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Ayurveda for the Treatment of Debilitating Diseases

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Ayurveda for the Treatment of Debilitating Diseases
There are many diseases that inhibit our normal routines and even cut short our lives. What is the role Ayurveda can have in the treatment of debilitating diseases like cancer, chikungunya, malaria, diabetes and hyper tension, which seriously affect our work and lifestyle?
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, which is often fatal unless detected in its early stage. Scientists have been trying hard to find a cure for all cancers. Success is however limited due to factors like body resistance, radiation and chemotherapy, toxicity of the drugs and surgical complications.
Since a cancer cure is long way off what remedies are there in Ayurveda? Though cancer is not specifically mentioned in Ayurveda, several types of cancer can be co-related with different diseases such as Dushta Vrana, Dushta Granthi, Dushta Arbuda, Dhatupaka Avastha etc.
Unlike other medical systems, Ayurveda focuses on finding and treating the root cause of a disease. Our body undergoes metabolic processes everyday producing toxins. When these toxins, accumulate in the body, there is a possibility that it may lead to cancer. Ayurveda, therefore suggest that detoxification of the body, through panchakarma, as the start of the treatment process.
In Ayurveda, the diet, lifestyle and pathya (diet regimen) play important roles. The treatment of cancer, through Ayurveda, can be successful, provided the treatment is timely and before it has reached the third stage. Once the disease spreads through the body, complications arise and it would then depend on the patients’ immunity and how effectively the body is able to absorb and respond to the medication. Ayurveda can, therefore, be helpful as a curative, palliative, prophylactic or supportive treatment in the management of cancer to help improve quality of life. 
As adjuvant along with chemotherapy or radiation Ayurveda can reduce the side effects of these therapies. Ayurvedic medicines can also help in reducing the therapeutic dosage of the various drugs. A Rasayana therapy, as part of the treatment nourishes the body and boosts immunity. The most commonly prescribed rasayana drugs are Triphala (herbal formula consisting of equal parts of amlaki, bibhitaki and haritaki), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifoia) a hepatoprotectant, protecting the liver from damage that may occur following exposure to toxins and Punarnava (Bohhervia diffusa), a longevity enhancer, that is good for the kidneys. Another common rasayana that is often recommended is Chyawanprash.
These rasayanas help protect the body from the side effects of both radiation and chemotherapy, like alopecia, anorexia, constipation and nausea. Abhyantara snehana 7 days prior to radiation and chemotherapy has also shown lower toxicity build up during these therapies.

Ayurvedic herbs can also be used to slow down the progress of cancer in cases where chemotherapy or radiation is ruled out due to age or severe side effects.
Chikungunya is an arbovirus disease transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquito and is typically an acute illness characterised by fever, rash, and incapacitating arthralgia. The word chikungunya, used for both the virus and the disease, means “to walk bent over” in Makonde language of Tanzania, and refers to the effect of the joint pains that characterise this dengue-like infection. The condition of chikungunya is generally not fatal, and can be cured in about seven days with proper treatment. In the chikungunya deaths reported, it has been seen that the virus itself has not been responsible for any of the deaths. The deaths are due to the existing medical conditions which get exacerbated as the virus has the potential to reduce or destroy body’s resistance to the virus.

In Ayurveda Chikungunya, considered as a 'vata dosha' disorder, can be compared to Sandhijwara which literally means "fever of the joints." The symptoms of Sandhijwara and Chikungunya are very similar and hence Ayurveda treatment provides relief for the disease. The medicines usually prescribed for fighting the fever are Dhanvantaram Gulika, Vilvadi Gulika, Sudarsanam Gulika, Mahasudarshana Choornam and Amrutarishtam. Since in allopathy there is no treatment, people turn to Ayurveda for fever relief. Panchathikta Kashayam, Triphala and sunflower seed taken along with honey, taken about 3 times a day along with your regular medicines is also believed to cure the disease.
The disease decreases in intensity after a few days and may take up to a fortnight for recovery. In the elderly, the recovery is slow and may take up to 3 months. Furthermore, as their bodily resistances are already weak, an onset of chikungunya in them could cause cerebral problems like dementia, renal problems and even paralysis.
In chikungunya, the Ayurvedic treatment for controlling the viral infection Curcuma longa (Haridra), Eclipta alba (Bhrungraj), Emblica officinalis (Amalaki), Glycerrhiza glabra (Yashtimadhu), Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi), Picrorrhiza kurroa (Kutki), Piper longum (Pippali), Phyllanthus niruri (Bhumiamalaki) and Rubia cordifolia (Manjishtha) can be given.

