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Ayurveda and other Ancient Healing Practices

Many have an interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as a supplement to traditional medical treatment. For people living with mesothelioma, these alternatives can provide pain relief, relaxation and calm, and promote healing while undergoing cancer treatment.

There are entire healing systems patients may choose after discussing options with their doctors. One example is Ayurveda. Ayurveda is an ancient healing practice used for thousands of years. If you have mesothelioma and are interested in supplementing conventional treatment with alternative therapies, Ayurveda could provide benefits.

Ancient Medicine Philosophy and Practice

There are many ways ancient healing systems like Ayurveda are similar to modern medicine. However, there are more ways they are different. Ancient healing practices are generally a combination of guiding principles and philosophies for living and healing. They combine healthy living, herbal medicine, mind and body therapies, and other strategies for wellness, as well as treatments for specific illnesses and symptoms.

Ayurveda comes from ancient India and has applications in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It approaches healing and wellness with a holistic philosophy. Unlike modern, western medicine, Ayurveda does not simply focus on treating illness. Instead, practitioners focus on the whole patient. They view illness and disease as imbalances occurring in a person’s life, mind, and body. The expression of that imbalance is a physical illness or symptoms. Herbal medicines make up an important part of this healing system.


Ayurveda, also known as Ayurvedic medicine, is an ancient healing system that originated in India about 3,000 years ago. Like TCM, Ayurveda combines ancient beliefs about the universe with healing. Also similar to TCM, Ayurvedic practitioners treat the whole person, believing disease results from an imbalance in mind, body, and spirit. Ayurveda combines herbal medicines, special diets, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, and other breathing and relaxation techniques to help people achieve overall wellness.

A visit to an Ayurvedic practitioner will involve a thorough physical examination. It will also involve questions about all areas of your life, not just mesothelioma and symptoms related to cancer. Once the practitioner becomes familiar with you and your needs, he or she will recommend a course of treatments, diet changes, herbal medicines, and other strategies to promote healing.

Most Ayurvedic practices, like yoga and meditation, are safe and beneficial. Herbal medicines are usually safe as well. However, you should inform your doctor of any herbs you plan to try.

Ayurveda and Cancer

Some practices prescribed by Ayurveda are known to be useful for cancer patients. Yoga, meditation, and massage therapy, can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and even relieve pain and other side effects that you experience from traditional cancer treatments. A trained practitioner should oversee these practices.

Many herbal medicines used in Ayurveda have been studied for effectiveness in killing cancer cells or treating cancer with interesting results. Some were found to reduce the growth of cancer cells in a laboratory setting. Some, including Indian frankincense and mangosteen, were also shown to reduce tumor growth in lab animals. Studies of these herbs in human trials is limited, but these other studies show there is clearly reason to consider the potential of Ayurvedic medicines to develop into anti-cancer drugs.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a group of medical practices and philosophies of treatment originating in ancient China. TCM has been has been developing and evolving over thousands of years. The system of beliefs is complex, involving ideas about the universe, energy, and how the body and mind interact with the natural world. Some strategies practitioners use to treat patients include herbal medicine, massage therapy, acupuncture, dietary changes, tai chi, feng shui, and a practice involving the burning of herbs.

If you visit with a practitioner of TCM you can expect a complete evaluation. The practitioner will ask numerous questions and focus on healing you as a whole person rather than treating individual symptoms. You may also undergo a physical examination. Your practitioner will recommend several alternative treatments. These treatments can range from acupuncture to dietary changes. TCM is generally safe. However, you should be cautious with herbal medicine. Always clear it with your doctor before trying any herbal medications. Some herbs cause side effects and may interact with your medications.

TCM and Cancer

TCM is not a substitute for traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. However, it can be used as a supplemental treatment, helping you feel better, improve overall wellness, and relieve symptoms and side effects.

Research involving how TCM can help cancer patients is limited. However, specific TCM practices, like acupuncture, have been studied. Acupuncture research has proven it can help relieve pain, nausea, and dry mouth, all common symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments.

In China, it is typical for cancer patients, including those with mesothelioma, to use both conventional western treatments and alternative therapies. Chinese studies show positive results for combining traditional medicine with treatments like chemotherapy. However, it is often difficult to determine the effectiveness of traditional treatments for cancer.

One treatment often used  in China to complement western treatments is a compound kushen injection, or CKI. CKI is derived from herbs and is approved in China as a cancer treatment. A recent study conducted in Australia looked at CKI to discover how it may help treat cancer. The study discovered the mixture is key, is therapeutic, and can kill cancer cells while causing few side effects.

Some people are skeptical of ancient healing systems, like TCM and Ayurveda. Others embrace the possibilities that alternative treatments can be valid options for cancer patients. If you want to try alternative therapies, you should proceed with a few precautions. Always discuss new treatments with your doctor or medical team. Your team needs to know everything that cold potentially affect your illness. Always work with trained professionals with positive recommendations.

Not all alternative treatments are harmless. Proceed with caution, but be willing to explore.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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