Why would something like constipation or diarrhea be a sign of something that could lead to implantation problems, in utero developmental problems, or premature labor?
Female reproductive health is greatly dependent on the downward energy regulation of apana vayu, as taught by Ayurveda. The functions of the uterus of a woman during menstruation, as well as in pregnancy & birth, are controlled by apana, along with bladder and bowel functions. For optimal fertilization, implantation and pregnancy the apana needs to be balanced- being neither over-stimulated or reduced in activity ( signaled by diarrhea or constipation, which are also regulated by this vayu.)
The growth and differentiation of different organs of the fetus are also regulated by apana, thus both exaggeration and reduction in its function can injure during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. When apana is out of balance it can, for instance divide the fertilized egg into several parts, creating twins with the special added risks. At various times of development an imbalanced apana can also cause malpresentation, prolapse, prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation, and malformation of various organs or body parts.
Want a timely start of labor and a healthy process? Be sure that apana has been tended. Preparing for birth in Ayurveda also involves continued protection and balance of the apana vayu.
Here are six of many practices to help balance the Apana vayu:
Protecting and Correcting Apana vayu in Menstrual/Fertility Phase
Protecting and Correcting the Apana vayu in Pregnancy
Spring is the season when kapha liquefies throughout the body and especially in the bronchial tree. Although cleansing kapha is helpful for everyone at this time of year, it is of particular importance for asthmatics. In the classical Ayurvedic texts, asthma is known astamaka svasa, one of the kaphaja diseases in the category of svasa or dyspnoea (shortness of breath). (1)
Initially in the samprapti (pathogenesis) of asthma, vata is provoked with urdva gati (upward vector). Entering prana vaha srota, the respiratory tree, it aggravates kapha in the bronchial mucus membranes.
The purva rupa or premonitory signs outlined in the texts include headache, cough, chest pain, mood swings, running nose and thirst. “Vata, getting aggravated, begin to move in the respiratory channels, aggravating kapha and producing breathlessness with catching pain in the head, neck, chest and flanks, cough accompanied with cracking sound, delusion, loss of appetite, running in the nose and thirst.” (1) It is worth noting that all these premonitory signs are now listed in the standard checklists of early warning signs of asthma attacks which are given to patients at National Jewish Hospital for Respiratory Diseases in Denver. (2)
The disease process, moving through astayi rasa dhatu, can swiftly proceed to rupa, cardinal signs and symptoms of a full blown asthma attack: cough, wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, rapid breathing and orthopnoea (difficulty breathing when lying down).
“The bouts of respiration are very forceful, producing great distress to life, the patient goes into darkness by its force, finds momentary comfort after expectoration, is unable to breathe while lying down and finds comfort sitting.” (1)
In terms of nidan or causation, both remote (viprakrushta) and proximate (sannikrushta) causes are of importance. Remote causes relate to khavaigunya in prana vaha srota. Complex hereditary causes of airway hyper-responsiveness are very significant in atopic or allergic asthma, and play a major role in the wheezing response. (3) Vagbhat relates many of the proximate causes of asthma attacks to the shita (cold) quality of vata and kapha, the involved doshas, as well as to the avila/ pichila (cloudy/sticky) quality of kapha. “The condition gets increased by accumulation of clouds in the sky, drinking cold water, cold breeze, direct breeze, and ingestion of substance which cause accumulation of kapha.” (1). Dust, irritant gases, pollens and smoke are also mentioned as sannikrushta causes of asthma in Ayurvedic classic texts (4-5).
These sannikrushta causes are now regarded as asthma triggers. Triggers include allergens such as animal dander, pollens, moulds, dust mites, cockroaches and food allergens, non-allergen irritants such a cigarette smoke, perfumes, paints and particulate pollution and environmental factors such as cold air. “Symptoms of asthma are exacerbated by exercise, strong emotions, viral infection, airborne allergen exposure, airborne pollutants, and change in the weather.”(6).Asthma is on the rise, (7) increasing worldwide by 5–6 percent per year (8)because of both indoor and outdoor environmental pollution and is a much more important condition today than it was when the Ayurvedic texts were written.
Vagbhat regards asthma as a yapya condition, one that cannot be completely cured but can be effectively managed. (1)
Ayurvedic management of asthma involves removal of triggers and application of a kapha cleansing program including kapha pacifying diet, pranayama, asana, oleation, sweating, emesis, virechan, nasal therapies and herbal therapies. (9)
However, the ways in which these basic therapeutic measures are introduced will differ depending whether the patient is a child, adolescent or adult.
