NEW DELHI: Do ayurvedic drugs help treat cancer? While proponents of the alternative therapy claim they do, the scientific community denies the same, citing lack of evidence. To clear this confusion, AIIMS will collaborate with experts from the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences and the All India Institute of Ayurveda to study and validate the efficacy of ayurvedic drugs used for treating cancer of the breast, cervix, and oral cancer, among others.
G K Rath, who heads the cancer division at AIIMS, told TOI that the large-scale project follows pilot studies conducted at the institute that showed better recovery on the administration of coded ayurvedic drugs, in addition to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, in cancer patients. However, it did not have any role in curing the disease. "One of our pilot studies involving breast lot studies involving breast cancer patients confirms that the ayurvedic drug helped in reducing side-effects like hair fall, nausea and fall in vital blood parameters, " Dr Rath said.AIIMS doctors say many people in India believe and take to alternative therapies, and, in some cases, positive outcomes have been observed. However, evidence generation has remained elusive as most practitioners do not share the ingredients used. "Our aim is to validate the medicines prescribed as alternative therapy. This will help standardise and exploit the potential of this therapy. Allopathic treatment has its limitations and it is often associated with side-effects while alternative therapies are considered safer, " Abhishek Shankar, nodal officer for the collaborative project, said.
The AIIMS project will also look into claims that cannabis helps in maintaining quality of life in cancer patients post-treatment and mitigates acute and chronic radiation and chemotherapy toxicities. "Many practitioners of the alternative therapy give herbo-minerals (bhashm, for example) for treating cancer. There are some studies suggesting it benefits the patient but no one knows in what quantity. Different practitioners give away the herbo-mineral in different quantities, sometimes leading to deterioration in kidney function also, " Dr Shankar said.
Ayurvedic medicine can include advice on diet and special diets, specific medications, massage, meditation, yoga, breathing and relaxa tion techniques and bowel cleansing, among others. Research shows that ayurvedic treatment can help relieve cancer symptoms and improve the quality of life, according to a UK-based charity foundation that raises funds for research and awareness in the field.
"For example, massage can lower stress and help you to relax. Meditation can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and boost general wellbeing, " it says. Studies have shown that yoga helps lymphoma patients sleep better, and reduces stress in people with breast or prostate cancer, say experts.