We had the privilege of interviewing Dr. K.M. Madhu PPa Senior Physician in the Clinical Research Department of Arya Vaidya Sala, Kotakkal.  Dr. Madhu has 20 years of ayurvedic practice of which 15 years have been in Cancer Care.

Dr. Madhu has presented several papers on ayurvedic treatment for cancer and has conducted various TV programmes on Malayalam channels like Doordashan, Manorama Vision, Amrutha and Asianet.

We are happy to share his invaluable insights on ayurveda for cancer care with you:

What does Ayurveda say about cancer and its prevention?

Ayurveda describes this disease as different entities. Various chapters in Ayurvedic texts describe similar conditions such as cancer. Proper diet and daily rituals along with a pleasant mind can prevent most of the diseases.   In most of the Ayurvedic texts cancer is mainly described in contexts like Arbuda, Grandhi, Apachi etc. Daily rituals like getting up in Brahma Muhoortham (approximately 4.00 am)  and performing daily exercises etc is good for maintaining a good health by which healthy cells will be produced in your body.

How do you define Cancer from a dosha perspective in Ayurveda?

As per my experience most of the cancer patients are having Tridohaja Vyadi. Predominance of Vatha dosha can be seen in most of the cases. It is not relevant to compare modern diagnosis with dosha theory. As I told you in earlier questions, Ayurveda is a personalised treatment system. So each person should be evaluated differently on his dosha predominance. Dosha predominance can be monitored in different types of cancers.

Is it possible to cure cancer with Ayurvedic therapies?  

Certain conditions can be cured with ayurveda as per my experience.  Usually the  primary stages of malignancy can be managed with Ayurvedic drugs. The physical condition of the patient is also very important.

What are the main herbs and medicinal plants used in ayurvedic formulations that treat cancer?

Guggulu, Thippali, Haridra, Pepper etc. are some of the medicinal plants used in Ayurvedic formulations that treat cancer.

Is there any specific ayurvedic treatment for treating the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy in cancer patients?

Yes, there are ayurvedic treatments for managing side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.  In Ayurveda we give selected medicines according to the side effects manifested in each patients. We also give  medicines like Arushkaram, Aswagandha, Chyavanaprasam etc as immune boosters.The diet also plays a major role. Non spicy, non oilly and vegetarian diet is preferred.

Is the curcumin in turmeric really effective in treating cancer?

Curcumin is an immuno modulator and anti inflammatory drug. We are not using curcumin alone in our treatments. It is helpful in some cases.  We concentrate more on classical Ayurvedic preparations.

Are there different treatment options for different types of cancer?

Oral medications and treatments will be different for different conditions. Ayurveda treats the patient not the disease. So personalized variation according to the constitution may reflect in the treatment.  

Does the age of the patient influence the kind of treatment prescribed for cancer?

Yes, of course.  In older patients Ayurveda will be the better option since it will not affect the general health.

What types of cancer are the easiest to treat with Ayurveda?

It may not be possible to say like that.  Cancers in different persons will be different in nature. As per the patient’s constitution and other health parameters the prognosis will differ.

Is there any ayurvedic treatment that can reverse terminal cancer?

In certain conditions the longevity can be improved with better quality of life.  We have experience for Ca.Lung where patient got symptomatic cure as well as better longevity. Also in Ca.Urinary bladder the same results were obtained.

Can ayurvedic medicines be taken alongside allopathic medicines?  Are there any contra-indications?

Ayurvedic medicines can be taken along with Allopathic medicines. There are incidents that the patients on chemotherapy or radiation maintained better general health with Ayurvedic medicines. Patients who have completed chemotherapy or radiation are taking Ayurvedic medicines to prevent further recurrence.

How would you reduce the effects of chemotherapy?

By improving the immune system of the body.  Immunity can be improved by improving the function of Agni or metabolism in wider sense. It may require proper diet and medications called Rasayana.

Will ayurvedic treatment for cancer be effective if the patient is also suffering from other concomitant illness like diabetes or chronic kidney disease or heart disease?

