Thursday, July 1, 2010
Wisdom From The Past
Wisdom from the Ancients
Vyaadhiksamatvam vyaadhibalavirodhitvam vyadyutpadapratibandhakatvamiti yavat. (Charaka samhita, Sutrasthana, 28:7)
Immunity is the ability of the body to overcome and resist disease.
-Charaka: 600 BCE
The ancient science of life, “Ayurveda”, addresses the art of healing in a holistic manner. The concept of immunity in Ayurveda is explained as Vyaadhikshamatva, literally translated ‘forgiveness to disease” which arises out of robust health.
Ayurveda firmly believes that for man to lead a healthy life, his lifestyle has to be in perfect harmony with Nature. The equilibrium or homeostasis of the supporting elements of human body and mind is Dhaatusaamya which is immunity. Diseases occur due to disruption of this delicate balance of the individuals Doshas (bio-energies) and Dhatus (tissues).
Western medicine uses pro-host therapy to bolster immunity through administration of vaccines such as Polio vaccine and BCG vaccine etc. There are several limitations to this type of medication which also includes side effects.
Nutrition and digestive capacity play a major role in building immunity. Improper diet and unhealthy lifestyle leads to improperly metabolized foods that accumulate in the body due to poor agni (digestive fire) and result in the accumulation of ama (toxins). This detrimental ama becomes the foundation for infection by krimi (pathogens). These toxins provide a favorable condition for pathogens to infect and proliferate. Hence, a simple remedial measure will be to eliminate such conditions that provide a congenial environment for infestation.
Ayurveda analogies this reasoning to that of a seed dependent on soil. Unless a seed (infection) is sown in a fertile soil (body containing toxin), it will never propagate, just like the fire fails to ignite in the absence of air.
Another essential quality for a healthy life is Ojas - the optimal functioning of all tissues in the body. Thus, by definition, Ojas is health and the lack of it, illness.
Several factors including improper food, accumulation of ama, stress, life-style cause the depletion of Ojas. This is manifested by the imbalance of Doshas and thereby proclivity to disease. Immunity is the process of restoring this equilibrium. Ayurveda, however, attributes the source of immunity to a person’s Sahaja (genetic inheritance), Kalaja (seasons, time and age) and Yuktikruta (acquired immunity).
Rectifying the Yuktikruta where immunity that can be acquired or strengthened follows the precepts of Vyayama, Satmya and Rasayana.
1. Vyayama – Exercise - It enhances digestion, tissue metabolism and immunity.
2. Satmya - Adaptability - The concept of Satmya involves the drug, diet or conduct which, owing to habitual use develops adaptability and loses its initial stress value. Ref: Encyclopedia of Indian Medicine, Clinical Examination and Diagnostic Methods, Vol. 3, Prf. S K Ramachandra Rao,Popular Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, 2005
3. Rasayanas – Elixir - Brahmi, Guduchi, Amlaki, Ashwagandha, among others, are used in Ayurveda as tonic ingredients to promote good health. These ingredients are either given singly or in their combination and are safe for long use. Besides strengthening immunity, these preparation help in combating many common aliments from seasonal flu to chronic diseases such as diabetics, arthritis and others!
The ancient texts of Ayurveda, Charaka Samhita, Sarngadhara Samhita and such list several recipes to improve immunity. The rationale behind these recipes revolve around the elimination of ama, improvement of digestion to curtail further production of ama, and ingredients that enhance the resistive strength of the body or balavarthanam.
While herbs such as Triphala and Trikatu contribute to the elimination of ama and enhance digestive capabilities, Guduchi Tinospora cordifolia and Aswagandha - Withania somnifera improve immune resistance to infections
The texts prescribe several recipes such as Amrutottaram Kashayam, Indukantham Kashayam, Sudarshana choornam, Pipalyasavam, Dasamoolarishtam, Dasamooladhi kwath etc, that may be administered as a preventive and curative treatments to infections including viral outbreaks.
It is only fair to trust the wisdom of our ancients who have carefully compiled routines and practices that preserve health. It is this wisdom that provides remedies to restore health in times of infectious outbreaks such as the Swine Flu pandemic that threatens us today.