A complementary treatment for cancer works ‘along with’ conventional treatments unlike alternative treatments, which are used ‘instead of’. While conventional treatments focus primarily on the physical aspect, complementary approaches tend to be more holistic and integrated. Typically, a complementary treatment for cancer incorporates psychological, social and spiritual aspects into the healing regime. In this article, we provide an overview of 4 traditional healing systems – Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tibetan Medicine – that can powerfully support conventional treatments.
Complementary Treatment For Cancer: The Advantages
- Cancer is a complex and multi-factorial disease. So it naturally requires a comprehensive response. A single treatment option is unlikely to address all its aspects
- Different people respond to different treatments. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach may not work. You need a regime that is tailored for you.
- Each system approaches and addresses cancer differently.
- With a life-threatening disease like cancer, you can’t afford to leave any stone unturned.
Different systems of complementary treatment for cancer
Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine that originated in India. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “knowledge of life and longevity”. Ayurvedic therapies typically use complex herbal compounds, minerals and metal substances. Ancient texts also taught surgical techniques, including rhinoplasty, kidney stone extractions, sutures, and the extraction of foreign objects.
- Good health (Sanskrit: Swaasthya) is a result of attaining ‘vitality’ in all aspects of life.
- To achieve a well-functioning metabolic system, the foundation is good digestion and excretion through a “Sattvic” diet
- Practitioners often use purification and detoxification techniques (e.g. Panchakarma), along with exercise, yoga, meditation.
- Ayurveda emphasises living in balance, moderation and in harmony with nature
- Classifies bodily substances into 5 basic elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (Space)
- Focuses on 3 fundamental substances, the “Doshas” (called Vata, Pitta and Kapha), and states that Dosha-balance results in health, while imbalance results in disease.
- Regards physical existence, mental existence and personality as one unit, with each aspect being able to influence each other. So a holistic approach is central, both in diagnosis and therapy
- Healing involves discovering and addressing the root cause rather than just treating the symptoms
- Ayurvedic treatment for cancer includes herbal medications, cleansing/detoxification methods, massage therapies and in many cases, yogic and spiritual practices.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine that was created by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. While most people associate Homeopathy with ‘sweet white pills’, there is much more to it, than that.
- Homeopathy is based on the premise that ‘like cures like’. In other words, the same substance that triggers an illness, can also (in minute doses), treat that illness.
- Since it considers each individual as unique, treatment takes into account body, mind and spirit of a particular person
- Homeopathy is so popular because it achieves good results in chronic conditions like asthma, sinusitis, arthritis, colitis, migraine, hormonal imbalances and skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, etc. These are disorders where mainstream medicine (Allopathy) may have diminishing returns.
- Health is the maintainence of a harmonious equilibrium between the mind, body and vital force. It’s this vital force that animates, guides & balances the human organism in health and in disease.
- Stress disturbs the equilibrium and causes disease. But the response and response to the stressors varies from person to person.
- Homeopaths view Cancer as an ‘out-of-control’ behaviour of cells, which results in their destruction. The healing approach is to arrest or control this ‘out-of-control’ behaviour.
- Hence, homeopathic treatments are individualistic and holistic.
- This complementary treatment for cancer – like the others – addresses the presenting symptoms, as well as the totality of the person’s life and lifestyle. So, in addition to taking the sweet white pills, it involves making changes in the way you live.
C. Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient system of medicine that is over 2,000 years old. Treatment typically include herbal medicine, dietary changes, reflexology (acupuncture, accupressure and massage therapies), movement therapies (Tai-chi ch’uan and Qi gong) as well as certain meditations and visualisations. Modern Chinese hospitals often have two wings under the same roof, so that patients can get the best of both systems: Traditional Chinese Medicine alongside mainstream treatments. This approach is truly a great example of a complementary treatment for cancer.
- Qi (Life-force): the animating principle of the universe
- Yin-Yang: balance of masculine and feminine principles
- Five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Wood, Metal): are the building blocks of creation, including the human body and its organs
- Human beings are intimately connected to all of creation through a constant exchange of Qi.
- The root of all illness (including cancer) is: Deficiency, excess or stagnation of Qi; Imbalance or disharmony between Yin and Yang; or Over-dominance or weakness of any of the Five Elements
- Hence, a holistic approach aims to restore: The smooth and steady flow of Qi; the harmony of Yin and Yang; and the balance between the Five Elements, such that it not only cures the illness, but also helps heal the whole person
- The physical body is inseparable from the mind, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, the organs of the human body are all part of an intelligent and interactive system. Thus cancer is seen as a systemic disease, no matter which organ is affected.
- TCM directly correlates specific body organs with certain emotions. For example
- The lungs are associated with ‘grief’
- The liver is associated with ‘anger’
- The heart is associated with ‘joy’
- The kidneys are associated with ‘fear’
- The spleen and the digestive system are associated with ‘worry’
4. Tibetan Medicine
Tibetan Medicine has evolved as a fascinating synthesis of Buddhist philosophy and Ayurveda. As Tibetan Buddhism becomes increasingly popular (under the leadership of HH The Dalai Lama), Tibetan Medicine is doing the same. The Men-Tsee-Khang organisation’s headquarters are in Dharamshala with branches all over India.
Practitioners use interrogation, pulse examination and urine analysis to determine the root cause of cancer. Then a range of techniques and herbal medicines are used to reduce the tumour size, detoxify the body and strengthen the immune system. Like the others in this article, Tibetan Medicine is another complementary treatment for cancer that pays particular attention to modifying food and lifestyle habits, as they are integral to the healing process.
Tibetan Medicine starts by considering disease and suffering from a spiritual perspective.
- Our fundamental ‘ignorance’ i.e. developing erroneous ideas of our existence (Spiritual)
- Lead to negative mental afflictions like desire, attachment, lust, hatred, anger, lassitude, delusion, etc. which translate into mental imbalances (Psychological)
- Over time, such imbalances accumulate and in turn lead to disease (Pathological)
- In summary, all disease, including cancer, have three interconnected aspects – body, mind and spirit.
- Considers disease at 3 levels: Ultimate (Karma), Proximate (imbalances caused by negative mental states) and Immediate (improper diet; irregular lifestyle; seasonal and environmental factors).
- Tibetan Medicine views cancer specifically at two levels: blood toxicity and wind-energy malfunction.
- Practitioners typically take a 3 pronged treatment approach:
- Heat treatments like moxibustion and Golden Hammer therapy
- Cleansing and detoxification therapies
- Fortifying the immune system and re-balancing the body’s energy system
- They also emphasise the value of ‘Hope’ as a strong and positive factor in the healing process
- Similar to TCM, Tibetan Medicine also correlates certain emotions to specific body parts. For example:
- Desire and attachment impact the heart and thyroid
- Hatred and anger impact the liver and blood
- Lassitude and delusions impact the brain and kidney
Complementary Treatment For Cancer: Are they effective?
We reiterate that we do not recommend an alternative (“instead of”) treatment approach to cancer. We do recommend a complemantary (“along with”) approach. A complementary treatment for cancer can help to achieve holistic healing, deal with side effects and also minimise your chances of recurrence or spread.
- What is your perception about complementary cancer treatments?
- How can you research and prepare yourself to choose the apt course of treatment for your illness?
- How can you play a more active role in your healing?