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Ayurveda and Application of Cannabis in Abnormal Tissue Development By: Brian G. Zeck

Ayurveda is an ancient healing system from India that translates to be the “Science of Life”.  Its origins date back somewhere between 5 and 10 thousand years ago, although it has been described as being as old as Humanity itself.  Abnormal tissue development or cancerous tissue in the human body has been a topic discussed throughout the ages in both Ayurveda and today in Modern Science.  Even today many questions are being explored as the best approach to healing the many forms in which this disease manifests.  As there are many different types of tissues in the body, any of these can develop abnormally.  The herb Cannabis Sativa has gained popularity in mainstream media often times debating its application and possible health benefits when dealing with patients who have become ill due to cancerous tissue. The exploration of Abnormal Tissue Development and the use of Cannabis Sativa in Ancient and Modern Times will provide a look into the viable possibilities of dealing with a modern day epidemic.
 
The Science of Ayurveda provides a holistic approach to well-being and is founded through the Ancient Vedas of India considered the oldest writings in the world.  The Ayurvedic Texts provide the largest compiled knowledge on the subject of health and healing and date back to 500 and 1500 BC.   Exploring these writings will allow for an in depth look into practical application of Ayurveda and the use of Cannabis Sativa to promote healing and well-being to patients suffering due to abnormalities in tissue development.
 
The foundation of Ayurveda is built upon the “Three Pillars”.  “The Charaka Samhita states that one who manages these Three Pillars properly is guaranteed a full span of life that is not cut short by  disease”.11 The three pillars are food, sleep, and observance of brahmacharya.  Food refers to proper digestion which sustains the proper development of tissue and energy in the body.  If inappropriate food is taken then the result is disturbance in the development of tissue and toxins increase in the body leading to disease.  Sleep is utilized to rest and repair the body and if adequate sleep is not received then the body breaks down.  Too much or too little sleep determines the quality of tissue development.  Too little sleep builds weak tissue whereas too much sleep develops excessive tissue.  Management of sexual energy is crucial due to the concept of optimal tissue development, development of intellect, and cultivation of the life sustaining force in Ayurveda called Ojas.  When all three of these concepts are followed health and well-being is ensured according to this system.
 
The Ayurvedic System works in accordance with the three pillars of life through the Doshas, Dhatus, and Srotas.  “Dosha literally means faulty or to cause harm”, yet when in balance maintain harmonious health of the normal body processes. 11 The Three Doshas are the forces that determine their embodiment of the five elements earth, water, fire, air, and ether.  The three Doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Vata being air and ether breaks down tissue and generates movement throughout the body, pitta being fire and water maintains metabolic activity, and kapha being water and earth builds new tissues.  The Dhatus are the tissues and there are seven of them Rasa the plasma, Rakta the blood, Mamsa the muscle, Medas the fat, Asthi the bone, Majja the nerves, Shukra the reproductive.  The Srotas are the channels that allow the bodily systems to flow providing nourishment to tissue and removing wastes keeping tissues clean.  The Srotas allow a person to eat, digest, deficate, breathe, and procreate, the basic functions of being a human and maintaining a body.  
 
Abnormal tissue or overgrown tissue is always a Kapha imbalance.  This Kaphagenic lifestyle can lead to overgrown tissue, abscesses, tumors, cancer and overall stagnicity in the body causing blockages and excess fluid.  The Sushruta Samhita mentions “A swelling, no matter whether limited or extensive, spontaneously runs on to suppuration, if not medically treated, or left to nature.  The base of such a swelling goes on extending.  It becomes unequally supporated and reaches an unequal elevation, thus affecting the deeper tissues of the part and swiftly running into one of an incurable type”.12 It was known through the ancient scripts that it is rare for an over development of tissue to reduce naturally and if left untreated would lead to an incurable disease.   
 
