Yoga Blog

The Focus of Ayurveda – Ayurveda Direction and Approach

the focus of Ayurveda

Introduction

Focus is the defining factor for any science. It defines the direction and the approach. The focus also defines the success or failure of the approach. According to the law of attraction, you get want you to focus on. Therefore, Ayurveda has a most comprehensive and eternally relevant healthcare focus. It focuses on health and not on diseases. Ayurveda does not focus even on prevention, because a focus on prevention is also disease-focus in principle.

Focus on Health

A beautiful shloka (verse) in CharakSamhita defines the focus of Ayurveda as follows-

Swasthasyaswasthasyarakshanam

Aturasyavikarprashamana Cha

Charak Samhita

(First,) preserve the health of the healthy,

(Then) alleviate disorders in the diseased one.

The sequence of text is very important in all shloka. Something that is mentioned earlier is supposed to provide a context for everything that proceeds. Here health comes before treatment, which provides a completely new perspective on healthcare.

Let us elaborate on the first sentence – (First,) preserve the health of the healthy,

Normally, the primary focus of medical science is to cure the sick. Let us assume that we have a tree of disease inside our bodies. In that case, a focus on diseases prevention or treatment is akin to a focus on the collection of leaves constantly falling from a tree. Treatment is akin to collecting leaves after they fall, whereas prevention is akin to a collection of leaves before they fall. But the only difference is the time lag. The focus stays the same – a focus on diseases.

But Ayurveda has a different approach – a flawless approach towards healthcare. It focuses not on the disease, not even on disease prevention. And here is how it works –

Let us revisit the example of the tree of disease. When we focus on the tree, we incidental diverting our attention and efforts from health preservation. Instead of thinking about a permanent solution, we focus on finding more effective ways to collect the leaves.

Ayurveda says – make the body healthy. When we make the body healthy, we incidentally make it infertile for the tree of disease. The tree of disease can no longer survive inside the body. It dies off instantly and effortlessly. There is no need to collect leaves. There is no need to prevent or cure!

For example, if you are worried about a COVID-19 infection, you may focus more on washing hands, than eating healthy. Because we have a limited attention span and limited resources, one focus competes with the other. But the point is that – if you have weak immunity, you may catch the virus through the air! So, the real prevention is inside not outside. And the focus changes the gun-point. We shoot at the wrong target and lose the bullets.

Because of a focus on diseases, most people end up taking medications the whole of their lives. If only they know how to focus on health, they will incidentally eliminate the disease-causing factors and become healthy. Health is the natural state of the body. Only if we stop tempering with the normal biorhythm, the body automatically regain health. That is why, Ayurveda says – love the body and there will be no disease left to hate!

And focus on health is an aggressive healthcare aim compared to focusing on disease. Once, we turn our focus on preserving health, we become conscious of our physical, mental, and spiritual needs. We become attentive to our hunger, thirst, and natural urges. We can discriminate between real hunger and impulses for stress-eating. We can make wiser dietary and lifestyle decisions. And, then we do not have to fight diseases, because our body is infertile for all pathogenic factors. There can be no disease! There is no need for prevention too!

The above statement from Charak Samhita is a precept for the physicians. Physicians are the brains of society. They lead society with their focus. The emphasis of a physician should be to preserve the health of the healthy. This statement is very important as it is a very forceful attitude towards health. Let us imagine that if the health of all people is well preserved, there is no need for prevention and probably, there will be no sick people to cure in the first place.

Summary

Power flows where the attention goes! According to the law of attraction, we invite what we focus on. That is why Ayurveda focuses on health and not only on prevention or cure of diseases.

Psychosomatic Approach

Now, let us shift our focus to the second line of the verse –(Then) eliminate the disorders of the anxious.

The word “aturasya” has several meanings. It refers to sickness, victimhood, anxiety, etc.

There are many words for sick in Sanskritrogi (suffering from disease), vikrit (deformed/imbalanced), vyadhit (inflicted by disorder), and many more. But Master Charak choose the word “atur”.I like the word “atur” because it signifies the mental state of the person. One of its meanings is “anxious”.

This is a deep statement with multiple implications.

One of the implications is – the importance of the state of mind.

Ayurveda defines three states of mind in a sick person. The word satva stands for the mind/mettle of a person.

Ayurveda direction and approach

Pravarsatva

A person with pravarsatva may be suffering from a grave disorder with lots of pain or discomfort, but he will stay cool and composed. Such people have great control over their minds. This is the reason they are ideal candidates for placebo treatment. They can use their mind to divert their physiology!

MadhyamSatva

A person with madhyamsatva will have moderate composure. If she is very sick, she will show a reasonable level of stress and anxiety. These people are in line with their feelings, and physical symptoms. They may respond to treatment depending on their faith in it.

Heen/Avarsatva

A person with heen (low) satva will exhibit exponential symptoms, or anxiety compared to her disorder. Paranoid people (who fear falling sick) come under this category. These people may have a hard time getting treated. Sometimes, they keep changing the line of treatment or experimenting with new physicians to ensure “better” treatment.

Treat The Mind

Looking at the larger picture, Master Charak defines where health preservation ends and disease treatment begins. The people with pravarsatva can still focus on health preservation. Vedas believe that the mind is the origin of the mind. It is like the software that controls a robot. So, if we can change/correct the software, we can change the way the robot works.

Besides, today there are ample examples where people cured themselves of fatal disorders just with the placebo effect of faith and hope.

The people with madhyamsatva also can benefit from the health focus and the self-healing power of mind and body. However, they do well with a combination of health preservation and treatment.

The people with heensatva are anxious. They can fall into a vicious cycle of depression and worsening symptoms. They are the “atur” or the anxious, which could also be understood in the above verse. They need more medical attention. So, a physician must focus on their mind with techniques like assurance, positive attitude, belief, and calmness long-term treatment for these people.

Another aspect of “atur” treatment is that – if you do not treat these people, they spread negativity and disease phobia in society. They become “gods of diseases,” spreading fear and doubts. Therefore, it is imperative to treat these people, or better still, make them feel treated urgently.

Summary

The mind is the source of both health and disease. Therefore, Ayurveda focuses on the psychological aspect of the treatment more than the physiological one. Because, if you can cure the disease-anxiety, the mind will allow the body can heal itself.

Take Away

Ayurveda talks about a positive and aggressive healthcare aim of preserving health, rather than only focusing on diseases. As we strengthen the body, it becomes infertile for the disorders. This approach eliminates the question of prevention or treatment!

What is Dravya – The Concept of Dravya in Ayurveda

Basics of Ayurvedic Herbal Classification

Dravya meaning

Introduction

Before understanding the functions of herbs according to Ayurveda, we need to understand a bit of Vedic physics. Vedic physics starts with subtler entities than the atom. It starts with “padarth”.

The Sanskrit word padarth (pad – words, arth – meaning/matter) means “something that can be named”. This is a very beautiful meaning that refers to the spiritual roots of Vedic text. Because we can name most things. However, some entities cannot be trapped in words. For example, Vedas has a description of the supreme truth/soul – neti neti (no no); because this is all we can say about it. Is the supreme soul visible – no, it is invisible – no, it is kind – no, cruel – no…..because it is beyond words. So, here is the first division of entities

Non-padarth – unnamed / unnameable (X factor)

Padarth – Everything that can be named/defined in words

Let’s talk about padarth. We can also call it substance or entity for convenience. In Sanskrit, wisdom or realization is called “prama.” And the subject of wisdom or realization is padarth or the substance. The sensation of the material world starts with padarth.

And the physical world itself starts with Dravya.

Summary

Everything starts with padarth (something that can be named). Beyond padarth is the unnameable energy. This physical world starts with Dravya.

What is Dravya?

This Sanskrit word means the abode of guna (properties) and karma (action). Dravya means an entity that has specific qualities and acts in a specific manner. These distinct properties and modes of action make a Dravya unique or distinguishable.

Here starts the physical world, with a total of nine elementary Dravyas. These are

  1. Prithvi (Mass)
  2. Jal (Adhesive forces)
  3. Agni (Heat)
  4. Vayu (Kinetic energy)
  5. Akash (Space)
  6. Kaal (Time)
  7. Disha (Direction)
  8. Atma (Soul)
  9. Man (Mind)

These nine foundational elements or Dravyas are the very basis of everything that exists around us.

Summary

There are nine types of Dravya or basic substances – soul, mind, time, direction, and the great five elements. These are the basis for the material existence of all entities.

Special Properties of Dravya

A Dravya has some special qualities –

Ultimate individuality

These Dravyas are like elements in the periodic table. The unique characteristics like atomic mass and atomic weight set each element apart from other elements. However, in the case of elements, we are considering only weight or mass. Ayurveda talks about 20 different parameters to judge a substance. These differentiating qualities are called guna.

Independent existence

Dravya has a stable and independent existence. For example, according to Vedic genesis, the air elements give birth to the fire element. But both the air and fire elements are independent of each other’s existence. They are like a mother and a child. After the child is born, the mother and the child have an independent existence.

Eternal existence

Vedas believe that each universe has an expiry date. And it follows a natural cycle of creation, sustenance, and destruction. But once the universe comes into existence, all Dravyas or the basic elements are eternal. They stay as long as the universe stays.

This thought reflects the basic law of energy – energy is neither created nor destroyed. It changes from one form to the other. Let us take the example of a painted canvas. Once the canvas is painted, the color strokes stay until the canvas itself is torn.

Summary

The basic matter (Dravya) has three fundamental properties – Ultimate individuality, Independent existence, Eternal existence.

Dravya as the basis of creation

All these fundamental elements (Dravya) come together to form life. Atma or the soul stirs the prakrati or nature. With the three gunas, satva (element of balance), rajas (element of activity), and tamas (element of darkness/dullness), Atma forms a unique mana (mind). This mind manifests itself in the dimensions of time and direction with the help of panchmahabhuta. The panchmahabhuta or the five basic elements create the physical body.

This body is the tool for the mind. And the mind is the tool for atma to realize the truth.

dravya concepts

Panchmahabhuta

Modern science classifies elements based on their atomic structure, their chemical affinities, and similar factors. However, the Vedic classification of substances is starkly different from modern science.

Any physical entity contains the five basic elements – space (akash), air (vayu), fire (agni), Jal (water), and 1. Prithvi (earth).

The fundamental factors of Ayurveda like panchmahabhuta (the five elements), are subtle and are sometimes difficult to understand. However, their simplicity is deceiving and makes them hard to understand. Everything in the world is made up of 5 elements. These 5 elements are the foundation of the entire physical world as we can feel it. These 5 elements include:

  1. Akash (space element)
  2. Vayu (energy)
  3. Agni (heat)
  4. Jala (fluid)
  5. Prithvi (matter)

These elements are supposed to evolve one from the other. For example, Akash (space) gives rise to Vayu (energy), Vayu produces Agni (heat), Agni produces Jala (fluids) and Jala (fluids) produces Prithvi (matter).

If we look at the formation of these elements, it provides a logical pattern of evolution. Nothing can exist without space; therefore, it is the first element. Space can contain energy. Energy can manifest itself in the form of heat, a kind of energy. Heat energy travels in the form of waves via radiation in space. Heat either melts or produces smoke, both are fluids. The fluids condense to finally give rise to solid matter, like the earth.

Accordingly, the basic classification of matter in Ayurveda has based dominance on these five elements. Therefore, there are five types of substances –

  • Akashiya – with the dominance of the space element

For example, the space, or a cotton ball. A cotton ball is full of space with very little density.

  • Vayviya – with the dominance of the air element

Example – The wind is an entity with all the properties of the air element

  • Agneya – with the dominance of the fire element

Example – Physical Fire

  • Jaliya – with the dominance of the water element

Example –Physical water

  • Parthiva – with the dominance of the earth element

Example – Physical earth

These elements produce the doshas (physiological systems) in the body. All five elements are present in anything that has a physical manifestation on earth.

Akash and Vayu are dominant in the VataDosha.

Agni is dominant in the pittadosha

Jala and Prithvi are dominant in the KaphaDosha.

Take Away

Dravya (matter) has nine types – soul, mind, direction, time, and the five great elements. These forms of matter come together to create the entire universe, including the living beings. These substances exist as independent unique entities.

They may differ from one another. For example, the air element emerges from space, and it creates a fire element. But the space, air, and fire elements are distinct and have an independent existence.

Besides, they are the integral elements of the universe and have an eternal existence. They exist in every universe ever formed!

What’s Your Dosha?

Know your Prakruti (Ayurvedic Body-Mind type you are born with) with first of its kind, a way to complete an in-depth evaluation of your Prakruti.

According to Ayurveda, our body is a manifestation of five elements that expresses themselves as three forms of energies in the human body called Vata, Pitta, Kapha in every individual. So each body is the unique composition of these 3 doshas. We help you to find out the percentage of each dosha in your Body and Mind giving you a deep understanding of your personality and physiology.

It’s the secret code and combination of your body that is extremely helpful in the following ways.

  • The best diet and exercise types suited for your body.
  • A lifestyle that perfectly complements your body’s needs.
  • Understanding the tendencies of imbalances and diseases your body is more susceptible to.
  • Healing herbs and treatments that are truly needed for your body and many more.

What Makes Ayurvedic Remedies Effective? Part 4 – Remove the Cause

what makes ayurvedic remedies effective

Introduction

In the first blog in this series, we saw that herbal remedies must be compatible with the body type, seasons, and intake time to be effective. We also discussed how you can tailor herbal remedies to your body type.

Even with the most compatible herbal remedies, you may only experience temporary relief from the symptoms of the disease. What explains this? It’s because the underlying cause, the source of the disorder is not removed.

Remove the cause

Nidan parivarjanam is the most fundamental and indispensable treatment in Ayurveda. Thus, nidan parivarjanam refers to the diagnosis and elimination of causal factors. Nidan means cause or symptom, and parivarjanam means “avoid or eliminate.”

The Causal Factors

These causal factors can be anything – incredibly gross or subtle; mental or physical. For example, an unnatural suppression of the urge to vomit may trigger multiple skin disorders like spots, wrinkles, erysipelas, etc. Charak Samhita also mentions that suppression of natural sneezing urges may lead to facial paralysis or migraine!

