“Open sesame” is a familiar phrase to anyone who has read or heard the story of ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ from the Arabian Nights. The two words that magically opened a cave filled with treasures, reflect the characteristic of the Sesame seed pod, which bursts open spontaneously when the seed ripens and reaches maturity. Sesame seeds have been part of Indian culture for thousands of years and are an integral part of religious ceremonies, rituals, and most auspicious occasions. These seeds may be one of the oldest condiments known to man, and have been widely used to add a nutty flavor and delicious crunch to many dishes. Sesame seed is rich in a number of nutrients, including calcium, copper, manganese, iron, zinc, thiamine, and magnesium. It also contains a good bit of dietary fibre. Sesame seeds are mentioned in the ancient sacred texts the Vedas, and have been used in the treatment protocols and products of Ayurveda, the Mother of all healing systems. The sesame seed, from an Ayurvedic perspective, is sweet, pungent, astringent, bitter, and has a heating effect. These seeds are highly valued for their light golden coloured oil.
Nourishing, Healing, Calming
Nourishing, calming and warming, sesame oil is a fundamental part of Ayurvedic massages. It is said that a self massage with sesame seed oil promotes physical strength, nourishes muscles and bones, and facilitates comfortable joint movement. Ayurvedic physicians also recommend it for promoting sound sleep, strengthening the intellect and nervous system, and nourishing the skin and hair. In addition to self massage, Sesame seed oil is vital in the Panchakarma therapies of Ayurveda. These are purification procedures that dissolve metabolic waste products and environmental toxins from our tissues in a gentle and effective way and eliminate them from the body. Kerala, one of the top tourist attractions in the world today, is especially renowned as the most favoured destination for panchakarma therapy conducted under the expert supervision and guidance of Ayurvedic physicicans whose lineage goes back to the ancient sages.
Tiny but Potent
The Sesame seed may be tiny, but it packs a powerful punch. Sesame oil is extremely beneficial in case of dandruff. Massage the scalp with Sesame oil for 30 minutes and cover the head with a hot towel that has been soaked in hot water and squeezed. To promote healthy sleep patterns, massage the scalp and soles of the feet with Sesame oil before bedtime. Sesame is beneficial for the teeth and strengthens them. Take 10 gm of Sesame and chew it slowly daily for maximum benefit. You can also swish the oil in your mouth to reduce the amount of bacteria present and to support strong teeth and gums. . In case of arthritis, knee pain and other joint problems, add ginger juice in Sesame oil and boil till ginger juice evaporates completely. Sieve the remaining oil and store it in a bottle. Massage the painful area with this oil.
The benefits of Sesame oil apply to almost every part of the body. Add Sesame oil and turmeric powder in milk and heat it slightly, apply this paste on the face everyday regularly. This makes the skin smooth and soft and also removes pimples. In the case of dry cough take four to five teaspoons spoons of black pepper and same amount of Sesame. Boil it in one glass of water till it reduces to half the quantity, and drink the concoction thrice daily for relief. Warm Sesame oil, rubbed on the abdomen can reduce stomach cramps. The oil is also used in Ayurveda to lubricate and support the bowel, soften the stool and also as a vaginal douche. Consumption of sesame seeds is recommended to improve sexual capacity as it increases the sperm count. 100 gm sesame contains 1.5 gm calcium, 5.5 gm phosphorous, and 10 gm iron. Sesame contains Vitamin B complex and also lecithin which is beneficial for the brain. Is it any wonder then that these little seeds are considered Ayurveda’s “open Sesame” to good health?
The fragrance of mint- known as ‘podina’ in many Indian languages- has wafted down through the ages, adding spice and flavor that transform ordinary dishes into gourmet fare. Podina however, is also renowned in Ayurveda as a herb that which ‘wakes up’ the senses and decongests the orifices of the head. It also has calming and relaxing properties and helps in digestion too. According to Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of healing, the body has three vital forces or doshas, known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These doshas are balanced in a proportion that is unique to every individual, and his or her good health depends on maintaining that perfect balance. Ayurvedic physicians tell us that when this balance is upset, Podina helps to restore it.