Managing asthma in children
Asthma is a disease that is considerably more common in children and adolescents than in adults, affecting over 5.3 million children in America (6). We will examine some management options for paediatric asthma through the lens of a case history. A six year old girl of kapha constitution developed asthma following an infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as an infant. RSV is a common childhood respiratory infection which can increase the risk of developing asthma by tenfold (10). Asthma development after RSV is particularly important if there is a genetic predisposition (10) or khavaigunya or if food allergies go undiagnosed. This kapha girl of Eastern European extraction was suffering from undiagnosed gluten sensitivity and was living mainly on processed foods such as cereal with cold milk, macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches, all of which served both to trigger her gluten sensitivity and to exacerbate the pichila/avila, sandra and shita qualities associated with kapha and asthma. She also had mild eczema, a typical manifestation of atopy (allergic tendencies). Eczema is frequently associated with asthma and food allergies. She was currently using one steroidal and one albuterol (bronchodilator) type of inhaler.
She was placed on a gluten free, Kapha soothing diet, since gluten was her main asthma trigger. Outdoor exercise in cold air was limited since it is an asthma trigger, and indoor exercise in the school gym was encouraged. Her mother was advised to spend some time with her each day doing deep breathing and mother and child were trained to apply deep breathing whenever there was an emotional upset, since strong emotions can trigger asthma. Her mother was trained in nasya application and with her mother’s help the child used nasya oil daily to reduce post-nasal drip, another asthma trigger.
Local oleation and sudation were applied when she had an upper respiratory tract infection with increased cough. The form of oleation most suitable for young children is local application of either warm mustard oil or warm kapha massage oil, which can be applied to the chest to ease tight breathing. Internal oleation takes the form of sipping a cup of Licorice tea with ten drops of Mahanarayan oil at the onset of an attack. Sudation in paediatric asthma is best done by steam inhalation. Natural mineral salt can be used in the steam inhalation to ease asthma by providing essential trace minerals needed for lung function. Aromatic herbs such as Cardamom andCinnamon can be used in the inhalation as well as Dashamoola, which contains castor root and helps dilate the bronchi and reduce allergic airway reactivity. Older children canalso do mild sudation in a tub with natural mineral salt, dry ginger powder and baking soda. Note that is important not to apply sudation to children five and under when they have a fever, as they can overheat and have a febrile convulsion.
Daily Chyavanprash was well accepted because of its sweet taste, and led to a considerable increase in energy, to the point where she could keep pace with other children her age. Although Pippali is an excellent lung herb, compounds containing Pippali, such as Sitopaladi and Talisadi were not accepted due to her sensitivity to the pungent taste. Many children do accept Sitopaladi because of its sweet, cinnamon-y taste, so it is always worth trying in paediatric asthma. Our patient accepted other herbal formulas well with honey asanupan. Herbs used in her regime included Punarnava as a lung strengthener and dosha vyadhi for kapha, Vasaka as a bronchodilator,Cinnamon, a useful lung herb, and Chitrak for kindling agni and clearing ama.
Asthma has a strong emotional component related to breathing space.
When a child is being engulfed or controlled by a parent or does not have breathing space within the family ego mass, asthma symptoms can be greatly exacerbated. As in all paediatric situations, a child with severe asthma may well be the presentation of a distressed family system. For truly holistic Ayurvedic care, it is important to see the whole family and to assess and gently address the deep tensions within the family system.
Managing asthma in adolescents
Management of any yapya condition in adolescents is largely a matter of securing compliance. Parents cannot exercise the control they could during childhood and adolescents tend to be impulsive and susceptible to peer-pressure. The best advice to practitioners is to keep things as simple as possible and to enlist the teenager’s ‘trophy-ism’ by making Ayurvedic asthma care a way to be special and different.
A redheaded vata-pitta adolescent girl had a family history of allergic asthma and was experiencing significant asthma. She lived in a damp, cold, kaphagenic climate in a damp cottage. Her mother was diligent in addressing triggers, maintaining an immaculate home. To address kaphagenic foods in the simplest way possible, she avoided cow dairy products, substituting goat milk in its place. She typically used an Albuterol inhaler was also able to get off the inhaler for a time by using a smoking mix which included Calamus root, which helps asthma due to its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties (11). The best way for teens to smoke herbs is in a water pipe, which essentially provides local sudation to the lungs in the form of herbalized steam. Older adolescents can also learn to use the neti pot to manage post-nasal drip, an important asthma trigger. Adolescents can also begin using Lung Formula to strengthen the lungs. This formula contains Pushkaramoola (Elecampane), which relieves bronchospasm, as well as Pippali, Licorice, cane sugar and cinnamon, which are expectorant, and Triphala which will reduce the inflammation involved in atopic asthma.
