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What Ayurvedic medicine is

How Ayurvedic medicine is thought to work

People with cancer using ayurvedic medicine
What Ayurvedic medicine involves
Possible side effects of Ayurvedic medicine
Safety of Ayurvedic medicines
Research into Ayurvedic medicine
Finding an Ayurvedic practitioner
The cost of Ayurvedic medicine
Ayurvedic organisations in the UK
More information about Ayurvedic medicine

What Ayurvedic medicine is

Ayurveda is an Indian word ayur means life and veda means knowledge. Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient
Indian system of medicine which began about 5,000 years ago. It is not just one treatment. It is a way of
diagnosing illness and using a wide range of treatments and techniques. There is no scientific evidence
to prove that Ayurvedic medicine can treat or cure cancer or any other disease.
Ayurvedic medicine can include
Advice on diet and special diets
Taking specific Ayurvedic medications
Herbal medicine
Yoga and
Breathing and relaxation techniques
Depending on your particular health problems, an Ayurvedic practitioner may suggest any or all of these
Some therapists also recommend cleansing of the bowel (intestines) by putting liquid into the back passage
(enemas). They may suggest taking medicines that make the bowel work more quickly (laxatives). These
practices are supposed to get rid of toxins. Other ways of cleansing and detoxifying include forced vomiting
and blood letting (drawing blood from the body). These methods can be very harmful and most therapists
dont use them.
Some Ayurvedic methods, such as yoga, massage and relaxation, are generally helpful to people with
cancer. But others, such as some herbal treatments, certain diets and cleansing the bowel can be harmful.
You should be very cautious when using them and always check with your doctor first because they can
have some serious side effects. You should also contact your doctor for advice if an Ayurvedic practitioner
diagnoses you with any new medical condition.
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How Ayurvedic medicine is thought to work

The main idea behind Ayurvedic medicine is that health problems happen because your mind, body and
spirit are out of balance. Practitioners aim to bring balance and harmony back into your body, which they

think prevents or cures disease. They claim that certain combinations of Ayurvedic medicine will help to
Increase energy and wellbeing
Balance mind, body and spirit
Decrease stress
Possibly prevent and cure disease
Ayurvedic practitioners think we are all made up of 3 elements known as doshas. These are
Air and space (vata dosha), which allows movement
Fire and water (pitta dosha), which allows change or transformation and is responsible for digestion
and metabolism
Water and earth (kapha dosha), which gives structure or cohesion
These 3 doshas allow all the organs of the body to work together in harmony. They also create your
relationship with the environment and universe (cosmos). Ayurvedic practitioners believe we usually have
strong features of one dosha, but the others also influence us. Our health is dependent on the correct
balance of all 3.
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People with cancer using ayurvedic medicine

People with cancer often use touch therapies such as massage and aromatherapy. Many people say these
therapies help them to cope better with cancer and its treatment. Research is looking into whether some
herbs or plant treatments used in Ayurvedic medicine could help to prevent or treat cancer.
But we don't know much about some of the treatments that are part of Ayurvedic medicine, such as special
diets and herbal remedies. These treatments could be harmful to your health or interfere with conventional
treatment, such as cancer drugs or radiotherapy.
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What Ayurvedic medicine involves

To decide on a plan of treatment your practitioner will take your medical history and assess your doshas.
To do this they examine your tongue, lips, and nails. They look inside your eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth.
They may also examine your back passage (rectum) and genital area. They listen to your lungs and heart,
and take your pulse.
The practitioner will also take into account your emotions, your relationships with other people and even
the season and time of the day. They hope to be able to balance all these factors in your life and restore or
maintain your health and well being. They will then discuss which treatments will help you most.
Your relationship with your Ayurvedic practitioner is very important. They are responsible for creating a safe
setting in which you can both work together and decide on your treatment. If you dont feel comfortable
with anything that your practitioner is doing it is important that you try and discuss this with them.
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Possible side effects of Ayurvedic medicine