The subtle mental factors, on the other hand, are intangible. Nevertheless, they affect the body more profoundly, and the resulting treatment is more potent.

For example, stress is scientifically proven to lower natural immunity.

It is one of the leading causes of most lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension, hormonal imbalance, etc. Stress can also trigger and aggravate autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.

The placebo effect is a mental trait that can help you heal your body. Stronger the belief or faith in the treatment, the stronger the impact of the placebo. And people have healed severe disorders like cancer with the help of the placebo effect.

Why Removal of Cause is so crucial?

Interestingly, the word nidan has two meanings – cause and symptoms. In modern medicine, a physician aims to remove the symptoms of a disease. However, Ayurveda has a broader perspective.

To understand the importance of nidan parivarjanam, let us consider the example of a flowing river.

Let us assume that a garbage inlet pipe pollutes the river constantly. The most effective way to clean this river is not to collect garbage, but to close the garbage pipe. Once you close this garbage pipe, the river itself will flush away the garbage present in it. Like a river, our body is a dynamic system. And once you stop putting garbage through the wrong diet and lifestyle, your body will flush away all toxins and clean itself.

Nevertheless, if you continue to accumulate toxins in your body, you may not reap the benefits of the most powerful and compatible medicine. This is the importance of nidan parivarjanam or the elimination of the cause.

What are the types of Causal Factors and how to remove them?

Primarily, there are two types of causal factors in Ayurveda –

  1. Physical
  2. Mental

Because there are three planes of existence – physical, mental, and spiritual; there should be three categories of causal factors. But, on the spiritual plane, there are no disorders.

Physical Causes

The physical causes have two primary categories –

  1. Dietary
  2. Lifestyle

Dietary Causes

We are made of the food we consume. That is why, right food leads to health, whereas wrong food results in disorders.

Wrong food is a powerful and persistent polluting factor. Even if you take the most effective medicines, the wrong food can nullify their effect. For example –

If you have a severe cold and cough during the springtime, and you consume coconut water or ice cream, then even the choicest medicine cannot help you. Multiple factors are working in this case.

  1. Springtime is the season when the body suffers from annual kapha dosha imbalance or prakop.
  2. Imbalance in kapha dosha causes cold and cough.
  3. Anything cold (like ice cream) or coolness-inducing (like coconut water) further aggravates the imbalanced kapha dosha.

In the above situation, the wrong food will consume the power of medicine. And you will hardly experience any relief. That is why the concept of parahej or prohibited food guidelines is crucial in Ayurvedic treatment.

remedies in Ayurveda

How to correct the dietary causes of disorders?

For speedy and effective treatment, you must stop eating the food that triggers disease-causing factors. And this practice is a fundamental step in Ayurvedic treatment. It is called parahej or prohibited food guidelines.

Prohibited food depends on multiple factors. However, the critical ones are –

The Dosha condition

For example, if a person is suffering from joint pain (vata imbalance), then she should avoid foods that aggravate vata imbalance. Some examples are green leafy vegetables, green peas, cabbage, cauliflower, etc; cooling food like ice cream, cold drinks, junk food, etc.

The Body type

For example, a pitta dominant person suffering from peptic ulcer must not consume pitta aggravating food like red chilies, excessively oily and spicy food, or very hot food. It is pertinent to note that pitta dominant people are most susceptible to peptic ulcers.

General health condition and Digestive capacity

For example, a weak kapha dominant person with a history of indigestion must avoid cold, heavy, and oily food.

Ideally, a meat-based diet is an excellent remedy for general debility. However, Charak Samhita prohibits meat consumption for a feeble person, because this person may have a low rate of metabolism. He may not be able to digest and absorb the nutrition in the meat. Rather, heavy fat may cause weak digestion to overload and produce toxins.

There are many other factors like age, gender, etc. that define the appropriate food choices.

Lifestyle based causes

Food is a crucial factor for health, but lifestyle is equally significant. Lifestyle includes factors like daily routine, exercise or physical activity, sleep duration and quality, level of stress, exposure to electronic gadgets, addictions like smoking, drinking, etc.

All these factors contribute significantly to health. Ayurveda says that even nutritious food fails to nourish the body if you eat it with a tired body and a stressed mind.

Daily routine

The dosha has a natural biorhythm that forms the circadian rhythm of the body. To stay healthy, you must follow this natural rhythm. For example –

Kapha dosha governs the first phase of the day (sunrise – 10 am approx.). Therefore, any warming, rigorous activity can help to balance the heavy, cold, and moist kapha. Therefore, the morning is the most suitable time to exercise. However, it may not be the right time to have a heavy breakfast!

As the day progresses, the rate of metabolism also increases. Midday is when the metabolism is at its highest. This is the ideal time to have food. Therefore, lunch should be the heaviest meal of the day.

The bottom line is that if you align yourself with the natural physiological flow, you can effectively prevent and heal almost all disorders.

Sleep

Sleep time is the only rejuvenation opportunity for the body. During sleep, the body repair or removes damaged cells, reproduce new cells and eliminates metabolic toxins. A sleep-deprived person would not only face multiple disorders, but she would also age faster.

Addictions

Normally, addiction signifies smoking or drinking. However, there are many types of addictions and all of them are abnormal activities that bring imbalance to the body.

Most people are aware of the hazards of smoking and drinking. However, today we have children addicted to electronic gadgets, cartoons, violent movies, social media, and so on. This is a more dangerous addiction as it catches us off-guard.

  • Obesity is nothing but a direct result of an innocuous addiction – food addiction. Food is a source of nutrition for the body. But many people treat it as a source of stress relief. Binge eating has become a norm, and so has obesity.
  • The bottom line is that lifestyle upgrade is a crucial part of Ayurvedic treatment. For example, if you do not stop smoking; then the herbal remedy for breathing problems will never work for you.
  • If you do not stop binge eating, you may experience zero results from weight loss remedies
  • Lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension, etc., may not be controlled by medicines alone if you do not engage in any physical activity.

Take Away

Ayurveda says that without removing the causal factors, you cannot get any permanent cure. However, once you get rid of the causal factors, you enable the body to heal itself. Moreover, removing the causal factors enhances the effects of herbal remedies.

There are two types of causal factors – physical and mental. The physical factors are of two types – dietary and lifestyle-based. Ayurveda says the correct diet is medicine, whereas the wrong diet is akin to poison. Also, once you remove the disease-causing lifestyle factors like smoking, lack of sleep, etc, you can enhance the effect of the right food and medicine and achieve a lasting cure.

In future blogs, let us discuss more the mental factor and how it can make or break your health.

How To Make Ayurvedic Remedies Work – Part 3 – Intake Time

making ayurvedic remedies work

Introduction

In the previous blogs, we saw multiple factors that affect the efficacy of Ayurvedic remedies/medicines. Some of the crucial factors discussed in previous blogs are – 

There are many more factors responsible for the efficacy of Ayurvedic remedies, for example, age, strength, the stamina of the patient, intensity of the disease, etc. 

However, there is one crucial factor regarding the Ayurvedic remedy that can make or break the final effect – the dosage time. 

The logic behind Specific Dosage Time in Ayurveda 

Ayurveda believes that the human body has a natural biorhythm. This biorhythm aligns our metabolic energies with the universe. 

This biorhythm is a complex of multiple bio cycles running inside the body, for example, the circulatory cycle, the respiratory cycle, etc. 

Each of these cycles depends on multiple external and internal factors. For example, the lunar phases directly affect blood circulation and the menstrual cycles. Solar radiation accelerates metabolism and elevates mood. This is the reason people living in Nordic countries suffer from digestive disorders and depression. Because they do not have any exposure to sunlight for six months. 

Vedic wisdom states that “yatha pinde tatha brahmande” (the particle has all the properties of the universe).

CharakSamhita compares the dosha to the universal forces. According to AcharyaCharak, vata is akin to air, pitta resembles the sun and kapha nourishes the body like the way the moon nourishes the living beings on earth. 

As we all are so deeply connected to the universe, our biorhythm decides the effect of food or medicine we consume. 

The Dosha Cycle 

Biophysical energies or doshas follow regular daily, monthly and annual cycles. Our organ systems perform their functions according to the dosha cycle. 

Every cycle starts with kaphadosha, reaches its highest point with pittadosha, and terminates under the influence of vata dosha. This cyclic pattern applies everywhere. 

For example – 

Dosha and Life cycle 

Kapha governs the first phase of life – (0-30 years). Pittadosha takes over the middle phase of life (30- 60 years). Vata dosha dominates the body metabolism during old age ( 60+ years).

Dosha and daily cycle 

Ayurveda divides the day and the night into three parts. Kaphadosha influences the first part of the day, starting at the time of sunrise (6 am-10 am approx.). Pittadosha is dominant during the middle part (10 -2 pm approx.). And vata dosha takes over the last one-third duration (2 – 6 pm). 

The night also follows the same dosha cycle. 

The Vata Cycle 

Another critical aspect of the dosha is the bio-cycle of vata subtypes. Vata dosha is the only dosha that bestows mobility on everything in the body. An Ayurvedic proverb from Ashtang Hridaya states –

Without Vata dosha, all elements within the body, pitta, kapha, waste, or tissue systems, are paralyzed. Vata moves everything inside the body like the way air moves the clouds. 

Therefore, everything moves inside the body only because of vata dosha. The functions of vata dosha have five categories. These five subtypes of vata dosha perform specific sets of functions. For example, Pranavayu covers cerebral activity (thinking, feeling, etc.) and respiration.

Five vata subtypes control the different metabolic pathways. They are – 

  1. Pranavayu: Brain activity, respiration
  2. Udanavayu: Swallowing, speech control, burping, yawning, etc.
  3. Samanavayu: All activity in the digestive tract
  4. Vyanavayu: All the minor transport activities or major displacement like walking, running, etc. 
  5. Apanavayu: Excretion or expulsion of a fetus, baby, menstrual fluid 
ayurveda remedies

Eleven Types of Intake Occasions for medicines 

As per Ayurveda, there are eleven Aushadh seven kaal or times when you should take your medicinals. 

  1. Abhakt (on empty stomach)- taking medicine early in the morning on an empty stomach. This time is conducive for almost all medicine. Medicine consumed at this time has a very powerful impact on the body.   
  2. Pragbhakt(before meal) – medicine intake before breakfast or before the first meal of the day. This medicine follows the apanavayu pathway and affects the excretory, urinary, and reproductive systems. 
  3. Adhobhakt (after meals)– medicine intake after a meal. The medicine you eat after the morning meal travels through the vyanavayu pathway and spreads mainly in the organs above the naval. The medicine is eaten after the evening meal and spreads through the udanavayu pathway and works on the chest and throat region. It is esp effective in relieving kapha related disorders.
  4. Madhyabhakt(in the middle of meal) – medicine intake in the middle of the meal. This medicine influences the saman vayu pathway. It is especially effective in pitta-related digestive disorders. 
  5. Antarabhakt(between meals in day) – medicine intake after complete digestion of food eaten during lunch. This medicine is taken normally between lunch and supper/dinner. This medicine is especially effective for cardiac disorders. 
  6. Sabhakt (mixed with food)- the intake of medicine with food. This medicine affects the entire body. However, its effect is mild. Thus, it is beneficial to the weak, the sick recovering from disorders, and children. This medicine is very effective in general disorders like fever, digestive disorders, etc. 
  7. Samudga (before as well as after meals ) – the word samudga means “in the middle of two things.” When medicine is sandwiched between two parts of a meal, then it is called samudga. If you eat half of your meal, eat the medicine, then consume the other half of your meal, then the medicinal intake is samudga. 
  8. Muhurmuhur (on and off)– muhur muhur means “again again.” This medicine is similar to medicine intake in SOS or emergency conditions. In this case, you take medicine frequently, after a fixed interval, for example, after every one hour. You can also take the medicine whenever required. For example, medicine for frequent cough is used whenever there is a coughing fit. 
  9. Sagras(with first morsel of food) – taking medicine with each bite. This method of medicinal intake is especially effective. Helpful in pranavayu disorders. 
  10. Grasantar(between morsels) – the word grasa means a bite. This method of ingesting medicine is known as the grasantar method of medicinal input. This method is very effective in the case of cardiac, and respiratory disorders.  
  11. Naish (at bed time)– medicine intake before bed. This is the most suitable time to consume medicines for head and throat disorders. Mild laxatives also work effectively when consumed before bed. 

These are the most significant medicine intake rules. However, these are the fundamental guidelines. Ideally, you must consult an Ayurveda physician to ascertain the appropriate time to consume medicine for any specific disorder. 

Importance of Dosha Cycle 

The dosha cycles determine the digestion, absorption, and effect of the Ayurvedic remedies or medicines on the body. The vata subtypes activate specific metabolic pathways at specific phases of the day.

For example – 

The pranavayu that controls cerebral activity becomes active after sunset.

If you want to take any medicine for insomnia, you must take it when the vata pathway for the brain region is active – the pranavayu

Therefore, you must take insomnia medicine after sunset or before bed for the most beneficial effects. 

However, if taken early in the morning, the medicine will land in the apanavayu pathway. 

Apana way is the vata subtype that controls the excretory pathways like the large intestine, urinary system, etc. 

In the case of insomnia, this medicine will affect the excretory organs rather than give direct relief. 

That’s why the time of medicine intake is crucial. Ayurveda defines rules for taking medicines at a time when the relevant vata subtype is active. 

Take Away 

Intake time is a crucial factor that has a direct impact on the therapeutic efficacy of Ayurvedic remedies. Each time of the day has a special biorhythm. Different metabolic pathways open during these phases of time. Medicinal intake during the relevant time of the day ensures a better rate of medicinal absorption.  

How To Make Ayurvedic Remedies Work – Part 2 – Seasonal Variations

ayurveda remedies

Introduction

Ayurveda says that the human body is a part of the universe. It follows a natural biorhythm aligned to the earth’s movement around the sun. Earth’s revolution around the sun creates seasons. We experience summer when the earth is closest to the sun and winter when it is the furthest. Life on earth is aligned to these seasonal changes.