This patient also suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is closely associated with asthma in children and adolescents due to the urdva gati of vata involved in both GERD and asthma. By later adolescence, as her impulse control strengthened, she managed her GERD with a strict pitta pacifying diet and pitta soothing herbs such as Shatavari and Guduchi.
Managing asthma in adults
Although paediatric asthma is more common in boys than girls, by mid-life women are affected more frequently than men (7, 8). A fifty-five-year old pitta woman complained of mild asthma which she managed Ayurvedically to obtain optimal functioning. Like the previous patient, her niece, she had red hair and freckles and grew up in a damp climate in a damp Victorian house. Much of her childhood was spent in an industrial region with high particulate pollution. She was extremely allergic to yeast and moulds. She was advised to manage asthma triggers by strictly avoiding yeasted breads and limiting exposure to dust, mould and animal dander. Harsh chemicals were banned from her home and she used only unscented natural cleaning products. When she received an accidental allergen exposure, she took Mahasudarshan to support the liver in clearing the allergen from her system.
Annual pancha karma including vaman with licorice tea or natural mineral salt and virechanwith Amlaki helped keep her asthma under control. She used Mahanarayan oil for oleation to help ease asthma-related chest pain and tight shoulders, did frequent sudation withnatural mineral salt tubs to great effect and used nasya oil for post-nasal drip. Chest opening asanas such as camel pose and cobra helped keep her lungs open. She massaged krukatika marma at the base of the neck posteriorly, amsa phalak in the centre of the scapula and nasa marma at the lateral side of the nostrils with Almond Oil.
Chyavanprash was an important part of her daily routine, strengthening prana vaha srotas, helping fight upper respiratory infections and combating free radical damage caused by living in a polluted city and undergoing various life-stresses (13). She daily drank “Trinity Tea”—ginger, turmeric and tulsi, which helped combat respiratory viruses, allergic reactions and the inflammatory response that underlies asthma. At night she took warm milk with Turmeric, nutmeg and cinnamon to reduce night time coughing, limit allergic reactions and help ensure sound sleep. If her prakruti were kapha instead of pitta, we might have recommended warm goats milk with Pippali.
Herbs that we recommended when her asthma was exacerbated—usually by influenza—included Punarnava, Vasaka, Boswellia,Dashamoola, Pippali and Sitopaladi. The anti-inflammatory effect of Boswellia has been found to be of significant benefit in reducing atopic reactive airways disease (14). A pitta pacifying diet and use of Aloe Vera as anupan helped her tolerate herbs that might otherwise be unsuitable for pitta prakruti. She could also take Lung Formula to good effect.
The same basic treatment protocol of removing asthma triggers, kapha pacifying diet, pranayama, asana, oleation, sweating, emesis,virechan, nasal therapies and herbal therapies are applicable to all ages and stages of asthma although, as we have seen compliance levels and methods of application vary with the patients age. As a yapya condition, asthma requires a long term commitment to Ayurvedic care in order to sustain optimal wellbeing.
Jwara (fever) is the lord of the diseases, born from sin, causing death, feeds on ojas, lead to the final end…characterised by santapa(discomfort from heat), arising from improper conduct; is a cruel one, affecting all species of living beings and called by different names. (1)
In the Charak Samhita, Puranvasu explains that fever originated when Daksha, King of Kashi, excluded Shiva from his sacrifice. In his anger, Shiva emanated a boy who, heated with the fire of anger, could destroy Daksha’s irreverent sacrifice. Once Shiva calmed down, the emanation of his fire of wrath, possessed of three heads and nine eyes, holding a weapon of ashes and surrounded by flames, needed a job. Shiva told him, “You will be fever in the world.” (2) Since then the emanation of Shiva’s wrath has run around the world making immense trouble. Just in terms of influenza alone, there are 250,000-500,000 new cases each year in the United States, with a resultant 20,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations annually. (3) The 1918 pandemic flu was more lethal that World War I, killing from 20,000,000 to 50,000,000 people in two short years. The magnitude of the health challenge presented by influenza and its common incidence render it an extremely important topic, particularly in the winter months when epidemics of influenza tend to occur. In this article we will consider differences in how Ayurveda and biomedicine see influenza, complementarity between the two, benefits of influenza, hazards of influenza, prevention, treatment, aftercare and pandemic influenza.