This hardy perennial is full of aromatic menthol. It is rich in many chemicals, vitamins and minerals such as Niacin, Carotene, Folic Acid, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Protein, Fat, Minerals, Carbohydrates, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Chromium, Oxalic Acid, Menthol and Phytin Phosphorus.
Podina is a herbaceous perennial herb that is found throughout Western Europe, Western and Central Asia and North America. In Kerala ,the sunny South Indian state where Ayurveda has been a way of life for thousands of years, it is grown in kitchen gardens and pots for its culinary as well as many medicinal uses. The plant is highly effective in treating rhinitis, cough sore throat, colic, and vomiting. It serves as a good blood cleanser, since it is antiseptic and anti-bacterial, and plays a significant role in alleviating swollen gums, mouth ulcers and toothaches. Crushed and bruised Podina leaves are used in treating insect bites, while a decoction and infusion of its leaves and stems helps reduce fever stomach aches. Fresh leaves of podina are crushed and sniffed for dizziness and the crushed leaves are also applied on the forehead and temple, to cure headaches.
Podina is the basis for many home remedies in Ayurveda. In case of a toothache, boil 6 tablespoons of Podina leaves in 2 glasses of water, for 15 minutes. Strain and cool the water. Divide it into two parts and take each part after 3 to 4 hours. To treat arthritis, take some fresh leaves and heat on low flame. Pound them and apply on the painful joints or muscles, when still warm. For a mouthwash, soak 2 tablespoons of chopped leaves in a glass of hot water for 30 minutes and strain and use infusion. Tea prepared with Podina leaves to which a tsp. each of lime juice and honey are added is an excellent cure for common cold, sore throat and that bloated sensation in the stomach after a heavy meal. A face pack of fresh Podina leaves cures pimples and blackheads and is a very good moisturizer.
It is not advisable to use mint oil directly on the skin, or to give it in a concentrated form to children, pregnant women, nursing mothers or those who have asthma, gall bladder or liver problems. It is also important to remember that in the case of illness, the dose and method of taking Podina are crucial, and depend on an individual’s constitution and need, as determined by an Ayurvedic physician.
Traffic Jams. Deadlines. Presentations. Health problems. Household chores. Social pressures. Examinations. Performance anxiety. All these are stress factors- in fact, stress has become part and parcel of modern life. Some people are able to cope with stress, others thrive on it. However, for most people, constant stress can trigger a host of problems- physical, mental and emotional- which in turn can lead to greater stress. It’s a vicious circle- but Ayurveda, the 5000 year old Science of Life, offers natural solutions for stress management- solutions that have stood the test of time.
Ayurveda is a science which believes that the three “doshas” in an individual’s body – Vatta , Pitta and Kapha are the three psycho-physiological principles that govern all a person’s activities. A person enjoys good health if these three are in perfect balance- and any imbalance results in diseases of the mind and body. Ayurvedic Prakriti Parikshana includes evaluation of a person’s doshas to determine his or her psychological constitution. Thus an Ayurvedic physician can predict the stress factors to which a person is most susceptible- and address the problem at its root.
Types of Stress
There are three different manifestations of day-to-day stress from the perspective of Ayurveda – mental, emotional, and physical- and each requires different approaches and therapies. Mental stress, according Ayurveda , is caused by an imbalance of Vata dosha, which regulates brain activity, energy and the mind. As a result, the individual loses the ability to handle day-to-day problems The person’s mind becomes hyperactive, yet he or she loses the ability to make clear decisions, to think positively, to feel enthusiastic, and even to fall asleep at night. To correct this imbalance it is important to favour Vata-balancing foods, with sweet, sour, and salty tastes, and to include warm milk and light dietary products in one’s diet. A daily self massage with warm oil is recommended.
Emotional stress is caused by an imbalance of the Pitta dosha and manifests itself as irritability, depression, and emotional instability. It affects sleep in a different way than mental stress – it can cause you to wake up in the night and not be able to go back to sleep. To achieve a balance of the Pitta dosha, have plenty of sweet juicy fruits and foods with sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Drink a cup of warm milk with cooling rose petal preserve before bedtime, and cook with cooling spices such as cardamom, coriander, cilantro, and mint. A daily self massage with coconut oil will be helpful too.