Each living creature must constantly adjust itself according to the seasonal changes. This metabolic flexibility forms a regular biorhythm that sustains life against erosive seasonal changes. If you align to this universal biorhythm, you will sail through the seasonal changes without any illnesses. But, if you are not prepared for them, you may crash land from one season to the other. This metabolic crash landing creates constant physiological deterioration and diseases.

Besides, seasonal changes are the major factors in aging. The climatic changes can crumble rocks in the long term. They are too powerful for our delicate bodies. However, we can beat the weathering effect of seasons by aligning our dietary and lifestyle habits to the seasons. Ayurveda recommends different food and lifestyle for each season. The same goes for herbal remedies as well! One herbal remedy might work great in summer, but it may produce no effect or side effects in winter.

Impact of the seasons on the human body

To understand the seasonal impact on the human body, we must understand the annual dosha cycle. In brief, the three metabolic doshas follow a waxing and waning cycle, just like the moon throughout the year. Seasons explained in Ayurvedic books like Ashthang Hridya as well as the charak samhita is based upon the patterns that we usually experience in India but as different part of the world have different patterns of seasons so usually what’s seen in the west is that there are 4 seasons (not like 6 seasons in india).For example –

Annual Vata Cycle

Vatadosha accumulates in the body during the summer. It manifests its metabolic imbalance during the rainy season and gradually calms down in early winter (Sep-Oct). During this time, the body is more prone to vata disorders like body pain, joint pain, itching, indigestion, constipation, bloating, etc. Vata dominant people experience more pronounced symptoms than other body types. This vata imbalance is the reason pre-existing joint worsens during the rainy season.

Note :  In western world
Autumn or Fall season is dry, cold and windy it is hence Vata season and usually Vata aggrevates in this season

Annual Pitta Cycle

Pittadosha is at its highest during the early winter (Sep-Oct), it reduces and finds balance in the next two months of winter (Nov-Dec). The excess pitta starts to increase again during the rainy season (July- Aug). At this time of the year, it is common to experience a burning sensation, fever, loose motions, and a rise in all kinds of inflammatory disorders. Pitta dominants may feel severe symptoms compared to other constitutions.

Note: in west Summer Season is pitta season as its hot, bright, sharp and intense hence Pitta vitiates in this season

Annual Kapha Cycle

Kaphadosha accumulates in the body during the winter (Dec-Jan). It blows out of its natural proportion in the spring season (Feb-Mar). And finally, Kapha regains its natural balance during the summer (Apr-May). However, during the kapha imbalance, you may experience kapha symptoms like numbness, cold, cough, respiratory disorders, constipation, etc. Kapha dominant people are more prone to these symptoms if they have any related re-existing conditions.

Note :- Late winter & spring …kapha season

That is a lot of change for the body. However, we have a very robust metabolism. In a normal healthy condition, the body seamlessly adjusts to all these changes.

Herbal Remedies and Seasonal Changes

A fever during the spring is different from one in the summer or the rains. This dosha cycle is the reason for the difference. And that is why you must choose an herbal remedy that fits the seasonal dosha condition. Otherwise, the herbal remedy may produce no effect.

Let us try to understand the herb compatibility for seasonal fever/flu. All fevers have pitta dominance. But a seasonal fever also influences their dominant dosha.

  1. During the rainy season, a fever occurs due to vatadosha. Therefore, herbal remedies should balance vatadosha. Green cardamom helps to balance both pitta and vatadoshas. Cardamom tea can help to stimulate the digestive system and help to eliminate toxins from the body.
  2. Amla is an ideal herb for seasonal fever in the early winter. Imbalanced pitta causes this fever. Amla naturally grows during the early winter and it brings matchless anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects. It is one of the best remedies for seasonal fever during the early winter.
  3. Kapha dominates the seasonal fever during the springtime. Honey is a great remedy for both pitta and kapha. Therefore, it is a compatible option for fever in the spring.

Above mentioned remedies are simple single ingredient remedies. They exhibit the seasonal variation of the best herbal options.

If you are using honey for fever in the rainy season, you may still get some benefits. The result depends on several factors like body type, digestive capacity, age, etc. However, using season-friendly herbs is always the best option.

make ayurvedic remedies work

How to find the best seasonal remedy

It may appear tricky to find the most suitable herbal remedy. However, the process is logical and straightforward.

Step 1:Know Thyself

The first step towards finding a compatible Ayurvedic remedy is to ascertain your body type. You can find your body type using online Ayurveda quizzes. The best way to determine your body type is to consult an Ayurvedic physician in person.

Step 2: Find Your Remedy

Find possible herbal remedies according to your body type and health condition. Let’s say, for example, you’re looking for the best remedy for a fever. A fever is the result of excessive pittadosha. However, springtime brings a cyclic kapha imbalance. As a result, if you have a fever from a common cold in springtime, then this fever would also have excess kapha. Some of the common herbal remediesfor fever are –

  1. Tulsi leaves tea
  2. Mint leaves tea

Today, you can search online for the effects of an herb on your dosha. Each of the above dosha options is suitable for a specific body type and health condition.

Tulsi leaves tea

Tulsi helps to balance kapha and vatadosha. Therefore, tulsi tea may work better for kapha and vata body types. However, since

Also, Tulsi helps to control both fever and the common cold. It is also a great option for complications like cough, heaviness, or breathlessness.

Mint leaves tea

Most people believe that mint has a cooling effect and helps to relieve pitta. But it is a vata and kapha balancing herb. On the other hand, it increases pittadosha.

Mint tea is also beneficial for people with excess kapha or vata, or in cases of fever caused by excess kapha or vata. However, pitta dominant people should avoid it while suffering from fever.

Cold-induced fever is the body’s attempt to eliminate pathogens and mucus, so all remedies that relieve kapha are beneficial. However, some may be more helpful than others. Some herbal remedies may even create complications!

Therefore, it is always beneficial to use herbal remedies carefully for the best results.

Take Away

Herbal treatments fail because of ignorance of the seasonal impact on the body, disorders, and treatment. The body follows an annual dosha cycle. This dosha cycle is the prominent factor that decides the success or failure of an herbal remedy. If you use an herbal remedy incompatible with the seasonal dosha condition, you may experience zero or negative results. But if you try an herbal remedy that balances the seasonal dosha dominance, you will get an instant and lasting result.

How To Make Ayurvedic Remedies Work – Part 1 – Body Type

ayurvedic remedies

Introduction

After experiencing side effects or complications of modern medicine, many people turn to alternatives such as Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, and simple folk medicine.

These herbal remedies, however, produce random and unreliable results. One person may not receive any significant benefits from an herbal remedy. Whereas, another person may experience incredible improvement. People do not use herbal remedies because of these random results. Many people believe herbal remedies work because of placebo effects, which is not entirely inaccurate.

But these random results are a result of improper usage of herbal remedies. Several factors affect the results of these herbal remedies.

You may not be aware of these factors, so you tend to get random results. Nevertheless, if you become familiar with these factors, you will be able to use them effectively and get consistent results.

Let us explore some of the most significant factors that matter while using herbal remedies.

The Dosha Basis

Ayurveda’s fundamental concept is dosha. It is the basis for shariric prakrati (the body type). Different doshas have distinct and contrasting metabolic properties.

There are three types of doshavata, pitta, and kapha. All three doshas are present in each human body. Like the legs of a tripod, they help to maintain the physiological balance of the body.

However, the dominant dosha supervises the entire metabolism and supersedes other doshas.

Depending on the dosha dominance, Ayurveda classifies the human body into three main types – vata, pitta, and kapha. These body types have distinct characteristics.

The Concept of Body Type-based Personalization

Ayurveda has a unique concept called prakrati or constitution. Let us take the example of clothing to understand this concept. Not all clothes fit everyone. The best-fitting comes with tailored clothes.

Ayurvedic treatment follows the same principles. As per Ayurveda, every person has a distinct mind and body. This means that every human body has its own specific requirements. It is for this reason that Ayurveda offers individualized treatment.

Personalized treatmentis based on the constitution. So, if treatment is the key, the constitution is the lock. And you must know the lock to find the right key!

Why herbal remedies do not work?

Constitutional incompatibility is the major reason most herbal remedies fail to produce any effect. Let us try to understand how?

The body type is the code to the external and internal features of the body, its metabolic pattern, its benefits, and its disadvantages. Constitution is also the key to the disease possibilities and best treatment for them.

For example, a pitta dominant person has a great digestive system but may suffer from excessive sweating and foul smell. Also, a pitta dominant person is more susceptible to all inflammatory disorders, blood, and skin-related problems.

Since pitta is naturally slightly oily, sharp, hot, acidic, and fluid; the best remedies for pitta disorders are cooling, soothing, sweet (madhur), pungent (tikta), or astringent (kashay) in taste.

In this manner, prakrati or body type naturally points towards the best prevention and the most effective cure. Once you know yourself, you will be able to choose the best herbal remedy for yourself.

Ayurveda herbal remedies

Examples of Differential Home Remedies

Most of us follow herbal or ayurvedic remedies in oblivion. We have no reason a particular herbal remedy should work for us. But Ayurvedic principles are as logical as math. Let us take the example of a general home remedy for acidity – cold milk.

The Cold Milk Example

Cold milk is generally good for acidity. It is an anti-inflammatory emulsion that absorbs the excess stomach acid and prevents acidity. Pitta dominant people have a fiery constitution. They are most susceptible to acidity.

Ayurveda says that milk is the best remedy for all pitta disorders, and acidity or heartburn is a pitta disorder. Till here, everything is great.

But cold milk is not the ideal solution for a kapha or vataprakrati person suffering from acidity. Milk is cool, heavy, and unctuous. Kaphadosha also has the same properties. Therefore, milk, esp cold milk can disturb the kapha balance and turn acidity into indigestion or heaviness in the body.

Instead of cold milk, green cardamom tea may work miracles for acidity in a kapha constitution. The warmth, lightness, and kapha cleansing property of green cardamom will help to cure acidity, without jeopardizing the kapha balance in the body.

Similarly, vata also is a naturally coolness-producing metabolic pattern. Any cold substance (like cold milk) can aggravate vata imbalance. Besides, vata people have fragile digestion. She may find it difficult to digest the cold, and heavy milk.

However, most remedies that work for Kapha are also effective for vata constitution. This is so because Kapha and vata share some similarities. They are both coolness-producing systems. Besides, both Kapha and vata people have delicate digestion due to different reasons. Warmth balances the coolness and stimulates digestion. Therefore, anything warm has an instant kapha and vata balancing impact.

In the above example, green cardamom tea may be very beneficial for the vata person as well. The warmth and the mild oiliness of green cardamom cure acidity and balance vatadosha too.

The Itching Example

But it is not a rule that Kapha and vata remedies should be the same. Because, despite certain overlaps, vata and Kapha are two distinct metabolic systems. Vata is dry, subtle, and mobile; whereas Kaphadosha is oily, solid, and stable. Let us take one example to understand this difference –

Itching normally happens due to vitiated kapha . Ayurveda says that itching is a general symptom of kapha doshas .

Mustard oil is one of the great general remedies for skin itching or inflammation.

Vata Itching

Both Vata metabolism and coconut oil produce a cooling effect. Therefore, coconut oil may aggravate vatadosha.

Pitta itching

The cooling effect of coconut oil works wonders for itching in a pitta dominant body. But, oiliness is a general property of pittadosha. But using mustard oil whichis hot in nature may increase the oiliness and aggravate pitta.

Kapha itching

Again, both the cooling and oiliness of coconut oil may increase cold, oily, and heavy Kaphadosha.

That is why an herbal remedy may produce no effect or a harmful effect on the body.

How to modify an herbal remedy to suit the body type

Let us take the above-mentioned example of itching. A slight personalization in the herbal remedy can make it suitable for all constitutions.

Vata Itching

Warm the coconut oil and add a few drops of clove oil/castor oil or almond oil. Warm coconut oil, mixed with vata balancing almond/castoroil efficiently cures itching in a vata person.

Pitta Itching

Add a few pieces of camphor and mix well in a coconut at room temperature. The pitta balancing effect of camphor mixed with anti-itching and cooling coconut oil is a great solution for itching in a pitta person.

Kapha itching

Warm the coconut oil and add a few drops of clove oil. Sharp and Kapha balancing clove oil combined with anti-itching coconut oil is a great remedy for itching in a Kapha dominant body type.

In this manner, we can personalize any general herbal or ayurvedic remedy and gain maximum advantages.

Take Away

Herbal remedies also have a deep logic behind their effects or lack of effects. You can find the perfect key only when you know the lock. Likewise, you can get the best benefits from an herbal remedy only if you know how what your body is like and what it needs.

Ayurvedic body type or constitution is one of the most important factors that can help you find your perfect herbal remedy.

The Qualities of an Ideal Ayurvedic Medicine

ideal ayurvedic medicine qualities

Introduction

Ayurveda offers an abundance of herbal options for each disorder. Moreover, Ayurveda lists a huge variety of health factors like body type, age, health condition, stamina, digestion, etc. The choice of the ideal medicine can vary drastically according to all these factors. Therefore, this wide range of healing options can be confusing.

Applicability and compatibility are the keys. For example –

  • Turmeric is a great herb for wound healing. But there are better healing options like sandalwood for inflammatory disorders.
  • Ashwagandha and Shatavari are great for overall vitality. But Ashwagandha is a better option for improvement in male fertility compared to Shatavari.
  • On the other hand, Shatavari is a great herb for female reproductive health.

The choice is correct medicine is the foundation for personalized healing. Therefore, Acharya Charak defines the crucial qualities of an ideal medicine. These qualities help us to choose the most relevant herb for a particular health condition.

Qualities of an ideal medicine in Ayurveda according to Charak Samhita –

बहुता तत्रयोग्यत्वमनेकविधकल्पना| सम्पच्चेति चतुष्कोऽयं द्रव्याणां गुण उच्यते||७||

An ideal medicine should be easily available in abundance. It should have efficacy, the possibility of multiple pharmaceutical formulations, and natural qualities (full of bioactive ingredients).

Charak Samhita 9/7

Abundance

Abundance is the primary quality of an ideal Ayurvedic medicine. The medicine may be very good for a certain disorder or a particular patient. But, if it is inaccessible, then it is of no use to anyone. This is very practical advice in terms of treatment. Especially, emergency treatment requires instant availability of medicine.