Yes.  Patients having other diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc., can be treated with Ayurvedic medicines for cancer. They can continue their medication along with Ayurvedic treatment.

Would Ayurveda work in cancer patients who have Ascites (Water retention in stomach)?

There are limitations in this condition.  If the ascites increases and patient has breathing distress, it will be ideal to perform ascitic tapping. Here Ayurvedic medicines may not work.

Do you have any data/case studies that you can share on those with cancer who have been successfully treated with ayurvedic medicines?

Yes.  A middle-aged patient was diagnosed with Ca.Lung who came here with collapse of lung. She has breathing difficulty and cough. She did not take any modern treatments. After one year of medication, she became healthy without any problems. She is living now with good health.

Is it possible to control the spread of cancer with diet and lifestyle changes?  What are your recommendations?

To some extent it is possible. Take diet in proper quantity in proper time. Do the proper exercise. Avoid mental stress.

What are the chances of recurrence of the cancer in successfully treated patients?

Very rare. It depends on the disease as well as the individual’s constitution.

What is the difference between a carcinoma, a tumour and cancer?  

Carcinoma is the type of cancer that develops with epithelial cells. Tumour can be a swelling which may be benign or malignant. Cancer is the term used to describe malignant diseases.

What is the meaning of ‘benign’ and ‘malignant’ cancer?

Benign tumour usually doesn’t cause many complications. Malignant ones make secondaries and there is a chance of spread.

Do infections cause cancer?  What are the common infections that result in cancer?

There is a theory that Pappiloma virus causes cervical cancer. If our immunity gets compromised the chances of getting cancer is high. These viruses may alter the cell division and can cause malignancy.

Can cancers be caused by anaemia?


Does being a vegetarian reduce the risk of getting cancer?  What sort of diet and lifestyle would you recommend to prevent getting cancer?

We can’t exactly say it like that. But as vegetarian food contains more fibre and is easy to digest, it is a good choice. Diets which contain all natural nutrients are good. Take plenty of fruits and raw salads. Proper exercise and positive thoughts are some of the recommendations.

What are the dos and don’ts for cancer patients?

Dos – Take plenty of fruits and vegetables. Use fruit juices frequently as per the condition. Be calm. Sleep well at night.

Don’ts – Excessive eating, over exertions, mental stress.

Other than medicines, what are some of the lifestyle changes that one should make when suffering from cancer?

Take good quality food in proper timings. Maintain a good routine. Take enough rest. Exercises which are suitable to the physical condition can be performed.

Additional Reading:

Ayurveda with controlled diet good for cancer patients – The Hindu

Papers presented by Dr. K.M. Madhu:

Problems and prospectives of research in Ayurveda – International Symposium on Ayurveda, Yoga, and Naturopathy in 2002 at Mahathma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sevagram Wardha Maharashtra India

Experience in Cancer treatment – National Seminar on Medical Oncology in 2005 at Govt.Ayurveda College Kannur Kerala State India

Cancer an overview – Dist. Conference of A.M.A.I at Palakkad Kerala State India

Cancer – an Ayurvedic perspective – Pankajakasthuri Ayurveda College Thiruvananthapuram & V.P.S.V Ayurveda College Kottakkal Kerala State India

Cancer – Ayurvedic Clinical experience Arya Vaidya Sala yearly seminar at Thrissur Kerala State India

AROGYABHI 2012 – Life Style with Ayurveda , Panchakarma I Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Gynaecology and post surgical care Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Management of Cancer through Ayurveda – Rashtriya Ayurveda Vidyapeeth National Seminar at New Delhi India

Cancer care – An Ayurvedic view – KMCH College of Pharmacy Coimbatore Tamilnadu India

International Seminar on Ayurvedic concepts and management of Arbuda/Malignant disorders – SDM Ayurveda College Udupi Karnataka State India

National Seminar on Concepts in Ayurvedic clinical practices – Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Ayurveda College Nazerthpet Chennai Tamilnadu India