Differences in How Ayurveda and Biomedicine See Influenza
The biomedical approach to influenza is based in the sciences of virology, biochemistry and microbiology. From this standpoint, it is important to know the exact virus that caused the flu-like illness and the exact mechanisms of infectivity, transmission and morbidity or lethality of this virus. Viral cultures, immunofluorescent tests and serologic studies are required in order to make a definitive diagnosis. The disease entity characterised as influenza is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus, the influenza virus, which is subdivided into type A or B (causing epidemic flu) and type C (causing sporadic flu). Influenza is transmitted via the respiratory secretions over a time period from one day before until about five days after the onset of the disease. Non-influenzal flu-like illnesses are caused by other viruses, notably the adenoviruses, double-stranded DNA viruses which can survive for long periods of time in house dust and cause flu-like illnesses on an endemic basis throughout the year.
The Ayurvedic approach to influenza is based on the prakruti-vikruti paradigm and emphasises the condition of the host rather than the nature of the infective agent. Diagnosis depends not on serology and virology but on the age old methods of darshanam, sparshanamand prashanam, (observation, palpation and questioning). Two individuals affected with the same virus will likely receive a somewhat different Ayurvedic diagnosis, depending upon their presenting features. Strictly speaking, Ayurvedists should stay away from the word influenza (a diagnosis rooted in virology). From the Ayurvedic standpoint, the abhisanga (external) cause or infective agent (personified as Shiva’s anger-emanation) is still less important than the pre-existing doshas and ama. The infective agent is the seed butama is the fertile field in which the seeds can sprout. As Vagbhat describes the pathogenesis of fever,
Doshas, getting increased by their respective causes, enter amashaya (the stomach) combine with ama, obstruct the channels, drive the fire to the exterior and moving along with it make great increase of heat in the body. (4)
Based on the symptom picture, the fever is characterized as arising from vata, pitta, kapha, a combination of two doshas or all three (sannipata). A typical influenza might fit the description of a pitta-kapha fever, with symptoms of shivering, stiffness, sweating, burning sensations, thirst, cough, and elimination of phlegm and yellow or green secretions. (5) A pandemic influenza of high lethality would fit the picture of incurable sannipata jwara, with stupor, expectoration, vomiting and exhaustion. (6) Ayurvedically, it is also important to be aware of which dhatu is being affected by jwara. Acute fevers move swiftly through the astayi dhatus, penetrating deeper and deeper, giving rise to the ever changing symptom picture of flu-like illnesses as the symptom complexes of each dhatu appear sequentially. Initially there might be the body aches and nausea of rasa jwara, soon followed by the high fever and prostration of rakta jwara. This may be followed swiftly by fainting as doshas enter mamsa dhatu. The author recalls passing out on the London Underground during the pandemic flu of 1969! Soon after comes the onset of anorexia, thirst, malaise and sometimes vomiting as doshas reach meda. In more serious flus the intense bone pain and breathlessness of asthi jwara may follow and in extreme cases influenza may lead to encephalitis, an all-out majja jwara. (7)
Complementarities between the two views
In contemporary practice, the two views of influenza complement each other. Virology, biochemistry and phytochemistry offer the Ayurvedist valuable insights (8) in the selection of herbs that will be active against viral illnesses. For example, knowing of the impressive antiviral resumes of herbs such as Turmeric, Tulsi and Neem may lead us to include these herbs in our influenza chikitsa, while taking their rasa, virya and vipak into account within the prakruti-vikruti paradigm. At the same time, Ayurveda offers biomedicine and Western herbology potential answers to the question why only some exposed individuals will actually develop influenza, why some will be worse affected than others and why some are harmed by the same treatment that benefits others. A mother arrived in my clinic very concerned because her young daughter had not recovered from a flu-like illness despite dosing with Echinacea, which cured her step-brother. We discontinued Echinacea and she spontaneously recovered. As a vata, she was adversely affected by Echinacea, a bitter and pungent herb that was beneficial for her kapha step-brother.