Also, medicine should be available in ample quantity to ensure uniformity in the treatment procedure. Availability of medicine in small quantities may lead to inconsistent healing. That is why abundance is the key. But this abundance should be natural, not man-made.

Vocal for Local

In nature, native vegetation always has a dominant presence. However, today’s abundance can be a confusing factor, because of artificially created local availability of non-native herbs, fruits, and vegetables. For example –

  • Kiwi is amply available in India. However, it is not a local fruit.
  • Quinoa, a super grain from South America is available in good amounts in Europe.
  • Indian herbs like Ashwagandha are available throughout the world.

The true essence of abundance lies in the availability of native produce. According to Ayurveda, the herbs, animals, and humans in a particular location are subject to specific climatic and soil conditions. They face similar weather cycles. Therefore, local herbs are naturally tuned to balance the homeostasis in the local climate.

Let us imagine the local vegetation to be a mother. The mother prepares warm clothes when winter approaches. And when it is summer, she puts away the warm clothes and hands out the umbrella and summer clothing. With the magic touch of mother nature, what we need naturally grows near us. She ensures that each zone has the most compatible set of herbs, useful for the local population. This is the reason why each climatic zone has distinct vegetation.

So, whatever grows near you is your healthiest option. For example –

  • Saffron naturally grows in a cold climate and produces warmth in the body.
  • Green cardamom naturally grows in a hot and humid climate and it helps to cool the body.
  • Coconuts are almost always found near beaches, with a warm humid climate. They are the best options to restore the natural electrolyte balance in hot weather.
  • Dates grow in dry, hot, and arid regions and they provide instant energy and coolness to the body.
Ayurvedic medicine

Summary

Abundance is the first and foremost important factor for an ideal medicine. It ensures consistent treatment and complete healing. However, the true Ayurvedic abundance refers to naturally present vegetation; not imported produce.

Efficacy

The medicine should have qualities relevant to the current disorder. So, if you have two healing options in abundance, efficacy becomes the second most important factor. Let us try to understand this concept with simple food examples. For example –

Short Case Study

Common cold infection is a result of kapha dosha (cold) imbalance in the body. Fever is a result of imbalanced pitta dosha (hot).

you have a fever due to the common cold and you need a cooling herb. There are two anti-fever options available in abundance – Coconut water and green cardamom. (Both coconut and green cardamom grow in similar climatic conditions.)

Let us compare the efficacy of these options in the aforesaid health condition.

Coconut water

  1. Coconut water has a cooling effect on the body and increases kapha dosha.
  2. Therefore, coconut water is not the best solution for common cold-related fever, even if it is available in abundance.

Green cardamom

  1. Green cardamom has a cooling effect on the body. It also helps to control kapha related problems like cough, nausea, heaviness, etc.
  2. Therefore, green cardamom tea is a great option for common cold-related fever.

This is a simple example to elaborate on the concept of efficacy. Classical Ayurvedic medicines contain many herbs, minerals, metal ash, etc. Thanks to a variety of ingredients, these medicines have a multi-faceted effect on the body. Therefore, it is crucial to choose the drug with the right efficacy.

Seasonal Usage

This property also refers to differential seasonal usage. For example, an herb can be boiled to make tea during winter. The same herb can be soaked in water to make squash in summer.

This property is valuable as it increases the range of medicine usage in different seasons.

Multiple Usages

Another dimension of drug efficacy is multifaceted effects. Today, the patients do not have a single disorder. Normally, people come to a physician when the disorders become unbearable. At this stage, the disorder develops other complications or is coupled with other disorders. For example, we find that most obese people suffer from diabetes and hypertension.

In this case, a person may be taking many medicines. There is a possibility that one medicine may interact undesirably with the other. But what if a single medicinal preparation could address all the related disorders or their complications?

However, most of the classical medicines are prepared with a herbal combination that works for numerous disorders. For example,

Chandraprabha Vati, as a single drug is efficient for multiple disorders (UTI, kidney disorders, sexual disorders like syphilis, uterine disorders, general debility, nervine weakness, diabetes, liver disorders, and so on).

Mahanarayan Tailam is a classical Ayurvedic remedy used for vata disorders. You can consume it orally, perform body massage with it, use it for panchkarma therapies, and so on. Therefore, one single preparation can target a wide range of disorders when used in different ways.

There are many such examples in terms of classical Ayurvedic medicines.

Summary

The medicine should have an overall balancing effect on the dosha. The overall balancing outcome and zero side effects define the efficacy of a medicine.

Multiple Preparations

The word “Anek Vidh Kalpana” means an option for varied preparations. This is a very special property that enables the multifaceted usage of a herb/medicine.

Depictions of Goddess Durga show eight hands with different weapons. She is so completely prepared for battle that she carries myriad weapons. So, in all possible war situations, she has a suitable option. “Anek Vidh Kalpana” refers to a fully armed herb, a herb that can be used in multiple ways.

For example –

Turmeric is an herb with excellent anti-oxidant, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and rejuvenating properties. Possible Kalpana or preparations of turmeric are –

Turmeric tea

best for kapha problems

immunity booster, good for obesity, heaviness, skin disorders

Turmeric milk

Best for pitta disorders

Rejuvenating, great for the weak, for children, elderly, recuperating, people without teeth

Turmeric Powder

Used in multiple food preparations – fried rice, poha, Indian curries, kadi, pickles, etc. Food with turmeric has natural immune-boosting properties.

Turmeric is used in both sweet and savory dishes. For example, both sweet Pongal and masala rice use turmeric.

Therefore, turmeric is a natural health supplement that is with long shelf life, easy storage, and adds extra flavor and fragrance to a wide variety of dishes.

Turmeric serves both preventive and curative purposes by adding immune-modulatory properties to the food. It is one of the best examples of “Anek Vidh Kalpana” or multiple usages.

Summary

If an herb can transform itself into “Anek Vidh Kalpana” or multiple preparations, it offers a wide range of usage possibilities. It can serve in different health conditions, age groups, climatic conditions, and so on.

A Prosperous Herb

The Sanskrit word “sampan” means prosperous. In an Ayurvedic context, it means – a herb/medicine brimming with its natural bioactive ingredients. Such a herb is full of medicinal properties and well equipped to cure the disorder.

Let us compare this well-resourced herb to a soldier. A soldier can fight under all circumstances. However, he can fight best when he is well-equipped with a gun, armor, bullets, etc. Similarly, a cook can make tasty food when he is well-equipped with the necessary ingredients and cooking gear. Similarly, a sampan herb is full of medicinal juice that helps to cure the disorder.

Seasonal Produce

Anything that grows naturally, in the appropriate season is full of bioactive ingredients. Such herbs have superlative nutrition and medicinal properties compared to herbs that grow in unnatural climates and soil. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends local and seasonal herbs to ensure that you get the best medicinal essence from these herbs.

Non-seasonal Produce and Dosha Balance

On the other hand, Ayurveda strictly prohibits the use of non-seasonal produce. Acharya Charak says that one should not eat produce grown in unnatural soil, climate, eaten by insects, and devoid of its natural form, taste, or aroma. The plants that grow in unnatural climatic conditions or soil naturally do not have natural nutrition. But they can also be detrimental or toxic to health!

The body has a dosha cycle. Each naturally seasonal grown plant helps to balance the dosha cycle in the body. But non-seasonal plants disturb the dosha balance instead of balancing it.

For example –

Cauliflower naturally grows in winter. It increases vata dosha in the body. However, in winter all doshas are naturally balanced and therefore cauliflower does not bring any harm to the body.

However, Ayurveda prohibits the use of vegetables, esp. cauliflower, green peas, cabbages, etc. During the rainy season. Also, these vegetables naturally do not grow in the rainy season.

The rainy season brings a cyclic vata imbalance. Consuming cauliflower during the rainy season can cause or aggravate severe vata disorders like body pain, joint pain, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, etc.

Therefore, it is a health hazard to consume non-seasonal cauliflower during the rainy season.

Ayurveda against GMO

Normally, non-seasonal vegetation cannot survive in odd climatic conditions, but for human intervention.

Genetically modified crops emerged in the 80s and spread throughout the globe. These crops were supposed to have better yields, greater resistance to pests, etc. Also, these crops are designed to grow in unnatural climatic conditions. And here is the catch!

These crops are good for shelves in the store, not for the human body. Since they have an unnatural genetic constitution, the body labels them as dangerous foreign substances. As a result, the body attacks these GM foods in the form of food allergies.

Therefore, genetically modified food is a strict no-no in an ideal Ayurvedic diet.

More is not always better

Today, we have herbs with more percentage of bioactive ingredients. For example, scientists identified withanolides as the bioactive ingredients in Ashwagandha. Normal Ashwagandha powder contains 2.5% of withanolides. However, today we have abnormally concentrated Ashwagandha preparations that may have 10% or more percentage of withanolides. But more is not always better.

According to modern science, more concentration of bioactive ingredients may lead to more possibility of absorption inside the body. However, in most cases, this approach has backfired.

The true healing potential of an herb is not dependent only on a few scientifically identified bio-active ingredients. Many other compounds support the functions of the primary bioactive ingredients. All constituents in an herb work in synergy to produce the healing effect. That’s why, when we jeopardize the natural composition of the herb, we also disturb its healing potential.

And this is the reason many naturally harmless herbs produce side effects. Kava Kava has been used for thousands of years in Oceania for multiple disorders. Its natural preparations never had any side effects or complications on the natives. However, scientists prepared highly concentrated extracts of Kava Kava, and it produced severe side effects like hepatotoxicity.

Take Away

Acharya Charak lists four properties of an ideal medicine. An ideal medicine should be easily available in abundance. Besides, Ayurveda advocates the use of naturally available native herbs.

An efficient medicine should have the relevant properties to treat the disorders, without any side effects or complications. Also, it should be available in multiple pharmaceutical preparations. For example – decoction, capsule, powder, etc. A medicine blessed with all the above properties ensures the best results irrespective of other treatment factors.

The sampan herb is the one that grows naturally and is harvested when it is juiciest, in its natural season of growth. This herb has a maximum level of bioactive ingredients naturally possible. Besides, these bioactive ingredients are well supported by other compounds.

Ayurveda rejects non-seasonal produce. Therefore, genetically modified crops are not healthy as per Ayurveda. They lack their natural genetic composition and hence their natural properties.

The bottom line is – whatever is naturally available is the best for us.

I hope that this blog helps you to make the best treatment choices.

Eight Factors of an Ideal Ayurvedic Meal (Ahaar Vidhi Visheshayatana)

ideal ayurvedic meal factors

Introduction

According to Vedas, food is the source of prana for lesser beings. The divine beings derive their nourishment from the fire sacrifice or homa. Vedic wisdom says “mtriyorma amrutam gamaya” (may I move away from death towards immortality). So, till the time we achieve a higher existence, food is our savior. It is the base of annamaya kosha, the physical existence.

But all food does not contain the same amount of prana. The quality of prana, chi or the vital energy present in the food differs according to many factors. There are physical, mental, and spiritual factors that bestow prana to food. The cook’s mindset and level of awareness affect the energy of the food. Also, when you earn your meal through righteous means, the prana of the food is incredibly positive. These are the mental and spiritual aspects of the food. Let us look at some other factors from the ancient text.

Summary

Food is the source of prana or chi. Ayurveda lists eight important factors to ensure that you effortlessly absorb the life force from the food.

The Eight Meal Factors

Charak Samhita lists eight fascinating factors for an ideal meal. The group of these eight factors is called Ahaar Vidhi Visheshayata (ahaar – food, vidhi – method, visheshayatana – special aspects/dimensions).

तत्र खल्विमान्यष्टावाहारविधिविशेषायतनानि भवन्ति; तद्यथा- प्रकृतिकरणसंयोगराशिदेशकालोपयोगसंस्थोपयोक्त्रष्टमानि (भवन्ति)||२१||

Eight special factors constitute the ideal method for food consumption.

They are –

  1. Prakrati (Natural Nutritious Qualities)
  2. Karan (Preparation)
  3. Sanyog (Combination)
  4. Rashi (Quantity)
  5. Desh (Habitat)
  6. Kaal (Time)
  7. Upyogsanstha (Usage Directions)
  8. Upyokta (Consumer)

Prakrati (Natural Nutritious Qualities)

तत्र प्रकृतिरुच्यते स्वभावो यः, स पुनराहारौषधद्रव्याणां स्वाभाविको गुर्वादिगुणयोगः; तद्यथा माषमुद्गयोः, शूकरैणयोश्च (१) |२२|

Prakrati is the natural character of a substance; the natural qualities like heaviness etc. define the Prakrati as food and medicinal substances; for example – mash (urad dal/black gram) is heavy to digest whereas moong dal (green gram) is light; pork is heavy but deer meat is light.

Prakrati is the natural state. The word Prakrati is omnipresent in Ayurveda. We have body type (sharir Prakrati), mind type (manas Prakrati), food type (ahaar Prakrati) etc. This Prakrati is the foundation for compatibility. Ideally, you should eat food compatible with both your mind and body. However, this shloka focuses on the physical properties of the food.

Charak Samhita defines some foods that are good for everyone, for example – barley, milk, honey, rice, etc. because these foods are naturally compatible with all.

Prakrati is the natural state of the substance. The natural nutrition available in a raw fruit is due to its Prakrati.

Different foods have unique combinations of properties. For example – watermelon is cool, heavy, and helps to eliminate pitta dosha; whereas cucumber is warm and increases pitta.

8 factors of ideal meal in Ayurvedic

Summary

Prakrati is the natural properties of a substance. These properties decide its effect on the body’s metabolism. For example – Honey is light and warm. Therefore, it helps to balance the kapha dosha.

Karan (Preparation/Food Processing)

करणं पुनः स्वाभाविकानां द्रव्याणामभिसंस्कारः| संस्कारो हि गुणान्तराधानमुच्यते| ते गुणास्तोयाग्निसन्निकर्षशौचमन्थनदेशकालवासनभावनादिभिः कालप्रकर्षभाजनादिभिश्चाधीयन्ते (२) |२२|

Karan refers to the food preparations. It is the start of culinary science, where we process the food to suit our nutritional needs. Through food processing, we can change the natural properties (Prakrati) of a food item, and induce desirable qualities in it.

