Role of Ayurveda in Cancer Treatment

The history and meaning of Ayurvedic medicine

In 2017, 9.6 million people died from cancer globally, making it the second highest cause of death globally, after cardiovascular diseases. The entire medical community is preoccupied more and more to find better treatments for this unmerciful disease. However though, there might be something that the medical, scientific community andevidence-based medicine might be missing, and that is the role of Ayurveda incuring cancer.

What are ayurvedic medicine & its history?

To put it shortly, Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine that is about 5,000 years old. It is not just one treatment. Ayurveda is a word in Indian, where "ayur" means life and "veda" means knowledge. Ayurveda includes many treatment processes, some examples being: meditation, panchakarma, massage, yoga, herbal medicine, or specific Ayurvedic medications.

It also has to be mentioned the fact that Ayurvedic practitioners are stating that the human body can be classified into 3 main types, which are known as doshas:

  • fire and water (pitta dosha) - handles digestion and metabolism
  • space and air (vata dosha) – controlling the movement
  • water and earth (kapha dosha) - gives cohesion and structure.

What Ayurvedic practitioners are saying is simply that all the three doshas need to be in complete harmony and balance for the human body to work at its full potential and to be perfectly healthy.

How does Ayurveda aim to treat cancer? Modern research on this matter

Shortly said, the definition of cancer by Ayurveda is inequality between Tridosha – pathophysiological entities, dhatus - tissue, and Triguna - mental qualities, and can be treated without any side effect. Firstly, we need to control Tridosha and Triguna. Many years back in India, herbal medicines have been used successfully, and these herbal medicines started to be used more and more recently. By the year 2004, the pharma market was worth, only in the US, $450 billion and $950 billion in2019. It is said that the demand will come close to $5 trillion by 2050. Because of the high costs and risks of chemically produced drugs, people, started to look more into herbal medicine (Koul, 2019).

So, as you probably see, the main method through which Ayurveda aims to cure cancer is through herbal medicine. So, in the next part, we will briefly check some of the most-known herbal plants used in Ayurvedic medicine:

· Pomegranate (Punica granatum), a sacred fruit in some religions, research showed that it might have anti-cancer properties for different types of cancer

· The Mangosteen fruit. Some studies showed that it might kill different types of cancer cells. As an example, it slowed the growth of breast cancer in mice

· Sanjeevani (Selaginella Dryopteris), at raditional Indian herb, showed that this plant stopped the growth of cancer cells in test tubes along with reducing ovarian cancer cells in mice

· Withaferin A (Withania somnifera), like Sanjeevabu, US researchers have found that it stopped the growth of breast cancer cells in test tubes. Another study from 2017 found that it could help make a certain type of chemotherapy (cisplatin) more efficient. And fresher, in 2018,researchers have discovered that it could kill melanoma cancer cells through a well-known cell death mechanism called apoptosis.

However, it should be noted that Ayurvedic treatments are certainly safe, like panchakarma and yoga. Patients should take these treatments only from qualified practitioners.

Energy change therapy

As we stated before, Ayurvedic medicine doesn’t imply only herbal medicine but many other techniques like meditation, relaxation, massage, and so on. Also, we talked about Kapha, Vata, Pitta, the three main energies of the body, and any disease comes from the imbalance of any of these three energies. The primary goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to act differently compared to traditional medicine. No pain should come from the treatments, no complex surgeries, no synthetic or chemically produced drugs.

Ayurvedicmedicine clearly states that energy is a very important factor when it comes to diseases and can influence the chance of cancer appearing or curing. Ayurvedic practitioners declare that everyone has three main energies inside them. However, every personality is unique; therefore, one or two doshas might be more dominant in a particular person than in another. The most important thing to notice here is that each dosha has physical and cognitive characteristics, therefore Ayurvedic practitioners use these energy pathways to describe the common traits, diagnose the disease and clearly determine the type of personality and energy the patient has.

Therefore, as Ayurvedic medicine has started to spread more in the Western world, not only in Asia but some Ayurvedic centres from Canada have stated that they take every patient as unique, with his energies and needs. Only through this method, the best results can be achieved. The three energies have to be changed and brought to a balance, however, we need to know first with what energies the patient comes, so that they receive the best type of Ayurvedic treatment.

The most researched method to cure cancer in Ayurveda

After some research through the main medical, scientific databases (e.g. Pubmed), one thing was clear: the most researched therapeutic method and herb of Ayurvedicmedicine seem to be Withania somnifera (WS), better known as Ashwagandha. So, what does this medicinal herb do?

Well, many things, it appears. But first, more about WS. Because of its positive effects on the immune system and rejuvenating effects, itis one of the most studied plants used in Ayurveda. It has many clinical indications, including cancer disease. Also, several studies show that it couldimprove the outcome after cancer therapy. Therefore, more research on WS would help tremendously to develop new and more effective cancer therapeutic adjuvants. Scientists have managed to do a pretty comprehensive review of most of the relevant literature on this subject, how WS influences the development of cancer, and how it can cure it. A more interesting fact was that WS does an even better job of preventing cancer than curing it. Through which mechanisms? For the more “nerdy” people out there, through modulation of apoptotic, proliferative, and metastatic markers in cancer. All these modulations seem to take action through withanolides, these withanolides activating tumour suppressor proteins which will stop the proliferation of cancer cells. Even better, it has been proven that WS rises the efficacy of regular cancer therapeutics like the well-known chemotherapy.

So, yes, it has been scientifically proven the fact that these withanolides from WS act like a therapeutic adjuvant in controlling cancer, plus enhancing the effect of regular cancer treatments.

Could Ayurveda even treat other chronic diseases?

Even if we would love that, not really, but, surprisingly, it does have a certain effect. About Parkinson’s disease, to keep it short, it is a chronic disease of the nervous system caused by the deficiency of dopamine in the brain. Therefore, characteristic symptoms will appear, as bradykinesia, rigidity, and uncontrolled tremor. A plant used in Ayurvedic medicine, Mucuna pruriens, isa natural source of levodopa which will serve as dopamine for the brain (Pathak-Gandhi N, 2017). This will certainly improve the life people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. However, more studies need to be done until safe medicaments will appear based on this study, but it is a promising one, for sure.

Ayurveda and cancer, what comes next?

So, how is the future in this matter? Ayurvedic medicine has shown promising results in preventing and treating cancer. The potential is huge, only if more attention from the medical world would be focused on Ayurveda.


Firstly, many congratulations if you read until here. It certainly shows that you are truly interested in Ayurvedic medicine, and this is simply amazing. There are many reasons for a person to be interested in Ayurvedic Treatment.

Ayurvedicmedicine, on its own, still has a hard time making it in the “standard medicine”, still being seen as alternative medicine, the kind of medicine with fewer scientific proofs and clinical studies. But for sure, this is no reason for which it should be ignored, it just needs to be more studied. As we wrote in the main title of the article, maybe Ayurvedic medicine would not bring so much attention if it could only heal headaches or gastric problems, but the fact that it has to potential to help in preventing and healing this merciless disease called cancer it is simply stunning, And in the future, hopefully, it will.