For joint pain relief an Ayurvedic massage can be administered.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder in which the Agni (digestive fire) has a lowered functioning. This leads to a tendency to have a high blood sugar in which the body is unable to make proper use of glucose resulting in hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and glycosuria (sugar in urine). Incidence of the disease is higher amongst the older and the obese.
In Ayurveda, diabetes (madhumeha) is a metabolic kapha type of disorder. Ayurveda identifies 20 types of diabetes - 4 due to vata, 6 due to pitta, and 10 caused by Kapha. The main causes of diabetes are abnormalities in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fat in the body.

A multipronged approach is recommended for the treatment of the disease. Cleansing of the body through panchakarma, along with colon therapy and diet modification would be a good start. Diet modification involves elimination of sugar and simple carbohydrates (wheat, rice, potato, sugar, sugarcane, jaggery, sweet fruits) and fats (butter and ghee) and reduced intake of proteins.
Some of the important herbs used for treating the disease are Curcuma longa (turmeric), Asphaltum punjabianum (shilajit), Gymnema Sylvestre (gudmar), Azadirachta indica (neem), Emblica Officinalis (amala), Commiphora mukul (guggul), Terminalia arjuna (arjuna), Eugenia jambolana and Ceasalpinia crista (Sagargota) and Aegle marmelos (bael).
If turmeric is taken daily prior to meals there is a marked reduction in insulin. Half a teaspoon of turmeric can also be taken along with half a teaspoon of ground bay leaf in aloe vera gel (1 to 3 gm), twice a day before lunch and dinner. It is recommended for regulating liver and pancreatic functions. Also advisable is barley soaked in a triphala decoction overnight, then mixed with honey and consumed several times a day.

Juice of bitter melon, bitter gourd, bael fruit or neem consumed on an empty stomach is strongly recommended. The ayurvedic preparation, vasant kusumakar ras is very good in bringing insulin levels down very quickly.

Regular exercise in any form is a must.
Malaria (sheeta jwara) is a highly infectious disease usually spread by infected mosquito bites. The WHO calls it one of the world's most complex and serious human health concerns, affecting anywhere between 300 and 500 million people every year, and killing about one to three million people. Though the disease is usually treatable, fatality is because it is not detected or treated at the initial stage.  If detected in time there are high chances of a full recovery.
Traditional medicines have been used to treat malaria for centuries and the source of modern antimalarial drugs is artemisinin, (also known as qinghaosu) and quinine. With the problems of increasing levels of drug resistance and difficulties in poor areas of being able to afford and access effective antimalarial drugs, ayurvedic medicines could be an important and sustainable source of treatment.
Malarial fever may be classified under three types depending on symptoms caused by the parasite. The major symptoms are common among the three types but their occurrence and duration vary. They are:

  1. Tertian Fever - Fever surfaces on alternate days.
  2. Quartan Fever - Fever occurs after an interval of two days, i.e. if first attack of fever occurs on the first, it will recur again on the 4th day and then on 7th and so on.
  3. Malignant Fever – Fever is severe when malignancy sets in and is the most alarming type of malarial fever.