In Ayurveda the physician would use their wisdom of the properties of each dosha to work to bring the kapha dosha back into balance. Keeping in mind that any of the doshas out of balance can push Kapha to develop abnormal tissue. Certain Herbs or herb blends would be used to shock the dosha back into balance.  In regards to the Ayurvedic Physician, in the chapter of the Susruta Samhita which deals with the mode of distinguishing between supporating and non-supporating swellings known as Ama-pakvaisaniya adhyaya, the Authorative verse is as follows, “They Physician (surgeon) who opens an unsuppurated or unripe swelling out of ignorance, as well as the man who neglects a fully supporated one, should be looked upon as the vilest canda’la for his wrong or incorrect diagnosis”.12  This statement expresses the utmost importance of proper diagnosis when dealing with abnormal tissue growth.  The Sushruta Samhita is a reference literature based in Surgery in the ancient time of Ayurveda, whereas describes surgery to a patient with a tumor.    
 
Proper treatment of benign and malignant tumors is explained in the chapter Granthi-Arbuda-Slipada-Apaci-Nadi-Pratisedha of the Ashtanga Hrdaya of Vagbhata, The Book of Eight Branches of Ayurveda.  “For benign tumors which is unripe, the treatment is the same as of any swelling. The patient requiring purificatory therapies should be given oleation therapy first with ghee made with brhati, citraka, vyaghri, and kana; when he gets purified, application of paste of drugs of penetrating action should be done (on the tumor); the tumor should be fomented many a times and squeezed (by hands) again and again.”.8 For malignant tumors the same treatment is prescribed.   Note, the application of paste of drugs of penetrating action.  The Ashtanga Hrdaya states, “inspite of all the treatments, should be cut and when bleeding stops it should be burnt by fire (thermal cautery) leaving no residue/remnant, because such as residue/remnant is sure to develop again into a tumour”.8 Even to this day we use a very similar approach to cutting out a tumor and getting out the residual of cancerous tissue in hopes the tumor will not come back.  Modern Technology offers abundant applications to work to make this tumor method removal more successful.
 
The purpose of this research is to assess if the principles of Ayurveda can actually prevent the need to perform open surgery using the principles to reduce the abnormal tissue growth before it becomes ripe, along with beneficial application of medicine for those which are ripe.  This would imply getting to the root cause of the symptom.  Through the Ayurvedic approaches of creating balance within the systems of the body, generating abnormal tissue growth can be reverted.  The Herb Cannabis Sativa has been used throughout the ages as a medicine to subdue many ailments.  In Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda, Cannabis is known by many names including bhanga and indrasana. The properties of Cannabis Sativa include Rasa a bitter taste, Guna qualities are light, strong or fast and penetrating, and dry, Vipaka has a pungent taste after digestion, Veerya has a hot potency, Its Prabhav is intoxicating, and it balances the Vata and Kapha Dosha. It also increases heat in the body referred to as ushna property.10 
 
There are many preparations of bhanga and when spoken about within ancient texts it is implied that it is never administered without careful preparation most often administer mixed with various other herbs.  According to the Dravyaguna Vijnana there are three important preparations.  They are jatiphaladi curna, indrasana-rasayana, and madananada modaka.  Jatiphaladi curna is mainly used in treatment of digestive and respiratory conditions by calming Vata and Kapha Dosha.  Indrasana-rasayana is a paste of the leaves, honey, sugar-candy, and ghee which is extremely useful in all skin diseases and implies tonification therapy.  Madananada Modaka is considered to cure all diseases and balances the Kapha Dosha.  These three herbal concoctions applied to create balance of the doshas in the body can provide immense amount of support in what is called tridoshic therapy in Ayurveda.  The Purpose in the Ayurvedic System is to create balance and this balance is tridoshic.  These three herbal formulas with proper adjustments in lifestyle cover the goal of curing disease in the body by regulating Agni or the digestive fire, removing Ama or toxins, and supporting the liver and building rasa the initial dhatu (tissue) that supports all other dhatus in the body.  The body’s immune system has a mechanism to regulate mutated cells in the body.  To support this mechanism is to sustain optimal tissue development.  When this is achieved then reducing abnormal tissue development may be possible.
 
