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Oncoprotective Role Of Ayurvedic Herbs In Cancer Therapy

Oncoprotective Role Of Ayurvedic Herbs In Cancer Therapy

Cancer has emerged as the deadliest disease of the modern era. The number of new cancer cases in 2021 has already crossed 19 million worldwide. This disease is becoming even more common and invasive each day. Cancer has become one of the leading causes of death now. Today, ayurvedic herbs for cancer are slowly gaining momentum.

Ayurveda: overview

Today, it is clear that cancer is associated with environmental, dietary, and unpredictable and unstable daily life changes in individuals. Ayurveda stands for “Science of Life” and is the oldest holistic healing system in the world originating from the Indian subcontinent. This practice and methodology of treatment are probably older than 5000 years. Ayurveda emphasises that it balances the constant connection between body, mind, and soul, and thus the natural harmony of each individual. Ayurveda recognizes and characterises some well-mentioned numerous herbs and herbal preparations for treating cancer forms and illnesses.

Modern science and allopathic medicine now believe in the ayurvedic principle, hence more and more research is now being carried towards ayurvedic herbs and natural remedies. Many health centres and universities are incorporating Ayurveda into their programs to combat the growing number of non-communicable diseases. All medical professionals believe that prevention is better than treatment. So, Ayurveda paves the way for such a goal of living a healthy and blissful life.

Ayurveda’s concept of health

According to Ayurveda, there are three types of doshas in our body, i.e., Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (water). There should be a balance between these three doshas. If there is any kind of imbalance in these doshas, then it will lead to the occurrence of diseases and illnesses in our bodies. So, in order to stay healthy, harmony has to be created among these doshas. Cancer is a result of adverse interaction of the environment with our body resulting in the destruction of coordination of doshas and hence diminishing our immunity. 

Ayurvedic herbs for cancer treatment and their oncoprotective phytochemicals

There are tons of herbs mentioned in Ayurveda with specific medicinal uses ranging from the common cold to malignant diseases like cancer. Some of these herbs have protective properties while others are healing in nature. These herbs have been used to treat various types of cancer for thousands of years. Phytochemicals in these herbs are now under intense research and study to isolate the most active component. The active component can be further used to develop drugs.

Let’s talk about some of the oncoprotective herbs mentioned in Ayurveda.

  • Withania somnifera which is commonly known as winter cherry or ashwagandha is one of the important herbs included in Ayurveda. Different parts of this herb, especially the root with its unique content, are effective against numerous types of cancer. The most active phytochemicals, withanolides, and withaferin, along with several other metabolites, including withanone (WN) and withanolides, have been shown to be effective against different types of cancer cell lines. It also has chemoprotective and anticancer properties against cancer, probably owing to its antioxidant and detoxifying nature.
  • Aloe vera is a quite popular herb used in cosmetics and almost everyone knows about it. One of the active ingredients in aloe vera is di (2ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). This phytochemical, as seen in the lab studies, is proven to have anti-leukemic and anti-mutagenic effects. Some researchers have shown aloe vera has antigenic toxicity and chemical preventive effect. 
  • Makandi (Coleus Forskohlii) is used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, respiratory problems, etc as per Ayurveda. While treating cancer, avoiding metastasis is a major challenge. Metastasis is nothing but when cancer cells move from the place of their origin to other places. Derived from Forskolin, makandi has been shown to strongly inhibit melanoma cell-induced human platelet aggregation and tumour colonisation. This study suggests that in-hospital forskolin may play an important role in preventing cancer metastasis. 
  • Indian Sandalwood (Santalum album) is a very famous ayurvedic herb widely used in the cosmetics industry, especially in skincare. S.album essential oils, emulsions, or pastes are used in India as ayurvedic medicines for the treatment of inflammatory and rash skin conditions. Sandalwood oil treatment showed chemopreventive effects. 
  • Sesame oil is widely used in Ayurveda as a topical application for skin health. One study found that both sesame oil and safflower oil contained significant amounts of triglyceride-like linoleic acid, which selectively inhibited the growth of malignant melanoma over normal melanocytes. 
  •  Arjuna (Terminalia Arjuna) is another herb cited in Ayurveda to have medicinal properties to cure heart diseases. In vitro studies show that T. arjuna methanol extract did not affect normal cells but inhibited the growth of normal human fibroblasts. It is another phytochemical with promising results.
  • Lakshmanaphala (Murikata) is known for preventing colon, breast, prostate, lung, and even pancreatic cancer. Murikata has many potential antitumor compounds. One such compound is bullatacin. Acetogenin isolated from sugar apple fruits induces apoptosis that precedes chromatin marginalisation and tumour cell condensation. It can be used as an ethnomedicine against tumours and cancer.
  • Pippali (Piper Longum) is said to treat Kapha dosha in Ayurveda. One of the active alkaloids of Piper Longus is piperine. Piperine has antioxidant properties. Because of this antioxidant power, piperine has been used as an ingredient in Ayurvedic anticancer formulations under both in vitro and in vivo conditions. 
  • Guduchi (Tinospora Cordifolia) is a highly valued ayurvedic herb useful for treating jaundice. The active ingredient of T. cordifolia strengthens the host’s immune system by enhancing immunoglobulin and white blood cell levels. It also stimulates the growth of stem cells and increases the host’s immune response. Capable of reducing solid tumours by 58.8%. It is equivalent to cyclophosphamide, a well-known chemotherapeutic drug.

Summing up

The number of ayurvedic herbs bearing chemoprotective and cancer-fighting properties is huge. So much research is going on and is still underway to explore this vast area of herbs and their phytochemicals. We have tried to discuss a few most sought-after herbs here. But the list of the herbs is increasing every day with a new active component, bringing hope for finding new ways of curing cancer.


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