Cancer- Ayurvedic Understanding And Hopeful Treatment Modalities

This article is written by Dr. MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD (Ayu).
Cancer is a burning problem nowadays. The disease is more common in developed and developing countries than the undeveloped nations. It determines one strong point that modern lifestyle and food habits have direct impact over the occurrence of this illness. It does not mean that the disease was not prevalent in olden times. Because, age old Ayurveda system of medicine refers in detail regarding the name Arbuda or Karkatarbuda. Close review of the etiological factors and clinical manifestation help us to co-relate arbuda with cancerous growths. 

Origin and common factors of Cancer

According to Acharya Sushruta, the father of surgery, the aggravated Doshas are accumulated in a particular localised area of the body. There, they cause excess aberration in muscular tissues (mamsa pradooshana) and hence in the area, circular-stable-mild painful-larger-broad based-non suppurative growths are caused which are gradually maturing in nature. Such muscular growths will have broader (wider) base and often the base (site of origin) is not visible too. Such abnormal, prominent growths are termed as cancerous mass(Arbuda)
गात्रदेशे क्वचिदेव दोषा: सम्मूर्च्छिता मांसं अभिप्रदूष्य ।
वृत्तं स्थिरं मन्दरूजं महान्तं अनल्पमूलंचिरवृध्दिमपाकम् ॥
कुर्वन्ति मांसोच्छ्रायं अत्यगाधं तदर्बुदं शस्त्रविदो वदन्ति ॥ (सु.नि. )


Based upon the dominance of doshic factor and tissues involved, they are classified as-
1. Vataja arbuda
2. Pittaja arbuda
3. Kaphaja arbuda
4. Raktarbuda
5. Mamsarabuda
6. Medo arbuda



Vitiated doshas occupy the blood (rakta) and vessels (sira). There, they compress and contract the localised area and hence an elevated bigger muscular tumour is developed. This growth often bleeds from its periphery by mere touch or abrasion. Such a condition is called Raktarbuda. This gives rise to severe emaciation and chronic anaemia.


Constant trauma or damage in any muscular part of the body leads to vitiation of localised area. Further, these tissues undergo instant transformation and quick multiplication of abnormal cells result into a tumour. This is usually painless, unctuous, vivid coloured, non suppurative, palpated like stone and stable in nature. This is caused usually in non vegetarians and such a condition (mamsarbuda) is incurable.

Medo arbuda

If such a growth is observed over the adipose tissues, it is termed as Medo arbuda.
Adhyarbuda (quickly multiplying tumours/metastasis)
If the above said varieties of tumours (benign tumour) begin to spread (disseminate) to the nearby area and hence extend the pathology there also, the condition is called Adhyarbuda.
It is actually the metastasis or malignant condition of the tumours. This is considered to be incurable.

Non-suppuration of Arbuda

Acharya Sushruta points out the reasons to non suppuration of tissues as below-
त पाकं आयांति कफाधिकत्वात् मेदोऽधिकत्वात् च विशेषतस्तु ।
दोषस्थिरत्वात् ग्रथनात् च तेषां सर्वार्बुदान् एव निसर्गत्स्तु ॥ (सु.नि ११/२१)
Due to the predominance of kapha (phlegm) and medas (adipose tissue), aggravation of doshas altogether in major amount, non-vulnerable tumour formation and natural tendency of the cell duplication, the arbuda (metastasis) does not undergo suppuration.
Management of Arbuda as per Ayurveda:
Acharya Charaka denotes that the metastasis should be treated as like the cysts or abscesses, as they have similar site of origin, aetiology, characteristic features, dosha and dooshya(tissues). The efforts should be carried to mature the growth (if possible) and later cautery is carried.