Some of the important food processing methods are –

  1. Water (Soaking, Fermentation Etc.)
  2. Fire (Roasting, Frying, Boiling, Smoking Etc.)
  3. Purification (Washing, Sedimentation, Sieving, Etc.)
  4. Churning/Mixing/Grinding
  5. Place (Cold/Warm Climate, Humidity, Wind Etc.)
  6. Time (Cooking/Processing Time Etc.)
  7. Vasan – To Keep/Store (Pickling, Fermentation, Air Drying, Sun Drying Etc.)
  8. Infusion (Mixing Herbal Juices to Upgrade Nutritious /Medicinal Properties)

For example, Ayurveda says that green leafy vegetables like spinach are heavy, dry, and create vata vitiation in the body. However, a tempering with warm herbs like cumin and asafoetida can make them light, easy to digest. These herb-tempered vegetables do not cause any vata vitiation.

Summary

The cooking process or karan refines the natural properties of a food item to suit the nutritional needs of an individual.

Sanyog (Combination)

संयोगः पुनर्द्वयोर्बहूनां वा द्रव्याणां संहतीभावः, स विशेषमारभते, यं पुनर्नैकैकशो द्रव्याण्यारभन्ते; तद्यथा- मधुसर्पिषोः, मधुमत्स्यपयसां च संयोगः (३) |२२|

Two substances with distinct qualities come together to create a special effect. For example – ghee cools the body and boosts immunity. It helps to balance all three doshas. Honey is warm, with great antimicrobial properties. It is the best remedy for kapha disorders. A combination of ghee and honey should be great for health. However, Ayurveda says that ghee and honey in equal proportion produce a toxic effect on the body!

On the other hand, an unequal proportion of ghee and honey has excellent health effects.

The concept of Sanyog is vital in the ayurvedic diet. It is the foundation for the science of incompatible combinations or viruddhahaar (viruddha – opposite/conflicting, ahaar – food). We will make a detailed exploration of viruddhahaar in future blogs.

Summary

A combination or sanyog of two food substances may produce a unique metabolic effect, distinct from their individual effects. Therefore, it is important to understand the health consequences of your food combinations.

Rashi (Quantity)

राशिस्तु सर्वग्रहपरिग्रहौ मात्रामात्रफलविनिश्चयार्थः| तत्र सर्वस्याहारस्य प्रमाणग्रहणमेकपिण्डेन सर्वग्रहः, परिग्रहः पुनः प्रमाणग्रहणमेकैकश्येनाहारद्रव्याणाम्| सर्वस्य हि ग्रहः सर्वग्रहः, सर्वतश्च ग्रहः परिग्रह उच्यते (४) |२२|

Rashi or quantity is a crucial factor in Ayurvedic meals. Ayurveda says that even elixir turns to poison on excess consumption. Therefore, you must eat according to your age, health, hunger, digestive capacity, etc.

Rashi has two aspects – sarvagraha and parigraha

Sarvagraha (sarva – all; graha – intake):

This is the total amount of food you consume. It includes all types of foods – solids, fluids or fruits, grains, meat, etc. This total amount helps to decide on over-eating, under-eating, the total amount of calories, overall impact of food, digestive capacity, etc.

For ease of understanding, let us imagine that two people consume 1 kg of food; where one person eats 1 kg of mango and the other person consumes 1 kg of watermelon. The first person will get a greater number of calories compared to the other. Besides, the first person may experience the laxative impact of mango. Laxative action helps to relieve excess pitta dosha. Whereas the second person may feel an overall pitta increasing impact of watermelon. (reference – Bhav Prakash; Fhaladi Varga, )

Parigraha (pari – individual; graha – intake)

Parigraha refers to the individual ingredients of food that you consume. For example – 1 cup of dal, 1 cup rice, 1 apple, etc.

Parigraha may differ for same sarvagraha. For example, if two people consume a total of 1 kg of food,

  • parigraha for one person can be – 3 cup dal, 1 roti, 1 cup rice, etc.
  • for another person, it can be – 1 cup dal, 2 roti, 3 cup rice, etc.

Parigraha helps us to assess the intake of individual nutrients. For example, the protein intake of the first person in the above example is greater than the other. There are multiple other aspects of Rashi and the way it affects your body.

Summary

Rashi is the amount of food intake. This factor has two aspects – total amount of food intake and amount of individual ingredients (e.g rice, bread, soup, etc.). Information on Rashi helps you to ascertain the digestive capacity, appropriate quantity, the effect of food on the body, etc.

Desh (Habitat)

देशः पुनः स्थानं; स द्रव्याणामुत्पत्तिप्रचारौ देशसात्म्यं चाचष्टे (५) |२२|

CharakSamhita says that the native or natural habitat of a person is healthiest for him. The food, fruits, vegetables, etc. that naturally grows in the native place are more compatible with an individual than food from other places.

Desh or the native is the foundation for a rainbow of cuisines across the world. And each cuisine brings out the best of naturally available local ingredients. These local cuisines are the healthiest for the native population. For example – South Indian people are more comfortable with fermented food like idli, dosa, etc. The warm South Indian climate supports fermentation. Besides, such food items are easier to digest in a hot climate.

Kaal (Time)

कालो हि नित्यगश्चावस्थिकश्च; तत्रावस्थिको विकारमपेक्षते, नित्यगस्तु ऋतुसात्म्यापेक्षः (६) |२२|

Kaal or time is crucial for great digestion. Timely meals are the basis for an ideal Ayurvedic lifestyle. Kaal has two major aspects – nityag and awasthik

Nityag Kaal (General Impact of Time)

Nityag Kaal defines the general impact of time, which is the same for all individuals. For example, the diurnal and seasonal impact is the same for everyone.

In a day, different parts of the day have different dosha dominance. For example, the kapha dosha is dominant during the first part of the day. Similarly, dosha also exhibits seasonal vitiation. For example, the rainy season is the time for vata vitiation.

Information about Nityag kaal helps us to frame the best food choices, preparation, combinations, quantities, etc. For example,

  • Ayurveda says that lunch should be the heaviest meal of the day, as our metabolism and digestive capacity reach their zenith at noontime.
  • Also, you should not consume yogurt at night as it may increase susceptibility to kapha disorders.
  • Intake of Sattu diluted with water is prohibited during the cold climate, as this preparation produces a cooling effect on the body.

As obvious from the above examples, Ayurvedic dietary recommendations are replete with usage direction with regards to the time of consumption.

Avasthik Kaal (Conditional Impact of Time)

Avasthik kaal refers to the situational or conditional impact of time. This factor is especially applicable to disorders. For example –

Ayurveda recommends no treatment on the first day of fever.

Similarly, milk is not a healthy option during the first phase of fever. But it is a great food for people recuperating from fever.

The bottom line is that there is the best time for everything.

Summary

Desh (place) and Kaal (time) are crucial factors that define food compatibility, natural biorhythm, ideal mealtime, etc.

Upyogsanstha (Usage Directions)

उपयोगसंस्था तूपयोगनियमः; स जीर्णलक्षणापेक्षः (७) |२२|

Upyogsantha is the method to consume food. Suppose that you have the most nutritious food, cooked properly, and with a great combination. The time and place are also favorable. But if you do not use this food properly, then you may gain no benefit from all the favorable factors.

For example, Accharya Charak says that you should not consume the food before digesting the earlier meal.

Usage direction is applicable even if you eat raw fruits! How? Ayurveda says that whether you lick, suck or eat a mango makes a difference in its nutritional benefits!

Ayurveda advises licking Chavanprash slowly, instead of immediately gulping it down. Gradual licking helps in better digestion and absorption of Chavanprash. Besides, it also activates the taste buds and enhances the level of satisfaction through the feeding process.

The use of yogurt is another example. According to all ancient texts, you must not consume yogurt during nighttime. Why? The overall rate of metabolism decreases after sunset. Besides, kapha dosha dominates the first phase of the night. According to Ayurveda, yogurt is heavy to digest and may make you susceptible to kapha related disorders.

However, Bhav Prakash Nighantu suggests some special directions for yogurt consumption at night. These directions can help you to prevent the negative effects of night-time yogurt consumption.

Ayurveda recommends consuming it along with honey, ghee, and sugar, moong dal, or awla. These combinations help to reduce the kapha increasing impact of yogurt.

Also, Ayurveda recommends consuming yogurt during the cold climate as it naturally warms the body. On the other hand, you should refrain from excess yogurt or buttermilk consumption during warm climates.

Summary

Upyogsanstha or the usage directions help to make the best use of food substances. They help to ensure the best bioavailability and perfect digestion of the food.

Upyokta (Consumer)

उपयोक्ता पुनर्यस्तमाहारमुपयुङ्क्ते, यदायत्तमोकसात्म्यम्| इत्यष्टावाहारविधिविशेषायतनानि व्याख्यातानि भवन्ति||२२||

The consumer is the king, no doubts about that. The ultimate effect of the food depends on the body type, current health status, age, digestion, and the overall metabolism of the consumer.

For example, people with different body types have different health requirements. Buttermilk is great for vata and kapha as it warms the body, whereas sweetened milk is better for the pitta dominant body type.

Pitta dominant people need heavy and cooling food, whereas kapha dominant people fare better with dry, light, and warm food.

Fruits and light food are the best dietary options for the Sick, recuperating, and the old. But a young wrestler with a pitta dominant constitution needs heavy food to quench his strong digestive fire.

Summary

Upyokta means the consumer. This factor defines the usage of food according to individual factors like body type, health status, age, digestive capacity, etc.

The Mango Example

Let us try to understand all eight factors with the example of mango

  1. Prakrati (Natural Nutritious Qualities)

The ripe mango is naturally sweet, moisturizing, heavy, and cool.

  1. Karan (Preparation)

Aamavat is a traditional mango preparation. It is a naturally sweet mango bar, prepared from sun-dried mango juice. Due to the sun-drying process, Aamavat becomes lighter compared to mango fruit. It is a natural appetizer. With its natural sweetness, Aamavat helps to balance vata dosha. It is also beneficial for excessive thirst, nausea, etc. Aamavat is also a natural laxative. Therefore, it helps to balance pitta.

  1. Sanyog (Combination)

According to Bhav Prakash Nighantu, a combination of mango and milk is sweet, heavy, and cool. It is a tonic, appetizer, energizer that also helps to enhance skin tone!

  1. Rashi (Quantity)

Excessive intake of a sweet ripe mango is normally harmless. It may cause slight loose motions. However, excessive intake of raw mango can cause severe problems. It can lead to indigestion, intermittent fever, blood disorders, constipation, and eye disorders. Therefore, quantity makes a huge difference in the metabolic impact of a food item.

  1. Desh (Habitat)

There are more than 1000 varieties of mango found across India. However, Ayurveda says that the local variety is the best for the natives. Therefore, if you stay in south India, Baganpalli is a healthier option for you compared to Dashahari mango from the north.

  1. Kaal (Time)

Natural mango is the seasonal fruit for summer. But genetically modified varieties of mango are available throughout the year. These unnatural fruits may bring more harm to the body than nutrition.

  1. Upyogsanstha (Usage Directions)

Bhav Prakash Nighantu talks about the special benefits of sucking a mango. If you suck a juicy mango rather than chewing it, the process of sucking enhances the beneficial impact of mango. It is a better appetizer and lighter to digest compared to chewed mango.

  1. Upyokta (Consumer)

Ripe mango is excellent for esp. for vata prakrati people as it helps to balance vata dosha. It is great for people suffering from debility, malnutrition, low weight, blood disorders, etc.

Take Away

Ayurveda describes eight vital factors that govern the impact of food on our bodies. These factors together are called Ahaar Vidhi Visheshayatana (special aspects of food consumption). They are Prakrati (Natural Nutritious Qualities), Karan (Preparation), Sanyog (Combination), Rashi (Quantity), Desh (Habitat), Kaal (Time), Upyogsanstha (Usage Directions), and Upyokta (Consumer).

Information about these factors can help you to choose the ideal food according to your body type, and health conditions. Besides, these factors can also help you to consume good food in the right manner. The bottom line is – with the help of these eight factors, you can get the best of your food and avoid food-related negative consequences.

Mother Nature always strikes the perfect balance of required nutrition, regardless of the place and time. Therefore, the food that grows closest to you naturally is the best. No need to run after exotic imported food items. Besides, every season comes with its natural food production. This seasonal food helps the natives to adjust to the seasonal changes. Besides, Ayurveda prescribes usage guidelines and ways to choose the ideal food based on body types.

The bottom line is – choose seasonal, organic, and local food. Use it in the Ayurvedic manner according to your body type.

I hope that this information brings you best of health and prosperity.

Concept of Disease in Ayurveda – Ayurvedic Disease Synonyms

Ayurveda concept of disease

Introduction

Synonyms play a crucial role in Ayurveda. There is more to them than just words. They have a wide spectrum of implications depending on the context. Let’s look at the synonyms for “disease” contained in various Ayurvedic texts.

What is a disease (vyadhi)?

Ayurveda has a very interesting definition of “the disease.”

Let us look at the meaning of the word “vyadhi.” This word emerges from another word called “adhi” meaning something that brings pain. “Vyadhi” is translated as “something that makes people uncomfortable with different types of pain.”

Every disease troubles the patient on multiple levels –

Physiological

A disease disturbs the natural metabolism and brings discomfort. For example, a person suffering from urinary tract disorder may suffer from burning micturition.

Physical

A disease may cause physical problems that degrade the overall quality of life. For example, a person suffering from rheumatoid arthritis is not able to walk properly.

Mental

There are two aspects of mental discomfort. Firstly, the disease can cause mental distress or interfere with the normal functioning of the brain. Schizophrenics, for example, imagine nonexistent entities. A disorder may also lead to anxiety and stress. Diabetics, for instance, may worry about their health.

Social

Social embarrassment can result from a disease. Vitiligo patients, for instance, may feel humiliated in public.

Financial

A disease can drain the financial assets of a person. Cancer treatment, for example, can exhaust the patient’s resources financially.