Benefits of Influenza
From a biomedical standpoint, influenza has an effect in priming the immune system, raising levels of interferon that help combat other viral challenges. A small child’s frequent flu-like illnesses are a kind of immunological curriculum, training their immune system to recognize and combat a wide range of viruses. From an Ayurvedic standpoint, it is important to distinguish between prakrta andvaikruta fevers. Prakruta fevers occur at the change of seasons in Spring and Fall and are the body’s way of expelling excess doshas. These fevers are typically in the category of abhaisaja sadhya or illnesses that spontaneously remit without medicine. Suppressing these natural fevers leaves the doshas no way of being expelled and sets the stage for the onset of more serious conditions. On the other hand, vaikruta fevers occur unseasonably (such as kapha flu in summer) and should be treated vigorously as they represent an inherent imbalance. (9)
Hazards of influenza
Influenza is particularly troublesome in older adults (over fifty), in respiratory-compromised individuals such as asthmatics, in immuno-compromised situations like HIV and in those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. These groups are more likely to develop significant pranavahasrotas disorders such as bronchitis and pneumonia as a consequence of catching flu. In light of these dangers, prevention is an important aspect of the approach to influenza.
In working with those in the risk categories discussed above, it is particularly important to address influenza prevention during the fall and winter. An herbal formula to detoxify rasa and rakta and stimulate the immune response with herbs such as Pippali, turmeric, andTriphala, will be of value during this season. Immune Support is a combination that includes these traditional herbs as well as Echinacea and Osha, which have known effects in stimulating the immune system. Daily use of Chyavanprash during flu season is very traditional and will help maintain the health of pranavahasrotas and fight off flu. A home-made “Trinity Tea,” as we like to call it, is a tasty combination of Tulsi, Turmeric and Ginger to make a warming and anti-viral beverage for use in the winter months, particularly for the at-risk populations. Of course, regular pancha karma at the change of seasons takes flu prevention to another level. Shodhanatherapies expel the excess accumulated doshas, removing the need for the body to expel them through a prakrta fever.
Influenza is treated by langhana (reducing) therapies, particularly fasting (10). Loss of appetite during fever is a response of cellularprajna since agni has become externalized and is unable to digest solid food. A small child whose parent s encouraged her to eat during an influenzal fever developed sores on her mouth and tongue. These immediately abated when she was asked to fast for a short while and sip Fennel tea. While fasting, the patient should sip warm water frequently and should avoid cold water, which will cause further accumulation of vata and kapha. In the case of a strong pitta fever, room temperature water can be sipped. (11) Herbal teas containingMusta and Ginger are ideal. Musta is regarded as the pre-eminent herb for fevers (12). Cooling herbs are added to this blend, traditionally sandalwood, now unavailable for sustainability reasons. Rose and Coriander can be substituted to provide the cooling anti-febrile component. The texts emphasize that no solids, including powdered herbs, be taken at this time. (13) Sweating is applied using aginger bath or sauna but oiling or lepana should not be applied. As the fever comes down and appetite begins to be felt, the patient should use bitter herbs such as Mahasudarshan to dispel toxins and can consume a thin gruel containing digestive spices such as Ginger, Coriander, and Pippali(14). Kapha should add Dashamoola to these recipes. (15) Traditionally the reintroduction of foods progresses from manda (a liquid gruel) to peya, or semisolid gruel to yavagu or soup with boiled grains to vilepi, somewhat soupy boiled grains and finally to odana or solid boiled grains. (16) Vata and pitta can use rice for these recipes while kapha should use barley instead. Mung dal can also be used for the gruels while for gluten sensitive kaphas we have had good results substituting quinoa for barley in the traditional recipes. Non-vegetarians can also use chicken soup (‘Jewish penicillin’) as a substitute for the quail soup mentioned in the texts (17). Maya Tiwari’s book Secrets of Healing contains recipes for the traditional gruel preparations of manda, peya etc showing how to use spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric and mineral salt in the recipes.
Following the reintroduction of food, it is wise to use rakta shodhan or blood cleansing herbs such as Guduchi and Musta (18) or a formula such as Blood Cleanse and to take Triphala to expel residual doshas.
Following influenza the patient may be debilitated for weeks, even if they shook off the initial fever in a few days. At this time it is best to remain celibate, to continue an easily digestible diet and to introduce physical exertion gradually (19). Walking can be increased from slowly strolling around the block to gentle walks. Restorative yoga will also be helpful. Lung rejuvenative herbs such as Licorice, Pippali or Lung Formula are of value at this time, to clear up residual cough and upper respiratory symptoms and strengthenpranavahasrotas. The post-flu formula par excellence is Chyavanprash, which heals the lungs, boosts immunity and restores strength and energy. Post-influenzal depression arises from penetration of the virus and disease process into majjavahasrotas and is best addressed by a tea combining equal portions of Brahmi and Tulsi.