Modern science has developed technology which allows us to study the development of tissue in the body down to the cell level and beyond.  In order to gain an understanding of how abnormal tissue develops in the body, the biology of the cell must be understood.  In Cancer, a tumor cell proliferates without control since the capacity to recognize apoptotic signals has been lost.   Endoplasmic reticulum (cell membrane) stress sending a messenger to the mitochondria (central control) of the cell through the depolarization by the dependent mineral calcium regulates the many functions of the cell such as proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis.  Since the cell has lost control of its signaling function behaving abnormally, the abnormal cell rapidly reproduces itself with the same abnormality or genetic mutation.  These cells are faster growing and much more porous than the normal cells with proper genetics.  Tumor formation arises from the imbalance between cell death and cell survival.
 
Ceramide resides on the cytosolic (inner fluid of cell) side of the endoplasmic reticulum serving as a precursor for the biosynthesis of Sphingolipids in the Golgi (prepares amino acids for cell development).  Sphingolipids are responsible for determining the life or death of the cell.  Ceramide promotes programmed cell death, whereas Sphingosine promotes cell survival.  Ceramide influences apoptotic events such as cell death receptor in the plasma membrane and pore formation at the mitochondria solely in mutated cells.  Due to the influence of ceramide on cell apoptosis, to promote ceramide production could offer promising solutions to anti-tumor therapies.
 
Medicinal properties of extracts from Cannabis Sativa have been used since ancient times, yet it was not until the 90’s that endogenous ligands for the cannabinoid receptors were identified.  “The term ‘Endocannabinoid System’ was coined to indicate the complex signaling system of cannabinoid receptors, endogenous ligands, and the enzymes responsible for their biosynthesis and inactivation”.3  The ‘endocannabinoid system’ influences many functions in many pathological conditions.
 
The main active ingredient of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), produces its effects through activation of CB(1) and CB(2) receptors.  “CB(1) receptors are expressed at high levels in the central nervous system (CNS), whereas CB(2) receptors are concentrated predominantly, although not exclusively, in cells of the immune system”.5  The important function of endocannabinoids in relation to cancer or abnormal tissue development, is the regulation of cell cycle and survival pathways.  “CB(1) receptors are found throughout the brain, spleen, eye, testis, and uterus, whereas CB(2) receptors are associated with the cells and organs of the immune system as well as tumor cells”2 Cannabanoids do not show selectivity between CB(1) and CB(2) binding, although synthetic cannabinoids are now available that allow for experimental delineation  of CB(1) versus CB(2) effects with an intention that CB(1) binding is responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabinoid action, whereas CB(2) binding mediates immune effects.2  The way cannabinoids are acting as modulators of the immune system is becoming more apparent.  “CB(1) receptors are located on T lymphocytes, whereas CB(2) receptors, historically associated with immune function, are located in human B cells, natural killer cells, monocytes, polymorph nuclear neutrophils, and T cells.”2 It is apparent that understanding how this system works in the body is essential in understanding how non-invasive and non-toxic approaches to cancer therapy may be most effective.
 
Since the discovery of the endocannibinoidal system scientific evaluation of medical cannabis in humans is still in its infancy.   “In particular, cannabinoids offer potential applications as anti-tumor drugs, based on the ability of some members of this class of compounds to limit cell proliferation and to induce tumor-selective cell death”.13  Cannabinoids may induce proliferation, growth arrest, or apoptosis in a number of cells, including neurons, lymphocytes, and various transformed neural and non-neural cells.  The application of cannabinoids and its effects may depend on many factors such as concentration, timing of delivery, and type of target cell.13
According to the studies, the synthetic cannabinoids have shown to induce abnormal tissue growth in some cases as well as natural cannabinoid concentrates in other studies.  The question still exists as to proper application of these cannabinoids, knowing that there is some direct correlation between the plant cannabis sativa and the CB(1) and CB(2) receptors within the human body.
 