Line of treatment

Acharya Sushruta specified the following line of treatment in cancerous growths:

1. Vatic cancerous growths

a. Mild sudation
b. Oil swab application by bitter oils
c. Blood letting

2. Paittic cancerous growths

a. Mild sudation
b. Purgation
c. Scraping by the leaves of teak
d. Application of medicated paste of Aragwadha (Cassia fistula), Gojihwa (Onosma bracteatum Wall. ), Trivrit(Operculina turpathum (Linn.) Silva Manso.) etc

3. Kaphaja cancerous growth

a. Emesis
b. Purgation
c. Blood letting
d. Medicinal application- Fine paste of langali(Gloriosa superba), karavira(Nerium indicum) etc
e. Application of alkali, cautery and surgery (if very essential)

Single drugs for cancer

Single drugs useful in Cancer treatment
Devadaru – Cedrus deodara (Roxb.) Loud.
Aragwadha – Cassia fistula Linn.
Trivrit – Operculina turpathum (Linn.) Silva Manso.
Karanja – Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre.
Madanaphala – Catunaragum spinosa (Thunb.) Trivengadum.
Langali – Gloriosa superb Linn.
Karavira – Nerium indicum Mill.
Haridra – Curcuma longa Linn.
Tankana – Borax(Sodium borate)
Kshara – Alkalis

Ayurvedic formulations

Formulation useful for Cancerous growth:

  1. Arogyavardhini vati
  2. Triphala guggulu
  3. Panchatikta ghanavati
  4. Guduchi satwa
  5. Bhadradarvadi kashaya
  6. Gojihwadi kashaya
  7. Aragwadhadi kashaya
  8. Shivakshara pachana choorna
  9. Pancha valkala kwatha etc

Medicines from Sahasra yoga Text book
Panchatiktaka guggulu ghrita

Wholesome diet and habits

  1. Light food
  2. Cow’s milk
  3. Supernatant part of curd or buttermilk
  4. Liquid diet
  5. Red rice
  6. Green gram soup
  7. Pepper
  8. Turmeric
  9. Cow’s urine
  10. Organic food (chemical free food)

Unwholesome diet and habits

  1. Heavy food
  2. Spicy food
  3. Penetrative food
  4. Non vegetarian diet
  5. Tobacco
  6. Fried and oily food
  7. Fatty food
  8. Junk food etc.

Pathya – apathya according to yogaratnakara

Wholesome herbs, diet and habits

Old ghee, old red rice,barley, green gram, pointed gourd, red variety of drumstick, bitter gourd, dry, pungent and carminative substances, guggul, asphaltum etc.

Unwholesome herbs, diet and habits

Milk and milk products, sugarcane juice and its products, meat of animals of marshy lands, food items prepared from flour, sour, sweet, heavy to digest foods and foods that cause obstruction in the channel of circulation etc.

Last drop:
Dear readers of, it is indeed very pitiable to see increasing number of cancer patients now a days. Proper awareness about the healthy food habits, emphasis towards the natural and organic food, avoidance of spicy, oily, fried and junk food will surely help to prevent from the disease. One should be away from chemicals, synthetic substances, corrosives, irritants, narcotics etc. Or else, the suffers should take care of their food and habits with caution.

26 comments on “Cancer- Ayurvedic Understanding And Hopeful Treatment Modalities

  • rajiv

    23/01/2014 - 12:56 am

    @Hebbar sir,
    Also one more doubt. Is it ok to take Arogyavardhini one bottle(usually contains 60 tablets)/per year just as a health supplement. I understand modern science berates the ayurvedic practice of using mercury, but since arogyvardhini vati contains so many medicinal materials like mercury itself, sulphur, iron, copper, abhra bhasma, shilajatu etc, can it be used as a general health supplement(1 bottle per year) to ensure good health and to prevent appearance of diseases??

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      26/01/2014 - 6:49 pm

      I would not recommend Arogya Vardhini as a health supplement.

      Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    24/01/2014 - 9:02 pm

    Thanks for insightful inputs.

    Reply to comment
    • rajiv

      25/01/2014 - 12:36 am

      Forgot to add that washing vessels is preferably to be done with soapnut powders like shikakai and reetha only. Synthetic dishwashing liquid/bars/powders are to be avoided as they leave a residue in the vessels which can enter into the food being cooked.