A Word about Pandemic Influenza
Influenza viruses responsible for causing pandemics are influenza A viruses which emerge as a result of a process called "antigenic shift” causing sudden, major change in certain proteins on the surface of the influenza A virus. This change is great enough that the body’s immune system finds the new virus unrecognizable. Much of the severity of pandemic flu may result from over-reactivity of the immune system, a process known as ‘cytokine storm’ which results in severe lung damage and ultimately necrolysis of the vital organs. (20) In this situation it is vital to avoid immune stimulants such as Echinacea or Immune Support which are so valuable in epidemic and sporadic influenza. Honey should not be used for the same reason. Turmeric is the ideal herb to use in this situation since it will both fight the virus and calm the immune response.
As we have seen, biomedicine and Ayurveda view influenza through different lenses and yet the two approaches can complement each other. Ancient texts provide detailed instructions regarding the prevention, treatment and aftercare of influenza.
Rasayana or rejuvenation for vata is needed in a variety of vata-related situations. In individuals of vata prakruti, during the management of diseases due to vata, in the vata season (autumn) and in the vata time of life, from age fifty onwards, it is important to address vata rasayana. Rejuvenation of vata is also important for those who live in jangala desha, the vata-predominant regions that are arid, with less vegetation and much high wind.(1) In terms of the United States, this description of jangala desha incorporates most of the desert and mountain West, with its high altitudes and arid or semi-arid conditions.
The king of vata rasayana herbs is of course Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also known as winter cherry. Ashwagandha is a shrubby plant with greenish-yellow flowers and red berries. “Ashwagandha reduces increased vata and kapha and cures vitiligo, oedema, and wasting. It acts as a tonic and tissue vitalizer. It is bitter and astringent in taste and hot in potency and increases the quality and quantity of semen.” (2)
Although it is particularly famed for its action on the deeper dhatus, majja and shukra, Ashwagandha rejuvenates the dhatu agni of all seven dhatus. This broad spectrum activity is perhaps related to the large number of active principles in the herb root. The main active principles in Ashwagandha are steroidal alkaloids and steroidal lactones. At least thirty five different withanolides, or steroidal lactones as well as twelve alkaloids have been identified in Ashwagandha. Withanolides have anti-oxidant and adaptagenic actions and suppress generation of free radicals (ageing factors). They are anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and anti-cancer. They act onmajja dhatu in supporting nerve regeneration and ameliorate beta amyloid neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. (3, 4)
In muscle aches and pains, and fibromyalgia, Ashwagandha can be used together with Yogaraj Guggulu. In vata type skin disease such as scaly eczema or psoriasis, it can be combined with Manjista and Turmeric. In sexual debility, a teaspoon of Ashwagandha can be taken at bed time in a cup of hot cow’s milk. For vata menstrual issues including irregular or painful menstruation, Ashwagandha can be combined with Shatavari, while to rejuvenate vata for the nursing mother, a combination of Licorice and Ashwagandha can be mixed in hot milk. The ultimate situation requiring rejuvenation of vata is balakshaya or vata type chronic fatigue. Ashwagandha is the herb of choice in this situation, and is traditionally taken with grtamadhu, a mixture of ghee and honey. For those who have systemic candidiasis and are unable to take gritamadhu as an anupan, almond milk is a good anupan that supports rejuvenation of ojas.
A fifty year old practitioner of yogic disciplines presented complaining of nervousness, anxiety, forgetfulness and nocturnal emissions. An individual of vata prakruti, he was also entering his vata time of life and was a resident of jangala desh, living at over five thousand feet in the windy, dry conditions of Colorado’s Front Range. His lifestyle was vata provoking in that he slept six hours or less a night and rose at three in the morning, unaware that vata prakruti requires at least seven hours of sleep a night. He quickly took to a more vata soothing lifestyle, incorporating self-abhyanga and svedan into his weekly routine. In addition, he was advised to take a cup of hot cow’s milk in the evenings with a teaspoon of Ashwagandha stirred into the milk. His sexual debility, manifesting in nocturnal emissions, was effectively relieved by this remedy. Although Ashwagandha is a celebrated aphrodisiac and shukral herb, it none the less supported this aspirant in his quest for brahmacharya or celibacy. His nocturnal emissions were unrelated to lust or excess libido, but were rather a manifestation of shukra gati vata—vata invading the shukra dhatu. Thus the vata soothing and shukra-rejuvenating impacts of vata served to eliminate his seminal emissions and support him on his yogic path. His anxiety calmed and his memory improved— impacts of Ashwagandha on majja dhatu.
Another important specific rejuvenative for vata is sesame oil and its derivative forms— medicated sesame oils such as Ashwagandha Bala Tailam. Sesame oil is considered a specific remedy for vata just as ghee is for pitta or honey for kapha. (5) Daily abhyanga is an essential feature of a vata-rejuvenating lifestyle.