Physical stress is caused when the balance of both Kapha and Vata is disturbed. The solution is to balance Vata and to support Kapha by getting adequate rest and moderate exercise, to follow a specific diet recommended by your physician, and to have a daily warm oil full body massage.
Panchakarma To Fight Stress
Panchakarma therapy has a role in stress management too. Its aim is to remove toxins from the body as well as to nourish and relax. It removes the negative energy that triggers stress, whether physical, mental or emotional. Kerala, in South India, is a land famed for its physicians whose expertise in administering Panchakarma therapy is unparalleled. The most effective therapies for stress management are Sirodhara, Thailadhara, and Snehapanam. Sirodhara is the procedure by which gently warmed herbal medicinal oil is allowed to flow on the forehead of the individual, from a vessel hanging right above the patient’s head. It is very effective in calming down the nervous system and in treating nervous disorders. In Thailadhara, the entire body is massaged with medicinal oil made from specific herbs to release the toxins in the body through the skin. Snehapanam is the oral administration of mixture of herbs in ghee or butter. The herbs include asparagus, gooseberry, sandalwood, neem and amla. Ayurvedic physicians will also prescribe certain herbal medicines known as Arishtams and Kashayams to counter an individual’s stress factors. Indeed, Ayurveda, with its assisted practices like Yoga and meditation is the natural way to control the mind and emotions and make life beautiful once again.
Manjistha, or Rubia Cordifolia to give it its scientific name, is a branched climber with small, greenish white flowers that are arranged in a cluster of round, fleshy, purple fruits. Its roots have a brownish red bark from which a red dye is obtained. This plant grows well in hilly districts, and the root has medicinal values.
Manjistha is considered to be one of the most valuable herbs in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest health care system that originated in India. The ancient physician and sage, Charaka has categorized the herb as varnya or that which improves the complexion, jvarahara, or that which reduces fever, and visaghna or that which detoxifies. It is also a well known rasayana – a rejuvenative.
Another great sage, Sushruta has mentioned Manjistha as pittasamsamana or that which pacifies the pitta doshas. Acccording to Ayurveda, it is only when the three life energies or doshas, that make up every individual’s constitution, are perfectly balanced can a person enjoy good health. These doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and any imbalance results in ill health. It is imbalances of the Pitta dosha that can be effectively countered by Manjistha.
In Kerala where Ayurveda in its purest form has been practiced for thousands of years, Manjistha has been recommended by Ayurvedic physicians from times immemorial, for its blood purifying and anti-oxidant properties. Its Ayurvedic properties are classified as being bitter, astringent and sweet in taste and heavy, dry and hot in effect.
Herb of Choice for Total Healthcare.
Manjistha is one of Ayurveda’s most popular herbs for lymphatic support. When the lymph system become sluggish, people complain of fatigue, exhaustion, skin problems, sore throats, puffy hands and feet, and weight gain. Manjistha supports the natural functions of the lymphatic system, as it facilitates nutrition of the cells and removal of wastes from the body. If chronic wounds are washed with the decoction of Manjistha and dressed with its solid extract, healing is hastened. In the case of fractures, an external splint of Manjistha is beneficial. Manjistha is used in treating hepatitis, diabetes and urinary calculi.
Manjistha is a very good skincare herb. Used externally and internally, it makes the skin lustrous and glowing and helps to remove pimples, freckles and discoloration. Its finely crushed powder can be simply applied on the face after mixing it with little honey. A combination of 100 gms dried and crushed orange peels and 50 gms each of sandal powder, turmeric and Manjistha, makes an excellent face pack. So Manjistha not only prevents health problems, heals and cures, it beautifies as well. This is what makes it Ayurveda’s herb of choice for total healthcare, not just in the past, but today too.
