Overview
by Renu Gulati


Ayurveda is considered to be the most ancient holistic healing system in the world today. It dates back more than 5000 years and the first textual references to it can be found in the Rig Veda. Subsequent ancient Ayurveda texts codified Ayurveda more comprehensively.

Ayurveda has a system of well being practices as well as a unique understanding of disease pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment. Disease pathogenesis is based on an understanding of the functional forces (doshas) namely vata, pitta and kapha. Vata is the functional force of movement, pitta of transformation and kapha of cohesion. All diseases are considered to occur as a result of an imbalance of the doshas.

Many diseases have been classified by Ayurveda , the ancient texts specifically state that the classification given is limited as the number of potential diseases is infinite. Just as the causative factors of disease are infinite so are the number of diseases.

Cancer does not have any exact direct correlation with any disease named by Ayurveda. Like any disease, it is treated according to the dosha imbalance. In some cases that may correspond with a named disease in Ayurveda and in others it may not.

Diseases and their treatment are assessed by an Ayurveda physician by means of a threefold process 'darshanam' (seeing), 'sparshanam'(touching) and 'prashanam’ (questioning). These days some Ayurveda Physicians also utilize western diagnostic methods but very traditional ones believe that there is no need as Ayurveda is complete in itself.

The unique pathogenesis of each disease is assessed and a treatment approach based on medicines, lifestyle, diet, detoxification treatments, mind-related and spiritual practices may be prescribed. Depending on the disease and its severity, a course of residential treatment may also be advised. Surgery is also a part of Ayurveda and is offered as a very last resort. The origin of surgery is in fact in Ayurveda and dates back to 400-200BC to a sage by the name of Sushruta, known by modern surgeons as the Father of Surgery. The tradition of surgery has mostly been lost in Ayurveda so if surgery were to be prescribed, a modern medical surgeon would usually be recommended.

Although Ayurveda does not classify diseases according to stages in the way western medicine does it does do something similar. It understands whether the disease is curable, manageable only, difficult to treat or untreatable. In any event some form of treatment can be prescribed, be it curative or palliative.

Ayurveda physicians have been known to treat various cancers at various stages using the methods described earlier. In some cases the use of western medicine is used alongside Ayurveda and in others it is not.

No case histories are provided here as each individual is unique and it would not be appropriate to come to a conclusion that a particular cancer can be treated in the same way as another. It is the understanding that Ayurveda does have a comprehensive standalone curative and palliative system for treating cancer that is important. However, it is important to choose an appropriately experienced Ayurveda physician. For guidance on choosing an appropriate physician please feel free to contact Renu at

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