Cannabinoids have not yet been approved for the treatment of tumor progression, yet it is known that they have shown significant results in their antitumorigenic effects.  Supported by the finding that the ‘endocannabinoid system’ may be altered during disease states, “Significant levels of the cannabinoid receptor are found in prostate, breast, leukemia, melanoma, and thyroid cell lines, as well as colorectal and hepatocellular carcinoma tissue”.2 This article leads to the suggestion that cannabinoids may inhibit the growth or development of tumor blood vessels which would prove the key to the success as a clinical therapy.
 
Current Studies are in progress to discover the actual benefits of Cannabis Sativa, as it has been notably used and prescribed around the world in folk medicine, by physicians, and other authoritative figures since ancient times.  At the turn of the 19th century our country utilized with more understanding   the cannabis plant as medicine, than our country currently issues.  Although this is changing rapidly as modern scientific research is drawing immense clues to the value of this plant and its many different medicinal applications.   The many illnesses and diseases that Medical Marijuana has been recognized as providing beneficial treatments include the severe nausea and vomiting of cancer chemotherapy, glaucoma, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, the spasm and pain of paraplegia and quadriplegia, AIDS, chronic pain, migraine, rheumatic disease, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, labor pains, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, phantom limb pain, depression, hyperemensis gravidarum.  For the purpose of this research paper the focus is on the role of cannabinoids in cancer management.
 
Cancer treatment in Modern Medicine has utilized Radiation and Chemo Therapeutics to treat this abnormal tissue development, even though, cancers are becoming resistant to this treatment and metastasis (spread) is making this disease even harder to treat.  The spread of the cancer developments is often observed after chemotherapy.  Modern Medicine is in need of more effective cancer treatment.  “Using drug-cocktails that combine multiple anti-cancer agents working in different mechanisms has been a standard treatment of cancers to overcome the drug resistance problem.”4 Also, patients are arriving to high levels of pharmaceutical toxicity, which weakens the immune system and taxes the liver.  Modern Medicine is still in the process of understanding cancer treatment and looking into new models of cancer therapy.
 
There are many different active ingredients found in the plant Cannabis Sativa and different uses of the plant parts have different therapeutic interests.   “Primary active ingredients may be enhanced by secondary compounds, which act in beneficial synergy.”1 Ayurveda blends different herbs which may enhance or alleviate side effects from main active ingredients.  “Herbalist contend that polypharmaceutical herbs provide two advantages over single ingredient synthetic drugs: (1) therapeutic effects of the primary active ingredients in herbs may be synergized by other compounds, and (2) side effects of the primary active ingredients may be mitigated by other compounds.”1 It is implied cannabis works in synergy, whereas its synthetic form Marinol, currently prescribed through the current health system, is a single ingredient may be less effective.1 Terpenoids and flavonoids are two categories of a number of other compounds found in the plant Cannabis Sativa.  It is suggested that “monoterpenes such as those in cannabis resin have been suggested to: (1) inhibit cholesterol synthesis, (2) promote hepatic enzyme activity to detoxify carcinogens, (3) stimulate apoptosis in cells with damaged DNA, and (4) inhibit protein isoprenylation implicated in malignant deterioration".1  The Terpine of interest is Limonene which is currently under clinical trials which is said to block carcinogenisis by multiple mechanisms.1 It’s suggested to protect against breast lung, liver, colon, pancreas, and skin cancers.1    “Reducing anxiety and depression will improve immune function via the neuroendocrine system, by damping down the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.”1 This means inhalation of terpenes reduces the secretion of stress hormones, relaxing the adrenals and allowing to optimize the immune function.  The Flavonoid “quercetin hinders carcinogenesis and inflammatory disease”.1 These compounds offer an approach to clinical research and cancer therapy. Ayurveda’s whole system approach to therapy may very well offer some therapeutic solutions to future cancer patients and to the dilemma of Chemo resistance.
 