Ayurvedic synonyms of disease

In Sanskrit, the word “disease” has many interesting synonyms. In each case, the meaning is very different. Here are some of the disease synonyms according to Charak Samhita.

​अत्र व्याधिरामयो गद आतंको यक्ष्मा ज्वरो विकारो रोग इत्यनर्थान्तरम्। 

Charak Nidan Sthan 1/5 

These synonyms are not mere words. They encompass an entire range or class of disorders.

Amaya

This word emerges from the Sanskrit root “am” which signifies diseases. Ayurveda has a unique concept of ama or metabolic toxins.

ama forms inside the body as a result of the wrong diet, lifestyle, or state of mind. It hinders the natural physiological functions and in this process, it forms diseases. Ama can also serve as an incubation ground for pathogens.

All general disorders produce ama or metabolic toxins in their advanced stages.

Gad

The word Gad refers to poison. The disease spreads in the body like poison and compromises vital metabolic functions. Therefore, Gad or poison is one of the synonyms for the disease.

Ama is also compared to a poison. However, there is a difference between ama and Gad. Ama is a metabolic toxin. It forms inside the body. While, Gad or poison can be external as well, for example – snake bite or contaminated food.

Ayurveda toxicology is called Agad tantra, as Agad is something that removes or neutralizes Gad (poison).

Atanka

The word Atanka refers to panic. This synonym of disease conveys the psychological impact of disorders.

There are two aspects to the psychological impact of disorders.

Firstly, all disorders trigger anxiety in the patient. This anxiety reduces immunity and adds to the disease burden.

Secondly, severe disease may trigger wide-scale panic. Panic is a natural reaction especially to fatal disease conditions like cancer, HIV AIDs, etc. However, serious communicable disorders like SARS and COVID-19 may trigger social panic, which has a huge impact on the morale of individuals and society as a whole.

The word Atanka primarily refers to mental disorders or the psychosomatic impact of physical disorders.

Ayurvedic disease synonyms

Yakshma

The word Yakshma is very close to the word shaya or deterioration. Yakshma refers to the gradual breaking down or wasting of the body tissues.

There are some diseases, where tissue wasting is a major pathological outcome. For example, muscular dystrophy or wasting of the muscular tissue is a distinct group of diseases. Multiple sclerosis is a disorder characterized by a gradual wasting of the nervous tissue.

A person with tuberculosis suffers from severe weakness and gradual deterioration of all body tissues. Therefore, it is also called raj yakshma, or the king of tissue wasting diseases!

Jwara

Jwara is typically associated with fever. However, in a broader perspective, Jwara stands for inflammation. And there is a significant difference between fever and inflammation, esp chronic inflammation.

Science has proven that chronic inflammation is the most serious of all diseases. There is some trace of inflammation in all disorders.

It has been known to Ayurveda for ages that Jwara is the most severe disorder. This is the reason why all ancient Ayurvedic texts list it at the top of all diseases. Ayurveda states that jwar or inflammation accompanies a person right from the time of birth to his deathbed.

The word Jwara signifies a range of fevers, chronic inflammation, and other inflammatory disorders like IBS, Crohn’s disease, etc. It may also include autoimmune disorders with inflammatory symptoms.

Vikara

The word Vikara means “any distortion from the normal.” Therefore, anything that distorts the normal functions of the mind, senses, and body is a Vikara.

Vikara is like a building block for disorders. One syndrome can include many Vikara or metabolic disturbances. For example –

Anemia is a Vikara. Lack of periods is another separate Vikara. These Vikaras can exist as separate conditions. However, these and many other Vikaras also combine to form a more complex disease like PCOD.

Vikara also refers to deformity. The deformity may not be an active disease. However, it degrades the quality of life. Blindness and polio feet, for example, are the result of previous diseases, but they are not active disorders. However, the Vikara or deformity severely impairs the quality of life for the person. Therefore, a blind person who is otherwise healthy cannot be called a patient. She can be called deformed or vikrit.

Roga

The word Roga is derived from the Sanskrit root “ruj“, which means pain. Therefore, Rogas are disorders characterized by pain as their primary symptom. This category includes all acute or chronic pain-related diseases. For example, chronic pain is an integral part of migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and Lyme disease.

Papma

The word Papma originates from the word paap or sin. This paap or sin has multiple aspects.

  1. It can be a dietary fault. It is interesting to note that gluttony (excessive eating) is also a synonym for sin.
  2. A paap can be a lifestyle error like sleeping late at night.
  3. The most fascinating aspect of paap is guilt. A sense of guilt, shame, or regret has far-reaching health consequences whether these feelings are in your conscious or unconscious mind.

For example, Charak Samhita identifies sin as one of the significant causal factors of leucoderma.

Besides, paap or sin does not happen to you like seasonal changes. Paap always has a doer. It is intentional. Whether to indulge or to skip a health violation is up to you. Thus, Papma or disease is caused by willful health trespass.

Dukha

The word dukh signifies misery. It is not exactly discomfort but a consequence of the same. In a hut, a monk might feel comfortable. However, a rich merchant used to luxuries may be unhappy. So, Dukha is an optional state of mind.

Some people are sick, but they are peaceful and hopeful; while others may crib about their health conditions.

Hence, Dukha symbolizes the mental impact of a disorder, or mental disorder itself. It is the mother of disorders like depression, anxiety, compulsive eating, etc.

Abadh

The word abadh emerges from the word bandha which means hindrance. All diseases are essentially a barrier to normal metabolic functions.

However, there is a range of disorders where obstruction or restriction is the central feature. For example, diseases like tumors, atherosclerotic plaques, congestive respiratory disorders create blockade in the metabolic pathway. Thus, abadh may refer to all kinds of obstructive disorders in Ayurveda.

Uptapa

The word tapa means burning or inflamed. It also refers to tapas meaning penance. Fire converts everything to ashes. Hence, tapa refers to transformational change. The disease produces a pathological change in normal physiology. An Uptapa (disease) may burn and destroy the body tissues.

Jwar is almost synonymous with this term. As per Ayurveda, jwar is the most serious illness that accompanies a person from birth to death. Uptapa may be a less serious condition.

Take Away

There are many names for “disease” in Ayurveda. Each name has a unique meaning and context. Each name also denotes a different range of disorders. For example, jwar, on the other hand, refers to inflammatory disorders, while Papma, on the other hand, means the mental impact of disorders.

I hope this blog helps you to gain a deeper understanding of Ayurvedic pathology. In the next blog, let us discuss the Ayurvedic classification of diseases.

Introduction to Ayurvedic Guna Karma – Metabolic Properties

intro to Ayurvedic guna karma

Ayurvedic Guna Karma

As discussed in the previous blogs, the basic gurvadi guna (heavy, light, hot, cool, etc.) present inside a substance (dravya) come together to produce a complex metabolic impact. For example – cognition enhancement, sedation, anti-inflammatory activity, etc.

Ayurveda lists several metabolic effects that medicine can produce. These metabolic effects are called the guna-karma of medicine. In this context, the word “guna” means the healing properties of the medicine/herb. And the word “karma” refers to its mode of action.

The combination Guna Karma refers to the deep relation between the properties and the mode of action of a medicine. It is akin to the cause-and-effect relation. Its properties cause the medicine to act in a particular manner.

Guna is quite close to the concept of pharmacokinetics. Pharmacokinetics is a branch of pharmacology that defines how the body reacts to a substance. For example, if a substance is guru (heavy) according to Ayurveda, it may have a low bioavailability. The body needs to exert itself to get the nutrition from heavy food. If a food produces heat during digestion, it is ushna (hot) in nature.

Karma is akin to pharmacodynamics, a branch that deals with the mode of action of a drug. These metabolic actions resemble medicinal properties in modern medicine. For example – Medhya is a term quite close to cognitive enhancer; Madkari is an intoxicant, vamak is an emetic (vomiting inducing drug), and virechak is a purgative.

However, Ayurvedic metabolic impact has an incredible depth. They are more specific than their modern counterparts. For example, modern medicine has two modes of action for medicines acting on the large intestine – purgatives and laxatives.

Purgatives and laxatives have a single difference. Purgatives have a stronger and instant action, whereas laxatives exert a milder and slower action on the large intestine.

But Ayurveda offers three distinct categories –

Rechan – similar to purgatives, they have strong action. These substances cause loose motions. The motion is characterized by liquid stool, that stimulates the peristaltic pressure.

Bhedan – these substances penetrate the fecal matter and increase its bulk. This bulkiness builds pressure, stimulates the intestinal lining, and causes motion.

Sansrana – these substances have the special property to tear away the waste matter stuck to the intestinal walls and remove it through loose motion. They directly stimulate the intestinal walls and cause motion.

Besides, each herb offers a distinct package of these properties. For example –

Bhedan with Aloe Vera

According to Ayurveda, aloe vera is “bhedani.” At the same time, it is a Rasayana (adaptogen) that helps to gain weight, enhance strength and fertility. So, aloe vera may be a great choice for a thin patient suffering from constipation; but not for an obese person.

However, aloe vera causes strong purgative action, therefore it is not an ideal choice for extremely weak, sick, or recuperating people.

Sansran with Senna (Cassia augustifolia)

Senna is a leaf with “sansran” properties. It stimulates the intestinal nervous system and creates strong peristaltic motion. At the same time, it is a vatanuloman (carminative) and helps to relieve flatulence.

Senna has a special anti-worm action due to its strong peristatic stimulating effect. It also activates the liver and enhances bile secretion. This unique package of medicinal properties makes Senna the drug of choice for obstructive jaundice caused by roundworms.

Pharmacological Classification in Ayurveda

The concept of guna-karma defines this incredible correlation of medicinal properties with disorders. In this blog series on guna karma, let us explore the distinct metabolic effects listed in various classical Ayurvedic texts.

Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita, Ashtang Hridya, and other major classical texts describe herbs in multiple categories according to their action on the body. For easy understanding, these modes of action are divided into the following categories.

  1. Action on the nervous system
  2. Action on sense organs
  3. Action on the circulatory system
  4. Action on the respiratory system
  5. Action on the digestive system
  6. Action on reproductive organs
  7. Action on the urinary system
  8. General metabolic action
  9. Action on dosha

Each of these categories contains subcategories. For example, “Action on nervous system” consists of the following sub-divisions –

  1. Medhya – Cognitive Enhancers
  2. Madkari – Narcotic
  3. Sanghya-Sthapana – Consciousness Inducing
  4. Nindra Janan – Sedatives
  5. Nindra Shaman – Anti-Sedatives
  6. Vedana Sthapana – Analgesic
  7. Akshepjanan – Convulsants

Similarly, each category contains multiple sub-divisions. Acharya Charak says that these divisions are for beginners. Ayurvedic herbs have numerous qualities and they can have endless categories.

Besides, these categories mainly focus on the medicinal effects of the herbs. There are multiple herbs with negative effects like toxicity etc. These categories ignore such herbs for the sake of simplification.

Each category will also have a description of its signature herbs in near future. For example, the “Medhya – Cognitive Enhancers” category will have a detailed description of herbs like Brahmi, Shankhapushpi, Jatamansi, etc.

guna karma metabolic properties

How to Use Guna Karma Information

These categories can be very helpful when you are choosing an Ayurvedic medicine or home remedy. You can look up the ingredients in the list of herbal categories and confirm the classically defined herbal action.

In this blog series, you can learn the following information about the herb –

  1. Medicinal Properties
  2. Mode of action
  3. Traditional Usage/Home Remedies
  4. Classical Preparations
  5. Dosage
  6. Side Effects
  7. Precautions

I hope that these blogs help you make the best health choices.

What is Bhaishajya Kalpana – Introduction to Ayurvedic Pharmacy

Ayurvedic pharmacy introduction

Introduction

Today, most people know about Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, Shatavari. However, few of us are aware of the advanced science of Ayurvedic pharmacy. Ayurveda says that you can use every substance in the universe as a medicine. And the science that can convert every substance into medicine is the ancient Ayurvedic pharmacy – Bhaishajya Kalpana.

Meaning of Bhaishajya Kalpana

What is Bheshaj?

The Sanskrit word Bheshaj means “something that eliminates the fear of disorders”. The use of the word “fear” is very interesting, as it points at a comprehensive Ayurvedic treatment; a treatment that works both on the physical and psychological level. Therefore, Bheshaj has a very broad spectrum. It may be an herbal preparation or therapy for physical ailments; or even meditation, counseling, or mantra chanting for psychological disorders!

Besides, the word “fear” also refers to prevention. A flawless healthcare system offers effective prevention, and thus successfully eliminates “fear” of disorders.

What is Kalpana?

The Sanskrit word Kalpana means “imagination or creativity.” It also refers to design, strategy, craft, or method. In the Ayurveda framework, Kalpana is a project or scheme of treatment in the context of disease, body type, and multiple other factors.

Therefore, the word Kalpana (design) refers to the unique scheme of treatment for all individuals. Like the way an architect designs a structure based on the requirements, available material, and the site; similarly, a Vaidya (ayurvedic physician) designs a healing solution according to the health condition of the patient. And since the healing solution is a Kalpana (creative design), a physician can be innovative with the overall healing process! This creativity turns the entire Ayurvedic pharmacy into an art.

The two above two words come together to produce Bhaishajya Kalpana – creating something that will eliminate the fear of disorders. So, Bhaishajya Kalpana is the science, or rather the art of designing cures in Ayurveda.

What is Bhaishajya Kalpana?

what is Bhaishajya Kalpana

Summary

Bhaishajya Kalpana is the science to design the most suitable cure for the patient. This cure can be anything, a pill or a counseling session.

Importance of Medicine

Charak Samhita talks about a very interesting concept of Chikitsa chatushpada (the four limbs of treatment). These four limbs are – physician, healing structure, nurse, and patient.

  1. The Physician
  2. The healing strategy/medicine
  3. The Nurse
  4. The Patient

These four pillars have specific characteristics that make them suitable or unsuitable for successful treatment.

The physician is the crucial part of treatment for obvious reasons. Ayurveda says that an excellent physician can ward off even the possibility of a disorder; and cure a patient with the help of only food, air, and water.