“Abhyanga should be resorted to daily, it wards off old age, exertion and vata aggravation, bestows good vision, nourishment to the body, long life, good sleep, good and healthy skin.”(6)
The sages of Ayurveda noted special properties of sesame oil that are now being validated by scientific research.
“Clarified butter prepared from cow’s milk is the best of the animal snehas (oleaginous substances) while sesame oil is the best of the vegetable ones.” (7)
“Oil of sesame possesses properties like penetrating deep into the tissues and spreading throughout the body fast…capable of entering into even minute pores, hot in potency, not increasing kapha, it makes lean persons fatty and fat persons lean, is constipating, kills worms, with appropriate processing, it cures all diseases.” (8)
An important peer reviewed study published in the journal Anticancer Research showed that “sesame oil and its component linoleic acid, when added to human colon adenocarcinoma cells growing in tissue culture would inhibit their growth and that normal colon cells would not be similarly affected.” Both lipase-digested sesame oil (such as would result from eating sesame oil) and undigested sesame oil (such as in oil basti) showed in vitro capacity to kill colon cancer cells without harming normal cells. This interesting study points to the possible usefulness of sesame oil basti not only in rejuvenating vata but also in preventing colon cancer. A study in Delhi investigated the possible benefits of vegetable oil massage in infants, concluding, “Massage improved the weight, length, and midarm and midleg circumferences as compared to infants without massage. However, in the group with sesame oil massage increase in length, midarm and midleg circumferences by 1.0, 0.9 and 0.7 cm, respectively was significant.” (10)
Sesame oil is richly endowed with anti-oxidants, accoutring both for its special rejuvenative properties and for its ability be stored for long periods without becoming rancid.
A forty year old woman of vata prakruti complained of vata type chronic fatigue, depression, irregular menstruation and anxiety. . Her symptoms worsened every fall and had also greatly exacerbated once she moved from California to the jangala environment of Colorado.
She responded fairly well to a vata soothing formula including Ashwagandha, Vidari, and Dashamoola. However, her best ally was sesame oil and vata-soothing medicated sesame oils. Regular self abhyanga with sesame oil, as well as sesame oil basti, helped her make it through the challenging fall season. Over a five-year period of continuing to live in a vata provoking region, she found each fall and winter period went better than the preceding one, as long as she stuck with her practices of abhyanga and basti.
Above and beyond any herbal therapy, the best rejuvenative for vata is a good night’s sleep. “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.” (11)
It is during sleep that the body engages in processes of growth and repair, and hence in the absence of proper sleep, even the best of rejuvenative herbs will prove ineffective. Yet all too often, as Wordsworth expressed,
“Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear tonight away:
Without Thee what is all the morning's wealth?” (12)
In vata provocation, sleep, important as it is for vata, is often hard to attain. In extreme cases of vata type chronic fatigue, day and night become reversed, with disruption of the natural cortisol cycle. The patient is tired all day, only to become hyperactive at night. Eventually falling asleep after sunrise ushers in Kapha time, they then sleep until mid morning or later. However, day sleep only serves to exacerbate their insomnia and fatigue, as these hours are not optimal for the body’s repair processes. Fortunately, our vata rejuvenation allies, Ashwagandha and sesame oil, both contribute to vata’s ability to obtain the most vital rejuvenative of all. Possessed of activity similar to the calming neurotransmitter GABA, Ashwagandha helps induce sound sleep. A teaspoon of Ashwagandha in a cup of warm milk at bedtime will help promote sleep in a vata-deranged individual. Sesame oil massage is likewise invaluable in promoting sound sleep. Simply oiling the soles of the feet at bedtime with sesame oil or vata massage oil calms the system and induces good sleep. In addition, soporific and nervine herbs such as Bhringaraj, passionflower, nutmeg, skullcap and chamomile can promote sleep, the greatest vata rejuvenative.
With our key vata allies, Ashwagandha and sesame oil, all vata systems can be rejuvenated, and the impact of obstacles to health such as a naturally vata provoking region or onset of the vata time of life can be minimized if not eliminated.
Healthy Recovery from Miscarriage in Six Steps
by Terra Rafael, Certified Professional Ayurvedic Practitioner
Step One: Be sure that you have no complications from the miscarriage-
Signs of Infection: fever, flu-like symptoms, uterine tenderness or continued cramping, foul smelling discharge. If you have any of these seek emergency medical care for a possible infection that can escalate quickly.