It is apparent through cannabis application in Ayurveda that it is often blended with different herbs to have multiple effects on the body depending on the disease of focus.   Since cancerous tissue is genetic, the possibility with plant genetics having healing capabilities beyond our scientific knowledge and testing may be apparent.  Genetics are a cellular intelligence in which is common in both plants and humans.  Just as the human species has evolved through the ages, the plant kingdom has also evolved alongside.  There is a very good possibility that the genetics of plants and humans are synergistic way beyond our scientific proof.   Ayurveda is a science that uses a system which understands the direct impact of these types of conditions on health offering a multitude of remedies that may allow this singular plant to be more effective in its healing capabilities.   
 
Upon discovering the ancient use of Cannabis through the System of Ayurveda and our Modern Health System, there are very important points to be discussed.  When it comes to application of Cannabis or medicine in general, it is understood that there are two different approaches to healing.  Ayurveda expresses its holistic approach to application of medicine, whereas in modern medicine an approach to emphasize a specific target.  This is where the two systems may be able to benefit from each other.  Modern Medicine has a very direct approach to dealing with disease and Ayurveda approaches disease in the form of balance in the body through lifestyle and habit.  It has been shown through Ayurveda that changes in habits and lifestyle bear results, which can change the state of disease.  Through application of medicine to balance the bodies system and maintaining equilibrium is the goal of Ayurveda and in this case the body balance has the proper mechanisms in place to heal itself.  This very concept can become a supportive measure in Modern Medicine.  As research continues to develop an understanding of cancer treatment, the cannabinoidal system, and application of medicine there could be a merge in integrating the ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern findings to support health and well-being.     
 
The limited research on this subject is mainly due to the world-wide suppression and legal controls of this plant.   Even though, it was utilized and became a well reputable medicine in the 19th century, in the 20th century many legal controls were established.  It has been outlawed and banned in the United States to possess, grow, manufacture, and/or distribute and still remains a Federal Criminal Offense.  This has left Cannabis to the black markets ever since, and with its availability has allowed for many to access it illegally.  Those who have sought the benefits of this plant for recreational or medicinal reasons continued the legacy of this plant through demand and upholding the understanding of its healing properties.  Human research has been forbidden and for the most part unsupported.  A new paradigm is arising around the benefits of this plant and its medicinal application.  Since the discovery of the ‘Endocannibinoid System’, there is a rapid enthusiasm in scientific research.  Due to this recent find, cannabis based medicines are gaining more and more attention. As many states in The USA and some other regions of the world have alleviated the strict measures surrounding this plant, more information about its medicinal application is becoming available, as we should see more data on Human Research available.  As this continues to be the case the true benefits of the Cannabis Sativa plant will be known.  Due to the current blocks in Modern Medicines approach to therapy to those suffering from abnormal tissue growth and cancer, the merging of the ancient medicine ways of Ayurveda may offer necessary support for the evolution of modern therapeutics.

Endnotes:

1. John M. McPartland and Ethan B. Russo, “Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts?” Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics Vol. 1, No ¾ (2001): pp. 103-132 

2. PubMed, Belinda J Cridge and Rhonda J Rosengren, Critical Appraisal of the Potential use of Cannabinoids in Cancer Management.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3770515

3. PubMed, Bifulco M, Laezza C, Gazzerro P, Pentimalli F., Endocannabinoids as Emerging Suppressors of Angiogenesis and Tumor Invasion.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17342320

4. PubMed, Lin JH., Structure- and dynamics-based computational design of anticancer drugs.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385494

5. PubMed, Guindon J, Hohmann AG., The endocannabinoid system and cancer: therapeutic implication.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21410463

