Cancer is a complex disease which may be caused by a toxic environment, devitalized food, lifestyle and lack of spiritual purpose in life, which in turn causes accumulation of toxic material that disturbs the balance of the basic elements. Each cancer is unique, the way it grows and develops, its chances of spreading, the way it affects the body and the symptoms produced.
Cancer is a complex set of diseases and is one of the most devastating diseases worldwide. According to WHO statistics, the burden of new cases in 2000 was estimated to be 10.1 million in the world representing about 20% increase over the previous decade.
In males lung cancer is the leading cancer site both in terms of new cases as well as deaths, with almost equal contribution. The second most common cancer globally, is stomach cancer with almost two-thirds of the load contributed by the developing world, in particular China. This is followed closely by prostate and colo-rectal cancers. Cancers of the breast and cervix are the two most important cancer sites and account for one-third of all cases diagnosed in the women of the developing world.
Cancer in Ayurveda
Ayurveda pharmacology considers drug action to be mediated totally or partially through rasa (taste), vipaka (assimilation/fate of the drug), veerya (dosage) and prabhava (activity) of the drug. It is worth remembering that selection of a plant reported in classical texts for a particular disease alone is not going to help as Ayurveda is indeed a way of life. A holistic approach is required which would re-normalize the altered environment.
There is considerable scientific evidence, both epidemiological and experimental, regarding vegetables and fruits as key features of diets associated with reduced risks of diseases such as cancers and infections. This has led to the use of a number of phytometabolites as anticarcinogenic and cardioprotective agents, promoting a dramatic increase in their consumption as dietary supplements.
Aloe barb adensis (Aloe)
Aloe belongs to the family Liliaceae. The plant is a perennial herb with condensed stem and succulent leaves arranged in a rosette shape. The exudates of the succulent fleshy leaves contain a number of therapeutically important compounds such as aloin, aloe emodin, etc. The species is native to Africa from where it has been introduced to India.
Andrographis paniculata (Kalmegh)
The plant belongs to the family Acanthaceae. It is an erect branched annual herb with simple leaves arranged in opposite manner. The whole herbage is bitter and therapeutically important. The species is distributed throughout India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
Asparagus racemosus (Satavari)
It is a member of the family Liliaceae and the plant is a spiny, woody climber and much branched. Cladodes are 2–6 in number per node and arranged in a tuft. Leaves are modified into erect or sub-recurved spines. The fibrous root system is modified into fascicular roots for storage and used for medicinal purposes. The species is distributed throughout tropical and sub-tropical India, Sri Lanka, Australia and tropical Africa.
Catharanthus roseus (Periwinkle)
Periwinkle is a member of the family Apocynaceae. The plant is an erect annual or climber with simple, alternate leaves and a jointed stem. The leaves are aromatic and are medicinally important. It is extensively grown in India and used as stimulant. The species is a native of Malaysia.
Piper longum (Long pepper)
Long pepper is a member of the family Piperaceae. It is a dioecious, perennial aromatic climber with simple, alternate leaves and jointed stem. The mature fruit and root and basal portions of the stem are medicinally important. The species is native to tropical and subtropical India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Semecarpus anacardium (Bhela/marking nut tree)
The plant belongs to the family Anacardiaceae. It is a small to medium sized deciduous tree with rough dark-brown bark. The leaves are simple and large sized and the fruit is used for therapeutical purposes. The species is distributed throughout sub-Himalayan and tropical India, Malaysia and Australia.
Tinospora cordifolia (Amrut)
The plant belongs to the family Menispermaceae. It is a dioecious climber bearing aerial roots and with papery bark. The leaves are pedicellate, alternate and polymorphic. The stem contains starch and alkaloids and is mainly used for medicinal purposes.
Taxus baccata (Taxus/Yew)
Taxus is a member of the family Coniferae. It is a small or medium sized evergreen tree, stem fluted and branches horizontal. Leaves are long, linear, flattened and narrowed and commonly known as needles. Male flowers are arranged in catkins and female flowers are solitary. The stem bark is used for medicinal purposes. It is distributed in temperate Himalayas, Khasi hills, Tamil Nadu, Europe, Africa and America.
Vateria indica (Kundura, Indian Copal tree)
It is a member of the family Dipterocarpaceae. The plant is a resinous tree with whitish bark, leaves entire, penninerved and coriaceous. Young branches and leaves are clothed with hoary, stellate pubescence and flowers are in panicles. The resin and bark are medicinally useful. The species is distributed throughout western India.
Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)
The plant belongs to the family Solanaceae. It is an erect evergreen plant with simple alternate leaves. The plant is widely distributed in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The roots are considered to be medicinally important.