The most common type of malaria infection is that of Plasmodium falciparum which does not have a relapsing phase. Plasmodium vivax and other strains can infect the liver and remain dormant state for a long period. New malaria treatment guidelines state that falciparum malaria must be treated with ACTs – (artemisinin-based combination therapies) and not by artemisinin alone. Any other monotherapy is also not advisable as it quickens resistance by weakening the parasite but not killing it. The Plasmodium falciparum infection is a medical emergency with continuous intravenous infusion recommended in severe cases.
In quartan malarial fever lime and lemon are effective. Mix 3gm lime, 60ml water and lemon juice and take this medicine before fever commences.
Swertia chirata (Chirayata or Indian gentian) can be beneficial in treatment of intermittent type of malarial fevers. 15gm of it along with cloves and cinnamon immersed in 250 ml hot water helps in lowering the temperature. Dosage recommended is 15 to 30 ml. Leaves of basil are also beneficial in the treatment of malaria and can check the severity of the disease.
Grapefruit is a very effective home remedy for malaria as it is a rich source of natural quinine. Fever nut is another excellent remedy for curing malaria.
Artemisia absinthum (Afsanthin or wormwood) can be taken daily, except during pregnancy, to reduce the symptoms of malarial fevers.
Ayush-64, a poly-herbal non-toxic, anti-malarial drug, developed by Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha was found in clinical trials comparable with known anti-malarial drugs - chloroquine and primaquine in efficacy. Clearance of the malaria parasite, was achieved in 5-7 days and the drug was also found to be effective in ‘fevers of unknown etiology, filarial lymphlangitis and derangement of liver function.’
Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a method of treating malaria with magnetic fields that could prove revolutionary in controlling the disease. Research shows that the malaria parasite Plasmodium appears to lose vigor and die when exposed to oscillating magnetic fields. Initial results have been promising and if further studies validate the findings it would be an inexpensive and simple way to treat this disease.
Ayurveda also recommends the yoga asana – Sarvangasana - to revitalize the liver.

High Blood Pressure
Hypertension (Rakta Vata) or high blood pressure is when the heart pumps blood at more than normal pressure. Hypertension is one of the major causes of disability and death all over the world. The disease is known as "Silent Killer" because it may be present for years with no perceptible symptoms. The normal blood pressure reading is systolic 120 over diastolic 80.
Hypertension can be classified as essential hypertension and secondary hypertension. Essential hypertension is the most prevalent hypertension type, affecting 90–95% of hypertensive patients. The causes of essential hypertension are unknown. There are several factors such as alcohol consumption, potassium deficiency, salt (sodium) sensitivity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress, visceral obesity and vitamin D deficiency that increase the risk of developing hypertension. Risk also increases with aging and having a family history of hypertension
Secondary hypertension (or sometimes inessential hypertension) is caused by an identifiable underlying secondary cause and it affects only 5% of hypertensive patients. The different causes may include endocrine diseases, renal diseases and tumors. It could also be as a result of side effects of several medicines.
According to Ayurveda, high blood pressure involves all the doshas, the heart, and the blood vessels. The treatment therefore aims at balancing these energy types with nutrition, breathing exercises, yoga, mantra meditation, herbal remedies and medicines.
Rauwolfia serpentina ('snakeroot' or 'sarpagandha) has been used to treat hypertension for centuries. Terminalia arjuna (arjuna) acts like a beta-blocker and is a powerful antioxidant, liver protectant and also has anti-angina, anti-atheroma and hypolipidemic properties. Tribulus terrestris (gokshura) is also used for treating hypertension as it is diuretic and an ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor.
Garlic is very helpful in alleviating vata dosha controlling blood pressure. Garlic lowers cholesterol and triglycerides that affect the heart. As a home remedy, make a paste with about 1 gm of garlic and mix it with a glass of buttermilk. Drink this buttermilk twice a day to reduce your blood pressure.
Oil massages and panchakarma therapies are also recommended for cleansing the body of toxins.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure. Exercise helps to eliminate body fat, lower total cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol that prevents fatty - cholesterol deposits.

Yoga asanas like Dhanurasana (bow pose), Konasana (angle pose), padmasana (lotus pose), Paschimottasana (seated forward bend pose), shavasana (corpse pose), vajrasana (diamond pose), Matayasana (position of fish) and Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose) and Yogamudra (scaling pose), should be practised regularly. Practice pranayama or breathing exercises as it helps anxiety and stress, factors responsible for hypertension.
-: Satish Nair, Director, Kerala Wellness
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