6. PubMed, Guzmán M, Sánchez C, Galve-Roperh I., Control of the cell survival/death decision by cannabinoids.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11269508

7. PubMed, Flygare J, Sander B., The endocannabinoid system in cancer-potential therapeutic target?  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18249558

8. A Board of Scholars, Astanga Hrdaya of Vagbhata, The Book of Eight Branches of Ayurveda Vol. III (Delhi: Sri SatGuru Publications, 1999) 237 – 243

9. Dr. J.L.N. Sastry, Dravyaguna Vijnana, Study of the Essential Medicinal Plants in Ayurveda (Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 2010) 503 – 506

10. Vaidya V.M. Gogte, Ayurvedic Pharmacology & Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants, Dravyagunavignyan (New Delhi: Chaukambha Publications. 2012)

11. Dr. Halpern and the California College of Ayurveda, Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine Tenth Edition (California College of Ayurveda. 2012) 41 – 42

12. Kaviraj Kunjalal Bhishagratna, Sushruta Samhita Vol. 1, Sutra-sthana (Varanasi: Chowkhumba Krishnadas Academy Oriental Publishers & Distributors. 2005) 151 – 152

13. PubMed, Pisanti S1, Malfitano AM, Grimaldi C, Santoro A, Gazzerro P, Laezza C, Bifulco M., Use of cannabinoid receptor agonists in cancer therapy as palliative and curative agents.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=19285265

14. John M. McPartland and Ethan B. Russo, “Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts?” Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics Vol. 1, No ¾ (2001): pp. 103-132 

15. PubMed, Belinda J Cridge and Rhonda J Rosengren, Critical Appraisal of the Potential use of Cannabinoids in Cancer Management.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3770515

16. PubMed, Bifulco M, Laezza C, Gazzerro P, Pentimalli F., Endocannabinoids as Emerging Suppressors of Angiogenesis and Tumor Invasion.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17342320

17. PubMed, Lin JH., Structure- and dynamics-based computational design of anticancer drugs.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385494

18. PubMed, Guindon J, Hohmann AG., The endocannabinoid system and cancer: therapeutic implication.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21410463

19. PubMed, Guzmán M, Sánchez C, Galve-Roperh I., Control of the cell survival/death decision by cannabinoids.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11269508

20. PubMed, Flygare J, Sander B., The endocannabinoid system in cancer-potential therapeutic target?  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18249558

21. A Board of Scholars, Astanga Hrdaya of Vagbhata, The Book of Eight Branches of Ayurveda Vol. III (Delhi: Sri SatGuru Publications, 1999) 237 – 243

22. Dr. J.L.N. Sastry, Dravyaguna Vijnana, Study of the Essential Medicinal Plants in Ayurveda (Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 2010) 503 – 506

23. Vaidya V.M. Gogte, Ayurvedic Pharmacology & Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants, Dravyagunavignyan (New Delhi: Chaukambha Publications. 2012)

24. Dr. Halpern and the California College of Ayurveda, Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine Tenth Edition (California College of Ayurveda. 2012) 41 – 42

25. Kaviraj Kunjalal Bhishagratna, Sushruta Samhita Vol. 1, Sutra-sthana (Varanasi: Chowkhumba Krishnadas Academy Oriental Publishers & Distributors. 2005) 151 – 152

26. PubMed, Pisanti S1, Malfitano AM, Grimaldi C, Santoro A, Gazzerro P, Laezza C, Bifulco M., Use of cannabinoid receptor agonists in cancer therapy as palliative and curative agents.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=19285265

 

 

 

About the Student Research Papers

The papers published on our website have been written by students of the California College of Ayurveda as a part of their required work toward graduation. After reviewing each paper, Dr. Halpern selects those papers that he feels are appropriate to publish. The information in each paper should not be construed as the final word on any subject nor should it be assumed that errors do not exist.