Depending on which treatments you use, you may have some side effects. Some herbal medicines are safe,
but not all.
There is very little published information on the herbal remedies used by Ayurvedic practitioners, so always
let your doctor know before taking any of them. Some common herbs may have dangerous side effects if
you take them with cancer treatments, such as cancer drugs or radiotherapy.
Some Ayurvedic remedies contain harmful heavy metals such as lead or zinc. We have information about
the safety of herbal products during cancer treatment.
Following certain diets when you have cancer is not always safe either. So be sure to ask your doctor
before starting on any diet.
Yoga, relaxation techniques and massage are generally safe.
Some methods of ayurvedic medicine can be very harmful. Blood letting can be dangerous for anyone, and
especially for people who are ill. Because of their disease or treatment, many people with cancer already
have low levels of blood cells. Low blood cell counts can cause tiredness (fatigue), breathlessness and other
symptoms. Removing blood will make these symptoms worse.
Forced vomiting is unhealthy and can upset the levels of salt and minerals in your body. Taking regular
enemas and medicines to clear your bowel is known to cause side effects. Some can be serious and
potentially fatal. Side effects include
Inflammation of the bowel
Salt and other mineral imbalances in the body
You should never use enemas or laxatives to clear your bowel if you have abdominal pain, vomiting or feel
sick. Always ask your doctor first.
We advise anyone with cancer not to rely totally on Ayurvedic medicine and not to avoid conventional
medical treatment.
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Safety of Ayurvedic medicines

Most Ayurvedic medicines are made up of a combination of herbs. Some herbal medicines may interact with
treatments from your doctor, including cancer drugs or radiotherapy. Some herbal treatments may affect
the way cancer drugs are broken down by your body or the way drugs are carried around your body.
Always check with your doctor before taking any type of herb or medicine.
There are concerns about the toxicity of some Ayurvedic medicines. There has been no research to
thoroughly test many of these medications. In 2004, a study published in America found that 14 out of 70
Ayurvedic remedies bought over the counter contained levels of heavy metals such as mercury, lead and
arsenic that could be harmful. All the remedies were made in South Asia. The amount of the active
ingredient may also vary between products.
In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) regulates the registration of
herbal products. You can find information on its website about
The safety of herbal medicines including what you need to know as a consumer
Herbal safety news, which has advice and guidance about taking specific herbs
Ayurvedic medicines that may contain heavy metals (type 'Ayurvedic medicines' into the search box to

find the list)

Companies making herbal products bought over the counter in health food shops and pharmacies have to
meet quality standards. They also need to provide information about their product, including the exact
content and dose of the product and how safe it is. It is important to use only herbal products that are
registered under the Traditional Herbal Remedies (THR) scheme. Remedies that are registered under the
scheme have a THR mark and symbol on the packaging. THR products have been tested for quality and
The Medicines and Healthcare regulatory Agency (MHRA) states that there is a big variation in how
unlicensed traditional Chinese or Ayurvedic medicines are made. Some have been found to contain illegal
substances and toxic herbs. These substances may not be listed on the packaging of the product. The
amount of the active ingredient can also vary widely between products.
It is safest to buy plant remedies from a fully qualified herbal practitioner who is trained to work out which
herbal medicines are appropriate for you. They can also trace where their herbs and plants come from.
Lower down this page is information about finding a herbal therapy practitioner.
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Research into Ayurvedic medicine

Research has looked intoAyurvedic medicine for cancer symptoms and Ayurvedic medicine to treat cancer.

Ayurvedic medicine for cancer symptoms

Ayurvedic medicine involves the use of several types of therapies and people use it for many different types
of illness. Some of these therapies, such as massage, may lower stress and help you to relax.Research has
found that some aspects of Ayurvedic medicine can help to relieve cancer related symptoms and improve
quality of life.
Meditation can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and boost general wellbeing. Recent studies have
shown that yoga helps to improve sleep patterns in lymphoma patients and also reduces symptoms of
stress in people with breast cancer or prostate cancer.