To prevent infection: take extra Vitamin C and Echinacea tincture ( 1 dropperful 5 times/day for 3 days following, then taper off, reducing times/day to 3 times/day for 4 more days)
Signs of Anemia: tiredness, poor digestion, pale nail beds and mucous membranes
To prevent anemia: take Floradex herbal iron supplement as directed on bottle for one bottle full. Also eat plenty of iron foods, protein, B vitamins, Vitamin C. Some gentle aerobic exercise is necessary—walking works well.
Step Two: Address your emotional needs-
Helps for the emotions of grief-- sadness, anger : rosewater spritzer, basil/ tulsi tea for sadness, flower essences, mental/emotional Reiki healing, Ayurvedic balancing
Be sure to express your experience and feelings enough: Miscarriage is often disregarded in our culture. “Get over it” is the message we are given. Moving on too quickly can just bury the emotions, leading to more future imbalances. Healthy grieving is a cyclical process—it won’t just be gone—it cycles back at different times, to different degrees—like when the baby would have been born, when you see ababy, when you get pregnant again (fear may come up). These feelings need to be acknowledged.
Ways to express yourself: You can journal, use ritual, make a special song for this baby, talk with a supportive person, dance, write a poem, paint a picture.
However, obsessing or getting stuck on the experience also builds imbalance. If you are unable to move through the cycle, staying always in the sadness, anger of it, then seek some help to break through.
Step Three: Calm the reproductive tract after interruption of the pregnancy cycle-
Ayurvedic balancing: Post miscarriage is like a mini – postpartum. In Ayurveda the postpartum time is considered a time for rebalancing and rejuvenation to prevent problems from occurring in the future.
Drink some Dashamula tea. This is a mix of 10 roots that help rebalance your roots.– You can buy it at Banyan Botanicals (online) or Rebecca’s Apothecary (Boulder). Use 1 teaspoon/cup of water. Simmer 10 minutes then strain & drink. Take 1 cup a day for one month or until you begin your next menstrual cycle. This helps rebalance the downward energy in your pelvic area.
Oil massage. This will help balance your sudden change. You can do this on yourself or, most relaxing, have an oil massage from someone else. This would be for after your initial miscarriage bleeding has stopped. Several times may be indicated, depending on your needs.
Therapeutic enemas. The use of gentle oil and tea enemas may be indicated in some cases to calm the disturbed pelvic area, once the miscarriage bleeding has subsided. I will discuss this with you if it is needed in your case.
Step Four: Balance your energy-
Ayurveda balancing: Miscarriages may be related to various factors—mistakes of development in the baby; inadequate implantation or disruption by physical jarring ; hormonal imbalance that doesn’t maintain the lining of the uterus; and other unknown factors like karma. Getting balanced in general with Ayurveda may help with some of these causes and also lays the groundwork for your highest level of health and the healthiest possible next pregnancy, if that is what you wish for.
Personal Consultation: Meeting with Terra on line or in person will assure the best level of care.
For a Free Phone Consult with Terra: Click Here
Step Five: Be sure that your uterus is properly positioned after the miscarriage experience-
Uterine position: The uterus may have been out of place, leading to the miscarriage or the miscarriage may have strained the ligaments, leading to some malpositioning of the uterus.
Maya Abdominal Therapy: The techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy can help the uterus return to its physiological position, thus allowing for the proper circulation of blood, lymph, and energy. This makes for optimal hormonal communication, nourishment of the lining of the uterus & ovaries, removal of local toxins and acidic blood which can imbalance the area, as well as provide the environment which allows for the normal implantation of the baby & growth of the uterus during pregnancy. This work goes hand-in-hand with Ayurvedic balancing of reproduction & digestion.
MAT Consultation: You will receive an evaluation as well as professional treatment. You will learn how to do self massage on yourself to nourish your core on an on-going basis.
Step Six: Wait at least 3 normal menstrual cycles before conceiving again-
While you may be excited to try for another pregnancy soon, waiting has many advantages. Seeing three NORMAL periods confirms that you are well recovered. It also gives time to feed the ovaries for the coming egg to be fertilized. It allows you to recover more fully on an emotional as well as physical level. It gives you time to rectify any imbalances, malpositioning, or emotional issues before getting pregnant again, thus providing the best possible pregnancy start.
For a free phone consult to find out how Terra can help you: Click Here
Wise Womanhood www.wisewomanhood.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Terra Rafael, Ayurveda Practitioner, retired Midwife, & Maya Abdominal Therapist
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