      Also forgot to add that cast iron vessels should not be used for water based cooking of soups like dal,sambar,rasam, as Water and Iron are incompatible. Also Iron rusts when it comes in contact with water. Cast iron vessels should only be used for making chapati,dosa. And for stir frying vegetables. Deep frying using oil. And also ghee based cooking.

      For cleaning cast Iron vessels, after cleaning with shikakai powder, the iron vessel should be heated in a stove till all the water evaporates, as keeping the iron vessel inside with moisture, it may rust.

      Reply to comment
      • ziya

        27/01/2014 - 9:31 am

        @ Mr. Rajiv,very nice insight. Thanks to Dr. Hebber,as usual.

        Reply to comment
        • rajiv

          05/02/2014 - 7:34 am

          @ziya thanks. I didn’t mention about Gold/Silver. Gold and Silver are by far the best metals for cooking food and boiling water. However in our present age gold/silver per capita is too low and hence these metals are too costly today to be used for cooking food. However small silver pots are available in market today and can be used to boil water for those who want to drink water boiled in silver vessel.

          @Hebbar sir
          Can you write about millets? There are 8 millets grown in India. I have not been able to find references, regarding what ayurvedic texts say about the health qualities of millets.

          Reply to comment
          • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

            29/04/2014 - 10:10 pm

            Hi, so far I too have not found references. Will update as soon as I find them. Regards

            Reply to comment
          • Dan Patel

            19/09/2020 - 3:42 am

            Sure, everyone should cook in gold vessels for the best of their health. Gold is the best metal indeed but who can afford to make cooking vessels out of it. In fact not that much gold exist such that we can make vessels for world population. Thanks for the valued information. Not sure where you get such excellent and un-practical advice.

            Reply to comment
      • Gaurav

        11/02/2014 - 10:06 am

        Rajiv, I’d be very interested to know the source of all this invaluable traditional wisdom, if at all there is one…thanks for sharing.

        Reply to comment
        • rajiv

          27/04/2014 - 5:49 pm

          hi, I think in the olden days (more than 1000 years back) most of the cooking was done in silver, maybe during some era even gold vessels may have been used by common man. Cooking food in gold and silver is way healthier than any other metal. Cooking food in pure copper is harmful as it forms green colour vergidris. In the olden days those who couldn’t afford silver would cook in earthenware(clay) I think as water based cooking in iron vessels is generally not considered healthy due to formation of rust, besides incompatibility( health wise) of iron and water according to local traditional.

          I think Indian bell metal(copper alloy with zinc,tin,lead,mercury,iron,silver) alloy composition may have been mentioned by artisans while making murtis for temples, and i’m guessing these alloys are a recent (maybe 1000-2000 years) addition to traditional indian metallurgy. Although my knowledge is half baked and i’m hoping Hebbar sir can dig out the proper references.

          All these metals like pure copper(for boiling water), bell metal, brass/brass coated with tin, cast iron(for frying) were the only ones used till independence. Most of these healthy metals have been replaced by toxic metals like stainless steel, aluminium, anodized aluminium and modern materials like teflon,etc. I’m guessing this change of cookware happened due to propaganda by greedy politicians and businessmen that traditional Indian metalware/cookware is unhealthy.

          I remember when I was young i never used to like boiled water due to its very bad taste as the water used to be boiled in aluminium vessel and used to drink raw tap water instead, but nowadays i only drink boiled water due to the superb taste imparted by the copper vessel!!

          artisans who make bell-metal usually keep the exact alloy composition a secret, and they also use herbal ingredients like some special wood/ honey-wax,etc. Hence we must support these artisans and also good health and switch back to bell-metal Uruli instead of toxic stainless steel and aluminium.

