US health department wants ayurveda cures for cancer documented

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ayurvedic research

In a major fillip to India’s efforts to globalise ayurveda and other traditional medicines, the US department of health and human services’ premier National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) have expressed interest in documenting ayurveda’s success stories in treating cancer.

Dr G Gangadharan, director, MS Ramaiah Indic Center for Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Bengaluru, who was part of an Indo-US joint delegation working on traditional medicine, said: “Some time in June, the US institutes expressed interest in documenting the success of ayurvedic treatment for cancer.” The delegation concluded in March 2016 its first meeting with the agenda ‘Collaborative Research on Traditional Medicine’.

Another integrated medicine expert with his own institute in Bengaluru, Dr Issac Mathai, who was also part of the delegation, said: “After the meeting in Delhi, the NIH and NCI teams visited the Ramaiah Centre and another facility.”

Gangadharan said several issues pertaining to traditional medicine, especially ayurveda, were discussed at the meeting and the expression of interest to document case studies will go a long way in taking this form of medicine to the world.

“While there is a lot of research in ayurveda, none of it is helping the traditional form. All of it is focused on identifying new molecules for modern medicine. The need of the hour is in proving how effective it is,” he said.

Although India has over 40,000 formulations in ayurveda, the Indian patent office has issued only 200 patents so far – of which 11% have gone to foreign entities with China leading the pack. Five patents have been granted for procedures to treat cancer and one has gone to a legal representative of a client in the US. The patent is for ‘Nutraceutical for the prevention and treatment of cancers and diseases affecting the liver’.

Although no generally accepted cure for cancer using ayurveda has been recorded officially in India, a recent test of a drug by AIIMS, Delhi showed improvement in the quality of life of cancer patients’, something the US is also aiming to enhance through President Obama’s Cancer Moonshot.

Mathai said there’s a lot of work in the field and once it materialises, partnership with the US will take ayurveda a long way.

The office of Dr Edward Trimble, director, Center for Global Health, NCI, confirmed the development. Soon after the March meeting, Trimble had said in a statement issued by the Union Ayush ministry: “The collaboration was a great opportunity to bring to the table from the US side NCI and NIH expertise in laboratory and clinical evaluation of traditional medicine and from the Indian side an impressive commitment to building the evidence base for traditional Indian medicine.”

The NIH research database shows over 3,574 papers on curcumin (a member of the ginger family) and cancer, and 1,161 papers on turmeric and cancer.

There are 2,500 studies on ginger, while there are 668 papers on fennel and 582 on cumin. According to a 2015 report of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) under the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), the number of US citizens who have used ayurveda has jumped to 2.41 lakh in 2012 from 1.5 lakh in 2002.

An NHI factsheet on ayurveda says a few clinical trials in 2011 have shown some results for treating cancer using ayurveda. However, it says: “Most clinical trials of ayurvedic approaches have been small, had problems with research designs, or lacked appropriate control groups, potentially affecting research results.”  

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Six-day clinical trial finds integrative medicine program alters blood serum

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Source : University of California – San Diego

Summary : In a novel controlled clinical trial, participants in a six-day Ayurvedic-based well-being program that featured a vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga and massages experienced measurable decreases in a set of blood-based metabolites associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk and cholesterol regulation.

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In a novel controlled clinical trial, participants in a six-day Ayurvedic-based well-being program that featured a vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga and massages experienced measurable decreases in a set of blood-based metabolites associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk and cholesterol regulation.

The findings, published in the September 9 issue of Scientific Reports, represent a rare attempt to use metabolic biomarkers to assess the reported health benefits of integrative medicine and holistic practices. Senior author of the study, which included researchers from multiple institutions, was Deepak Chopra, MD, clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a noted proponent of integrative medicine.

“It appears that a one-week Panchakarma program can significantly alter the metabolic profile of the person undergoing it,” said Chopra, whose foundation provided and managed funding for the study. “As part of our strategy to create a framework for whole systems biology research, our next step will be to correlate these changes with both gene expression and psychological health.”

Study co-author Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor of family medicine and public health and director of the Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health, both at UC San Diego School of Medicine, noted that alternative and integrative medicine practices, such as meditation and Ayurveda, are extremely popular, but their effects on the human microbiome, genome and physiology are not fully understood. “Our program of research is dedicated to addressing these gaps in the literature.”

“The researchers looked at the effects of a Panchakarma-based Ayurvedic intervention on plasma metabolites in a controlled clinical trial,” said first author Christine Tara Peterson, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Panchakarma refers to a detoxification and rejuvenation protocol involving massage, herbal therapy and other procedures to help strengthen and rejuvenate the body.”

The study involved 119 healthy male and female participants between 30 and 80 years of age who stayed at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, Calif. Slightly more than half were assigned to the Panchakarma intervention (the Chopra Center’s Perfect Health program, which typically costs $2,865 for a six-day treatment). The remainder to a control group. Blood plasma analyses, using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, were taken before and after the six-day testing period.

The researchers found that in the Panchakarma group there was a measurable decrease in 12 specific cell-membrane chemicals (phosphatidylcholines) correlating with serum cholesterol and inversely related to Type 2 diabetes risk.

“These phospholipids exert broad effects on pathways related to inflammation and cholesterol metabolism,” said Peterson. “Plasma and serum levels of the metabolites of phosphatidylcholine are highly predictive of cardiovascular disease risk.”

Application of a less stringent measurement standard identified 57 additional metabolites differentially abundant between the two groups of participants. The authors suggested that given the very short duration of the trial, the serum profile changes were likely driven by the vegetarian diet component of Panchakarma. They said further studies were needed to more fully understand the processes and mechanisms involved.

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of California – San Diego. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Christine Tara Peterson, Joseph Lucas, Lisa St. John-Williams, J. Will Thompson, M. Arthur Moseley, Sheila Patel, Scott N. Peterson, Valencia Porter, Eric E. Schadt, Paul J. Mills, Rudolph E. Tanzi, P. Murali Doraiswamy, Deepak Chopra. Identification of Altered Metabolomic Profiles Following a Panchakarma-based Ayurvedic Intervention in Healthy Subjects: The Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative (SBTI). Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 32609 DOI: 10.1038/srep32609

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