But excellent physicians are rare. However, the general preparation of quality medicines is more workable. Therefore, medicines become the primary healing tool in most cases.

A regional proverb says that the physician without medicines is akin to a soldier with a sword or a king without the sceptre. If the physician is the soul of Ayurvedic treatment, medicines form its body.

Summary

With physicians and nurses of average experience, or patients with less willpower to follow treatment protocol, medicines or the healing strategy is the healing crucial factor.

Bhaishajya Kalpana – The Art of Treatment

I call Bhaishajya Kalpana an art, as it does not follow strict rules and guidelines. The human body is a dynamic system, and each person has a unique mind and body. Therefore, an Ayurvedic physician or pharmacist can be creative while devising medicine, a therapy, or a treatment plan; completely personalized to the patient’s needs.

No wonder, the ancient Ayurvedic texts of Charak Samhita describe 128 distinct categories of medicinal preparations. It urges the physicians to be inventive and discover more variations. And this is a single text on Ayurvedic general medicine that we are talking about! The ancient texts describe novel treatment approaches that are far more progressive than todays’ “one size fits all” approach.

Ayurveda has eight distinct branches like General medicine, surgery, toxicology, etc. And each branch has its personalized Bhaishajya Kalpana!

Summary

The immense variety of healing options and health aspects elevate Bhaishajya Kalpana from the science to the art of healing.

Bhaishajya Kalpana – The Origin and History

The history of Bhaishajya Kalpana starts with the Vedas. In Rigveda, we find the oldest medicinal hymn in the history of humankind. This hymn praises the art of pharmacy. It says –

“The physician needs medicines as the king needs a council. Only the one who knows medicine is a healer and destroyer of diseases in true sense.” Tenth Mandala (10-97)

Vedas mention multiple medicinal plants and their benefits. For example, Rigveda alone talks about 107 medicinal herbs –

“The tawny plants were born in the ancient times, three ages before the gods; now I will meditate upon their hundred and seven forms.” Rigveda, Tenth Mandala (10-97)

We also find the first botanical classification of human history in Vedas. The oldest Veda, Rigveda classifies the plants into three categories – vriksha (trees), aushadh (medicinal herbs), and virudh (minor herbs).

Some of the important plants mentioned in Vedas are –

  • RigvedaKaranj , Palash, Khadir, Pippali, Awla, Durva, Apamarg, Ark etc
  • YajurvedaMoong (Green gram), Urad (black lentil), sesame, priyangu, barley, etc.
  • Atharva vedaBilva, Guggulu, Ark, Til, Arjun, Barley etc.

Vedic sutras contain encrypted medicinal properties of the plants and ways to use them. Here are some select examples from Rigveda about the Kushtha tree.

Kushtha (Indian costus root – Saussurea lappa)

“ O, herb who are named Kushtha! You grow in the mountains. Descend here from the mountains so that you may cure disease.

“Oh, kushtha plant! Make this patient sit up. Make him healthy and remove his ailment.”

All Vedas contribute to Ayurvedic pharmacy. However, the fourth Veda Atharva Veda is the primary source of Bhaishajya Kalpana. Hence, Atharva Veda is also called Bhaishajya Veda.

“You were born from the gods. The soma herb is your friend. You are like the breath of life; you cure diseases of the eye. Grant this patient happiness.” Atharva Veda, Kanda 5

There are lots of interesting details about medicinal plants in Vedas. I look forward to covering these details in future blogs.

Summary

Bhaishajya Kalpana derives its basics from the four Vedas, esp. Atharva Veda. For this reason, the Atharva Veda is also called the Bhaishajya Veda.

Bhaishajya Kalpana – Basic Principles

Everything is Medicine

Vedas state that medicine is anything that destroys the disorders. So, anything, from a plant to a sound vibration (mantra) or a Yagya (fire sacrifice) can be medicine. However, the present focus of Bhaishajya Kalpana is material preparations from plants, minerals, metals, etc. Physical medicine is more tangible and easier to use for an average physician.

The basic concept of Bhaishajya Kalpana is – it makes the herbs suitable for use as medicines. Each substance present in the universe is a medicine, provided we process it properly. And Bhaishajya Kalpana is the science of converting everything into medicine.

For example, Ayurvedic medicines use some highly toxic herbs like Aconite (vatsnabh), Marking nut (bhallataka), etc. But these herbs are processed to produce a beneficial effect on the body. Another example is Ark or the Indian Maddar. It produces a poisonous latex. But this latex is used in Ayurvedic preparations for skin disorders. Ayurvedic medicines also use snake poisons for medicinal purposes.

This is the art of pharmacy. Like the way you can draw a picture with crayons as well as coal; likewise, you can make a medicine from edible herbs as well as poisons. Bhaishajya Kalpana provides limitless possibilities for a wise physician.

Summary

According to Ayurveda, every substance present in the universe has the potential to serve as a cure for some disorder.

Compatibility is the Key

Bhaishajya Kalpana is the art of creating compatible and effective preparations; for example – the creation of paediatric medicines. There is no benefit of medicine if a minor patient is not willing to eat it. Therefore, Ayurveda prescribes sweetened or tasty medicines for children.

This statement refers to all aspects of compatibility. For example, the medicine should be –

  • Effective
  • Relevant (disorder, body type, stage of the disease, age, etc.)
  • Consumable (for paralytic patients etc.)
  • Easily available
  • Affordable

There are many other compatibility factors. And their importance keeps changing from one individual to the other.

Summary

Ayurveda says that the medicine/cure should be compatible with all the factors – patient, disorder, availability, etc.

The Food Medicine

Ayurveda says that food is the first medicine. A famous Ayurvedic proverb by Vaidya Lolimb Raj says – the one who eats good food will never need medicine, but the one who eats wrong food will never benefit from any medicine. An ideal Ayurvedic treatment starts with food and not with medicine.

Therefore, Bhaishajya Kalpana starts with the creation of therapeutic food. It aims to create food that can prevent diseases, before creating medicines for disorders. And this proactive approach towards “health preservation” is the beauty of Ayurveda. It goes beyond prevention.

For example, preventive pharmacy (related to Rasayana Shastra or Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Science) offers seasonal preventive foods like Til Laddo (Sweetened Sesame Balls) in winter, or Sattu (roasted barley and Bengal gram) in summer. These seasonal foods help the body to maintain homeostasis through the seasonal changes.

Summary

According to Ayurveda, food is the first medicine. We are what we eat. And therefore, without dietary corrections, we cannot cure any disorder.

The Foundation Medicine – Eliminate the Cause

Modern medicines have a very different outlook towards medicine. Most lifestyle disorders have medicines that never end, for example, medicines for diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, etc. So, medicines are there to stay and to increase, not to cure the disorders.

However, Ayurveda has a different perspective about the role of medicines.

According to Acharya Sushrut, Nidan parivarjanam or elimination of the causal factors is the primary and indispensable treatment. Acharya Sushrut claims that only elimination of the cause is a complete treatment.

Even the best Ayurvedic medicines fail to produce the desired effect if the patient is not able to follow the recommended dietary and lifestyle routine.

Therefore, medicines are important, but they are not the primary treatment factor. However, they gain paramount importance when the physician and nurse are not that skilled, or the patient is not willing or able to follow the dietary and lifestyle restriction.

Summary

Nidan parivarjanam or elimination of the cause is one of the fundamental treatment principles of Ayurveda. Without removing the cause, you cannot reach permanent relief.

Take Away

Bhaishajya Kalpana is the art of designing a comprehensive and personalized healing strategy for the patient. It is a science with immense possibilities. And this huge expanse of healing options in the spring of healing creativity. Thus, Bhaishajya Kalpana is an art of healing.

Some of the basic principles of Bhaishajya Kalpana are –

  • Everything can become a cure for something
  • A cure should be comprehensive and compatible
  • Food is the primary medicine
  • You must remove the causal factors for a complete treatment.

This information about Bhaishajya Kalpana is akin to a scratch on the surface of a huge mountain. However, it is a good point to start. I hope that it helps you understand future blogs.

In the next blog, let us explore the basic four qualities of medicine that define the success or failure of treatment.

Ayurveda Ideal Meal – The Foods That You Should Eat & Avoid

Ayurvedic ideal foods

Introduction

Ayurveda categorizes all substances into three main categories –

Dosha prashaman – the substances that create dosha balance in the body

Dhatu pradoshanam – the substances that pollute the body tissues (dhatus – digested juice, blood, muscles, fatty tissue, bones, marrows, and reproductive tissue).

Swasthyavritta – the substances that preserve health.

The following shloka from Charak samhita describes the second category of substances – foods that can pollute the body tissues.

वल्लूरं शुष्कशाकानि शालूकानि बिसानि च| नाभ्यसेद्गौरवान्मांसं कृशं नैवोपयोजयेत्||१०||

Charak samhita, Sutra Sthana, Chap-5/11

It is more important to know about harmful foods than healthy food. Because harmful food items are fewer in number. But their consumption can bring disease and distress. Therefore, Acharya Charak tells about “what to avoid”, before “what to eat.”

Matrashatiya adhyaya (Chapter -5, Sutrasthana) the chapter that deals with the ideal Ayurvedic daily routine in Charak samhita describes a group of food items that are not good for health. The sutra does not lay a complete prohibition on eating these foods. It uses an interesting term – abhyas (practice). Therefore, occasional consumption of these foods is fine. However, no health-conscious person should consume this prohibited food frequently.

Let us see what are these prohibited foods and why you should avoid them.

Summary

According to Ayurveda, some things are good to eat and some are not. Ideal Ayurvedic meal guidelines in Charak samhita prohibit some special food items for regular consumption. Dried meat is the first one of them.

Dried Meat

The word “Vallur” refers to dried meat. Charak samhita prohibits the frequent use of dried meat. And there can be multiple reasons for this prohibition.

Dried Meat – The Ayurveda Angle

According to Ayurveda, dried meat has a natural tendency to absorb water in a hydrated environment. It absorbs water inside the body and swells to its original constitution. However, this water absorption by dried meat may disturb the water balance in the body fluids.

In this manner, the dried meat transfers its dryness to the body. Dryness is an integral property of the vata dosha. Therefore, this dryness has the potential to vitiate vata dosha. Ayurveda says that vata is the most powerful of the three biophysical energies that run our bodies. It governs both the nervous and hormonal systems to a large extent. Constant consumption of dried meat may lead to incremental vata vitiation. This exponential growth in vata vitiation may result in severe disorders.

Vata dosha also leads to deterioration. Here, we can understand deterioration in terms of the increase in free radicals in the body. Increased number of free radicals leads to rapid cell damage and death. For example, dryness and shriveling away of the nervous sheath leads to rapid deterioration and early death in nerve cells.

Ideal ayurveda meal

Summary

Dried meat absorbs body moisture and incidentally makes the body dry. This dryness can vitiate vata dosha and trigger severe disorders.

Besides, it is heavy and may produce digestive toxins.

Dried Meat Related Health Hazards

Small size beetles Dermestes lardarius L., D. maculatus Degeer normally infest dried meat and lay eggs on it. There are many other insects, mites, and pathogens that may thrive on dried meat, esp. if it is not properly preserved.

Besides, dried meat is also a likely source of Clostridium botulinum contamination. It may lead to botulism or food poisoning. The word botulism emerged from the term “Wurstvergiftung,” (German term for sausage poisoning).

A few centuries back, the normal dried meat was either sun- or air-dried. People used salt and sugar for meat preservation. However, some people also use saltpeter or salts of nitrate for curing and drying meat. Nitrates and Nitrites are harmful to the body in large quantities. Multiple scientific studies found a direct association between nitrates/nitrites and stomach cancer. This is another reason dried meat is even more harmful than earlier.

Summary

Dried meat is an ideal incubation point for multiple insects and microbes like Clostridium. It may cause digestive disorders and even food poisoning. Nitrates and nitrites present in cured meat are directly associated with stomach cancer.

Healthy Usage of Dried Meat

Chinese Cuisine – Bakkwa

Dried meat is not great for the body. However, people in many cultures frequently use dried meat preserves, esp. in extreme climatic conditions. For example – For centuries, Chinese cuisine has used Rougan or Bakkwa. Rougan is a Chinese salty-sweet dried meat. It uses pork, mutton, or beef as a base, along with sugar, salt, spices, and soy sauce as natural preservatives.

Chinese people have used it throughout their lives and do not seem to face any severe problems. But it is important to note Karan or the usage method of dried meat.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/dried-meat

Chinese custom recommends the use of Bakkwa esp. During Chinese New Year. It was not eaten throughout the year. Chinese new year normally falls in Feb. This time of the year brings frigid climatic conditions. Earlier, it must have been difficult to find vegetables or fruits during this time. Therefore, people relied on dried or preserved food items to survive the extreme winters. The extensive use of natural preservatives like vinegar, soya sauce, etc. in Chinese cuisine also reflects the same logic.

Also, agni or the digestive fire during the winter (Hemant: Jan-Feb) is at its best. All doshas are in a cyclic state of balance at this time of the year. Therefore, the body can digest and absorb heavy food like dried meat.

South Indian Cuisine – Uppukandam

Uppukandam is dried and spied mutton from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. However, Uppukandam is later fried or boiled, used in sambhar where it loses its dryness. The oil used in the cooking process also helps to reduce its drying impact.

Mongolian Cuisine – Borts

Borts is another type of powdered dried meat. It is mainly prepared from horse meat and extensively used in the harsh climatic conditions of Mongolia. However, upyogsanstha or the usage makes it healthy and nutritious. The traveling Mongolians would take a pinch of bort powder, mix it in water and boil it to make a soup. This soup with a pinch of bort would serve 3-4 people!

Therefore, bort usage has two beneficial points. Firstly, boiling eliminates the dryness. Secondly, it is easy and nutritious to digest a very small amount of boiled and diluted meat powder.

Summary

Different cultures have used dried meat as survival forage in extreme climatic conditions. However, these traditional preparations use dried meat in a healthy manner and at an appropriate time. For example, the Chinese use dried meat Bakkwa during extremely cold climates and in small quantities.

Dried meat ensures food security and survival in extreme conditions. And it is healthy if you use it very rarely.