          Reply to comment
  • Pavan Kumar (@yangaldaspk)

    28/01/2014 - 6:31 pm

    Sir, Can Undifferentiated Pleomorphic Sarcoma (a sub-cutanoeus soft tissue cancer) be classified as Khapaja Arbuda? Can we apply haldi with warmed sesame oil (with grated garlic) as paste after local hot fomentation on the tumour?

    With regards, Pavan Kumar

    Reply to comment
  • Gayathri Sureshbabu

    14/08/2014 - 10:33 pm

    can tin coated brass material be used for cooking rice and storing rice?
    I could the rice cooked in tin coated brass utensil is turned with light black colour (may be because of tin). is that good or bad
    Please suggest


    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      12/10/2014 - 2:43 pm

      As long as the tin coating is in tact in the vessel, you can use that for cooking. But over a period of time, the tin coating tends to wear off. Then, it is best to stop using that utensil.

      Reply to comment
  • maya

    19/01/2015 - 8:05 pm

    What is the pathophysiology of leukemia according to Ayurveda? What is the term for leukemia in Ayurveda? Is it raktaarbuda?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      03/03/2015 - 11:08 pm

      Leukemia symptoms include weight loss, fever, infections, easily prone to bleeding, lymph node enlargement etc – So, these can be correlated with Raktarbuda.

      Reply to comment
  • Gaurav

    15/03/2015 - 10:31 am

    When one talks of understanding Cancer from Ayurvedic perspective, one cannot focus solely on the physical (diet) causative factors. Mental and emotional toxicity are equally, if not more, important causative factors.

    There are numerous cases where even after taking full care of diet and exercise for one’s whole life, people come down with cancer, and the reason can often be very clearly traced down to either a deep seated / long-carried chronic mental or emotional toxicity (caused by emotional pain/anger/unfulfilled desires/worry/other repressed emotions), or sometimes a sudden emotional turmoil caused by some recent disturbing occurrences in the person’s life.

    Hence while the “food habits” part is important, the “lifestyle” part is even more important. Spirit, faith and virtuous living are a big part of avoiding cancer.

    Reply to comment
  • Shubham

    18/07/2016 - 8:16 pm

    Dear Dr. Hebbar,

    Is there any reference in Ayurvedic texts on material for cooking utensils e.g. clay, copper etc. to be used?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      19/07/2016 - 6:51 pm

      Hi, I will have to do some research.
      As a general rule, if in any recipe or medicine, if the vessel is not particularly specified, then clay pot should be used.
      पात्रेऽनुक्ते मृदः पात्रं – Bhavaprakasha Nigantu, Mishra Varga

      Reply to comment
      • Biral Gajjar

        17/08/2016 - 11:32 pm

        Hello Dr Hebber,

        Which utensils are best for cooking vegetables frying and boiling?As stated above,from where i can buy online these utensils?I see frying pan coated with copper online..I would like to have all utensils for cooking like in our ancient india.Please suggest me

        thank you very much all.

        Reply to comment
  • Teupne

    12/05/2017 - 7:00 pm

    Dr. Hebbar Is bone marrow transplant recommended after chemotherapy for ALL?They would destroy patients bone marrow and then replace it with donor BM.It seems illogical except if there is no alternative .My view is that transplants are bound to fail sooner or later.Kindly share your views what can be done.

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      04/06/2017 - 5:22 pm

      I am not a big expert in this situation. But with chemotherapy, intending to kill cancer cells, they also kill bone marrow tissue. Hence the transplant.

      Reply to comment
  • mm2426

    27/04/2018 - 8:54 am

    Is it safe to drink milk in Bronze (Kansa) utensils?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      29/04/2018 - 12:16 pm

      Ghee kept in bronze vessel for more than 10 days is said to be unhealthy. (Charaka Samhita).
      With this logic, I am a little skeptical about milk in bronze utensils. Better to avoid.

      Reply to comment
  • Shradha

    03/07/2018 - 9:18 pm

    Wow what a superb discussion. Would love to see more. Thank you.

    Reply to comment

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