Ayurvedic medicine to treat cancer

More than 200 herbs and plants are used in Ayurvedic medicine. Some early laboratory and animal
research suggests that compounds taken from traditional Ayurvedic medicines may be able to slow the
growth of cancer in animals. Although this early research looks promising, there is no evidence that
Ayurvedic herbal medicines can prevent, treat or cure cancer in humans. We won't really know whether
Ayurvedic medicine is helpful in treating cancer until large randomised clinical trials have been carried out.
Researchers have looked at some compounds used in Ayurvedic medicine. These include those listed below.
Withaferin A
In America in 2011 researchers took a compound called Withaferin A (WA) from the Ayurvedic medicinal
plant Withania somnifera. They found that in the laboratory Withaferin A stopped the growth of some types
of breast cancer cells. It also stopped the growth of breast cancer in mice. Several other studies support
these findings.
An Indian study in 2011 looked at selaginella bryopteris, a traditional Indian herb referred to as Sanjeevani.

It found that compounds taken from the herb stopped the growth of cancer cells in the laboratory. The
compound also reduced the development of skin tumours in mice.
Indian frankincense
A US research study also in 2011 looked at acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) taken from the gum
resin of the boswellia serrata known as salai guggal or Indian frankincense. Traditionally, this substance has
been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammatory conditions. The researchers found that AKBA slowed
the growth of bowel cancers in mice and made the cancer less likely to spread.
The mangosteen fruit has a long history of medicinal use in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Recently, the
compound alpha mangostin taken from the outside layer of the fruit was shown to kill various types of
cancer cells in laboratory studies. This led Japanese researchers to test alpha mangostin in mice. The
substance slowed the growth of breast cancer in mice and it was much less likely to spread to the lymph
Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is seen as a sacred fruit in some world religions. Many cultures and
systems of medicine, including Ayurvedic medicine, have used it for various health problems. Early research
in the laboratory seems to show that pomegranate extracts may have anti cancer properties against
prostate, bowel and liver cancer.
Pomegranate is a good source of fibre and vitamins. Some studies looking at men who drank pomegranate
juice or took extract have not shown any benefit in taking it. One small study followed men who drank
pomegranate juice every day and found that their cancer took longer than normal to grow. So, at the
moment its unclear whether pomegranate is helpful for men with prostate cancer. We need more research
in large trials to be certain. Its fine to include pomegranate in a healthy diet.
MAK-4 and MAK-5
Some laboratory studies have looked at Ayurvedic herbal remedies called MAK-4 and MAK-5. The remedies
seemed to show some activity in controlling tumours in rats and cancer cells in lab dishes. But there have
been no studies in humans.
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Finding an Ayurvedic practitioner

If you decide to use Ayurvedic medicine, it is vital that the person who treats you is properly trained and
qualified. There are several places that people can train to become Ayurveda therapists, and there are
different levels of training. Many therapists go to India to study as there are more than 180 training schools
there for Ayurveda. Some of the training in India can take up to 5 years to complete.
Some therapists train in a certain treatment that is part of the Ayurvedic medicine system such as massage
or meditation but not in others such as herbal treatments. There is no single professional organisation that
regulates Ayurvedic medicine in the UK. Therapists can join several associations. But there is no law to say
that they have to. Therapists do not have to finish any specific training.
Before you choose an Ayurvedic therapist or practitioner you should contact the Ayurvedic Practitioners
You canask the practitioner

How many years of training they've had

How long they've worked as a practitioner
Whether they have treated people with cancer before
If they have indemnity insurance (in case of negligence)
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The cost of Ayurvedic medicine

The cost varies depending on the treatments you have. The first consultation can cost anything between
25 and 65. Follow up appointments usually cost less. Some Ayurvedic clinics encourage overnight or
longer stays for intensive detoxification treatments. These can be very expensive. We recommend that you
get full information about the costs of treatment before agreeing to have it. It is also important to check
with your doctor that the treatments are safe for you.
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Ayurvedic organisations in the UK

Ayurvedic Practitioners Association
23 Green Ridge
Telephone: +44 (0)1273 930 956
Website: apa.uk.com
The Association website has information about Ayurvedic medicine and the difference between practitioners
and therapists. It regulates and maintains a list of Ayurvedic Practitioners and Therapists. All therapists have
professional indemnity insurance and abide by the APA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
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Read more at http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/treatment/complementaryalternative/therapies/ayurvedic-medicine#XvxdlYJaymbWG4tp.99