Take Away

The bottom line is – Charak samhita prohibits the frequent use of dried meat. Still, dried meat can serve as a raw material for wet/oily recipes. It is not healthy to consume dried meat directly.

Also, sometimes it is imperative to consume dried meat due to climatic or environmental constraints. But you must try to avoid its consumption if you have better food options.

How Much Should You Eat – Ayurvedic Diet

ayurvedic diet

Introduction

This is a very common question – how much should I eat? Modern medicine gives some specific answers in terms of calories and nutrients. However, Ayurveda has a different approach.

Vedic wisdom says that all answers lie within us. The same goes for this question too. Your body is the best guide to what and how much you should eat.

Ayurveda does not give a definite amount. It respects the fact that everyone is unique in terms of mind and body. Therefore, Ayurveda gives guidelines to decide the appropriate amount of food.

When to eat? – The Hunger Signal

Ideally, your hunger is the best measure of food intake. Ayurveda says that you must not eat without hunger in normal health conditions. Hunger is an indication that the body needs food. Moreover, it is an indication that the body is prepared to digest the food. The latter factor is crucial.

We feel hungry when our blood sugar drops below the normal average. The Hypothalamus, a part of the brain detects this drop in blood sugar. It sends nerve signals to the stomach. The stomach contracts to release the digestive acid. This acid and the contractions give you the burning sensation of hunger and the rumbling sounds.

And it is not only the stomach. The entire body prepares for good digestion. Pancreas, liver, stomach, intestines, all the digestive organs prepare for the digestive process in advance. Therefore, when you feel hungry, your system is ready to digest and absorb.

But what happens when you eat without hunger? The blood sugar levels are already at a normal level. Eating without hunger produces unnecessary, excess sugar. This excess sugar enters the bloodstream and spikes up the sugar levels.

Once in a while, there is no problem with spiked-up blood sugar levels. However, people used to binge eating frequently expose their bodies to such sugar spikes. According to multiple scientific studies, a high sugar concentration in the blood leads to diabetic-like conditions. The body cells may become averse to excess sugar. To protect their internal equilibrium, they may develop a tendency to absorb less sugar.

This aversion to sugar absorption is the initiation to diabetes. So, a seemingly innocent habit like binge eating or stress eating may lead to diabetes eventually. Therefore, eating only when hungry is crucial for health.

Summary

It is crucial to follow the hunger signal of the body. If you eat frequently without proper hunger, your digestive system may not digest the food properly and produce more toxins than nutrients. Besides, eating without hunger leads to abnormal sugar spikes and eventually to diabetes.

What if I am not hungry?

The above rule of “eat when hungry” applies to normal healthy people. But there are abnormal health conditions where a person does not feel hungry, for example, anorexia, chronic indigestion, or debilitating disorders like tuberculosis.

In such conditions, a person may not feel hungry, but he needs to eat. Ayurveda recommends the use of digestion-stimulating formulations and food laced with digestive herbs like cumin, black pepper, etc. Ayurveda says that food is the first medicine. Therefore, digestion stimulating food is a much better remedy than medicines.

Natural probiotics or fermented food is great for a person with weak digestion, as the friendly microbes already break down the food particles and make them easier to digest.

Besides, herbal medicines are safer and superior compared to modern digestion stimulants. Artificial digestive stimulants like metoclopramide or digestive enzymes are not safe for long-term use.

Summary

In case you have a health condition like anorexia, digestives can help to stimulate natural hunger. They can also help to digest and absorb the food properly.

The Appropriate Amount

There are many ways to decide the appropriate amount of food. And all these ways are applicable in different health conditions. Let us start with the best method applicable for a normal healthy person.

The Palm Cup Measure

In ancient India, the proprietors or business owners practiced the hand measure to pay their servants/employees. The payment was made in the form of raw grains. The employers gave one Anjali (the hand cup made by joining both palms) of raw grain for each shift of work.

According to Ayurveda, all the body parts share a similar proportion. That is why, Ayurveda measures blood, lymph, semen, etc in terms of Anjali. Because the hands share a proportional harmony with other tissues of the body. A person with a large body will naturally have large hands.

Ayurveda believes that one handful or Anjali full of uncooked grains is enough for a laborer. If you have a sedentary job, obviously you should eat a little less than one Anjali full of grains. Listen to your body and it will tell you the exact amount it requires!

Summary

All the body organs have proportional sizes. Therefore, the size of the cup formed by joining the palms together correctly reflects the relational size of the stomach and the appropriate amount of food grains for an individual.

how much should you eat - Ayurveda diet

The Stomach Measure

Master Charak defined a novel and efficient method to decide the appropriate amount to eat. Imagine that your stomach has three parts. Ideally, you should fill the first part with solid food, the second one-third part with liquids/water, and the third one-third part with air.

This proportion of solid, liquid and gas, ensures ease of the stomach’s churning movement. Flexible stomach movement leads to the better blending of the food, better digestion, and better absorption.

However, if you fill your stomach with too much solid food, the stomach may find it hard and heavy to churn the food. This may lead to improper mixing of the digestive enzymes with the food and hence under-digestion.

On the other hand, if you fill too much liquid in your stomach, it may dilute the digestive enzymes and lead to improper digestion.

Less food intake signifies more amount of air. If you are extremely hungry and eat less than the amount required to balance the stomach acid, the excess acid will burn the stomach lining. Pitta dominant body type has very strong digestive juices. On frequent low food intake, this stomach acid may cause peptic ulcers! In other body types, it may cause anorexia.

Summary

We should fill one-third of our stomachs with solid food, the other one-third with fluids, and the last part with air. This proportion of substances ensures easy stomach movements and great digestion.

80% Rule

The stomach rule is a great concept. However, there is a more practical method to start with – the 80% rule. This rule is more about mindful eating. It says that once you feel that 80% of your stomach is full, you must leave the dining table.

Most of us keep eating till we are completely stuffed. This extra food inhibits the stomach’s mixing movement. Weak stomach movements lead to improper mixing of the digestive acids and lead to poor digestion. However, if you are mindful of the 80% rule, you may save yourself from a lot of undigested toxins.

Summary

You should stop eating once you feel that your stomach is 80% full. This rule is simple and easy to follow. It helps to ensure proper digestion and great absorption.

The Burp Signal

Before food intake, air fills the entire stomach. When your stomach is approximately 80% full, the food exerts pressure on the air. This pressure leads to air expulsion through the mouth – leading to burping. During a meal, the first burp means that approximately 2/3rd of the stomach is full of solid/liquid food. It is a signal for you to stop eating.

Eating more food after the first burp leads to an over-stuffed stomach and improper digestion. Therefore, you should avoid consuming any solid or liquid food after the first burp.

Summary

The first burp during a meal signals an appropriately filled stomach. Therefore, you should stop eating after the first burp.

Take Away

Deciding the exact amount of food is tricky unless we practice mindful eating and become more sensitive to the body’s requirements. There are many methods to determine the proper amount of food –

Hunger is the crucial deciding factor for food intake. It tells us when to start eating!

The Palm Cup measure helps to decide the appropriate amount of food. However, it does not account for the body type, quality of hunger, or current health requirements. The same goes for the stomach measure.

The 80% rule and the burp signal tell us when to stop eating.

However, our body is a super-dynamic system, functioning in a complex environment. Therefore, regulating the desires and mindful dietary choices lead to better results than strict dietary rules.

I hope that this information brings you good digestion and great health!

The Types of Agni in Ayurveda – Different Types of Agni

different types of Agni

Introduction

Agni or the transformative fire is the core of any metabolic change inside our body.

Anabolism and catabolism are two processes constantly taking place in our bodies. And both these processes need energy and raw material. This energy and raw material come from digestion.

That’s why master Sushrut says that agni is like the god inside the body. Without agni or digestion, there can be no life. The basic concept of agni is a system that takes an input and processes/digests/burns it to produce a specific output.

Digestion is the most important and extensive chemical transformation happening in our body. But, numerous other transformational processes extend to the cellular levels. All these transformational processes are also calledagnis.

Also, Koshthagni (Abdominal Fire), Kayagni (Metabolic Fire), Jatharagni (Catabolic Fire), Pachakagni (Digestive Fire), all could be understood as a synonymous to agni and used in ayurveda classics for different level understanding of agni

But grossly there are thirteen different types of agni or digestive fires inside the body. The most important is the abdominal fire or Koshthagni.

Summary

Agni is a transformative force that manifests in different metabolic functions throughout the body. Digestion is the foundational metabolic function.

Koshthagni

The Sanskrit word koshtha refers to a box/cavity. Therefore, an agni or digestive power that resides boxed up in a cavity is calledKoshthagni.

Normally, Koshthagni signifies the stomach as the main part of the digestive system. However, it includes the entire alimentary canal. Here, the alimentary canal serves as a cavity where the agni (digestive power) cooks the food to release nutrition.

There are two types of glands in our body, the exocrine and endocrine glands. Endocrine glands normally produce hormones and they secrete their products directly into the blood. But exocrine glands work differently. They secrete their secretions into another organ.

Some of the important examples of exocrine glands are –

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Digestive glands in the stomach

These glands secrete their secretions in a specific cavity. Their secretions are harsh (acidic/basic) and aid digestion.

These glands are akin to the fire stations that offer their part of the offering in this grand fire sacrifice of digestion. So, these glands are also a part of Koshthagni.

Koshthagni has multiple other synonyms. Some of the important ones are kayagni,Jatharagi, Pachakagni

agni types

Summary

Koshthagni(koshtha – cavity, agni – fire) is the primary digestive force that works through the alimentary canal and other digestive cavities like the liver, pancreas, etc.

Kayagni

The human body has many Sanskrit synonyms. Each word for body conveys a deeper physiological meaning.

Sharir – an entity in the process of constant breakdown (catabolism)

Deh – an entity in a constant process of building up (anabolism)

Kaya – an entity that harbors both constant anabolism and catabolism.

The transformational energy that sustains the constant processes of anabolism and catabolism in the body is kayagni.

Kayagni is a general synonym for Koshthagni. However, it offers a broader perspective of action than Koshthagni. Digestive energy is the door to nutrition. Both the building up and breaking down processes depend on this fundamental energy to act.

Summary

Kayagniis the overall metabolic fire that runs different chemical conversions in the body. It is the sun-total of all other types of agni or anabolic or catabolic changes.

Jatharagi

The word jathar normally means gut or belly or stomach or abdomen. So, the digestive power that resides in the stomach or the abdominal area is called Jatharagi

But the word Jathar has another meaning – hard/dense. Therefore, Jatharagi is a transformational energy that works on the dense food which could be understood as digestion occurring in alimentary canal on whatever dense or raw food we eat, breaks it down, and makes nutrients available for absorption.

Pachakagni

The word root “pach” refers to the process of cooking/ripening/digestion. Therefore, the term Pachakagniis the digestive fire that helps in the digestion of food from complex to simpler form to provide optimum nourishment to the body.

All the above-mentioned terms provide different aspects of the digestive fire that is the source of energy for the body.

Summary

Digestive fire manifests itself as the power that breaks down the complex food compounds and cooks them to release nutrition

The word Dhatu means “something that sustains or carries”. Dhatu is that which supports body (sharira), mind(manas), and prana(life). Dhatus are the essential tissue structures that sustain the body’s metabolism. Ayurveda mentions seven fundamental tissues in the body –

  1. rasa(chyle/ essence of food)
  2. rakta(blood)
  3. mansa(muscular tissue)
  4. meda(Adipose tissue)
  5. asthi (Bony tissue)
  6. majja(Marrow)
  7. shukra(Reproductive tissues – sperm/ova)

Dhatuvagni (Tissue Fire)

This sequence of Dhatu is very important as they are formed in the same sequence. For example, chyle forms the blood. Blood churns out to make muscular tissue, muscular tissue condenses to form the fat tissue, and so on.

This conversion process is called dhatu paka and the conversion fire that helps one dhatu to mold and mature into a successive dhatu or tissue is called Dhatuvagni.

Just like Koshthagni, each Dhatuvagni has three roles –

  1. Break down the cell structure of the inferior tissue
  2. Reconstruct successive tissue structure from the broken-down raw material
  3. Segregate waste formed as the by-product of the conversion process.

In other words, as the supreme soul branches out in the form of myriad living beings, the kayagnide centralizes and enters each system and cell to sustain life. The base of this transformational pyramid is the Koshthagni, the digestive fire in the alimentary canal. This agni is the fuel house for all other higher digestive fires or Dhatuvagnis.

We have seven Dhatuvagni that work constantly to rejuvenate the body tissues.

  1. rasagni(transformational fire to form chyle)
  2. raktagni(fire that forms blood)
  3. mansagni(fire that forms muscular tissue)
  4. medagni(fire that forms Adipose tissue)
  5. asthyagni(fire that forms Bony tissue)
  6. majjagni(fire that forms marrows)
  7. shukragni(fire that forms reproductive tissues – sperm/ova)

According to Ashtang Hridyam, the site of Dhatuvagnis is the liver.

Summary

The seven tissues (dhatu) in the body (tissue fluid, blood, muscles, fatty tissue, bones, marrows, and reproductive tissue) have their unique conversion processes called dhatuvagni.

Bhutagni (five elemental agni)

As we know everything in this universe is a structural matrix of five elements called panchmahabhuta, so the basic composition of the human body, as well as the food we eat, is five elements. So Bhutagni refers to that part of agni that breakdown the product of digestion into subtle bhautik (elemental) components. So there following 5 types of bhutagni

Parthiv Agni (agni for earth element)

Apya agni (agni for water element)

Taijasa agni (agni for fire element)

Vayaveeya agni (agni for air element)

Akasheeya agni (agni for space element)

Take Away

Ayurveda says that the universal agni (the fire element) manifests itself in the human body in the form of digestive fire. This digestive fire called kayagni (kaya- body metabolism, agni-fire) is responsible for all chemical/heat-based changes in the body.

This fire exists in different forms in different parts of the body. The primary agni exists in the digestive tract called the koshthagni/jatharagni/pachakagi. The chemical processes that form different tissue systems are called dhatuvagnis.

I hope this information helps everyone to appreciate the depth of Ayurvedic wisdom. In the next blog, let us explore the details of dhatuvagni and their mode of action.