Chandini was mortified. A 42 year old primary school teacher and home maker, she suffered acute embarrassment when her clothes became stained because of excessive bleeding while she was taking a class. She had noticed that her periods were becoming extremely heavy during the last couple of months, but had been too busy balancing her housework with her duties at school to do anything about it. Of course, she did take extra precautions on those days, but the incident in the class made her decide to seek medical help. After talking it over with her mother, she opted to go in for Ayurvedic treatment for her condition. The reason for this was that her mother, who had the same problem twenty five years earlier, had been successfully treated by an Ayurvedic physician belonging to one of the legendary families of physicians in Kerala. Chandini therefore decided to consult his daughter, who was carrying on the family tradition.
The Ayurvedic Way
Chandini’s physician explained to her that she was suffering from what is called Menorrhagia in Western Medicine or Rakta Pradara in Ayurveda. Menorrhagia is nothing but excessive bleeding during menstruation. In general, bleeding is considered excessive when a woman needs to change her sanitary protection every hour. In addition, bleeding is considered prolonged when a menstrual period lasts longer than seven days in duration. Generally speaking, in addition to heavy bleeding, a woman might feel pain in the abdomen lumbar region, and hips. In Chandini’s case, she had experienced some giddiness, headaches and breathlessness as well- but she had not realized that these symptoms were related to her condition.
There are many reasons why excessive bleeding occurs. They can range from improper diet and insufficient intake of water, to emotional disturbances, severe anemia, diseases in the pelvis such as fibroids, adenomyosis, polyps, endometriosis, and pelvic infection. Sub involution of uterus, prolapse or inversion could be some of the causes too. Other causes include spontaneous or induced abortions, incomplete abortion, and trauma to uterus as well as ectopic pregnancy. Interuterine devices, anticoagulants and the use of contraceptives can also trigger menorrhagia, while endocrine imbalance can be another cause. In Chandini’s case, after a careful study of her symptoms, constitution and case history, her physician pin pointed the root cause of her Menorrhagia as stress.
Herbs, Diet and Lifestyle Changes
The ancient sages of Ayurveda have formulated several herbal remedies for the treatment of menorrhagia. Ashoka is the herb of choice that has been used to treat this condition for thousands of years, while Lodhra is another. The powder of the barks of these two herbs is administered either separately or in a compound form, in a dose recommended specifically to suit the patient. Chandini was also advised to take seven tender leaves of the pomegranate tree mixed with 7 grains of rice in a paste that was to be taken twice daily for a month. Another very effective remedy is Marigold flower juice. Marigold flowers can be plucked from the garden, washed thoroughly and then made into juice. -1 to 3 tablespoonfuls of freshly prepared juice taken in accordance with the physician’s orders is enough to stop the bleeding. Certain minerals as well as coral and pearl in a powdered form are also recommended in some cases of Menorrhagia.
Chandini was advised to avoid all hot and spicy food. At the same time, she was told that left over rice, soaked overnight in water, was good for her as well as wheat, moong dal, milk and ghee. Milk should be boiled with ginger powder, fennels seeds powder, cardamom powder and black pepper powder as these spices make the milk easily digestible. She was also advised to include plenty of Pomegranate, sugarcane juice, grapes, banana and jack fruit in her diet. In accordance with her physician’s instructions Chandini started a regimen of yoga and meditation to reduce stress, and was careful to avoid heavy work during her periods. Rather, she took plenty of rest, and avoided travelling or going out in the sun during those days.
Chandini was wise to consult her physician when she did, for heavy bleeding can lead to an iron deficiency, and ultimately result in anemia. Today, she enters her classroom with confidence whether she is having her periods or not…and when any of her friends complains about excessive bleeding, she is quick to say “Try Ayurveda”!
Name: Yusef Ali
City/ Country: Qatar
I am an engineer working in the Gulf. Two years back, I noticed a small white spot on the back of my hand. It was painless, and I did not pay much attention to it, until it started to become bigger. This made my wife very worried. She thought it might be Leucoderma and had heard that there was no cure for this condition. When we went to my home in Kerala for a vacation, she convinced me to seek the advice of an Ayurvedic physician as to what I should do. Kerala in South India has some of the finest Ayurvedic physicians in the world, and Ayurveda has been a way of life for the people of my state for thousands of years. After a careful study of my constitution, physical condition and lifestyle habits my physician confirmed that I did indeed have Leucoderma. He explained to me that it was a non infectious disorder of the skin where white patches are formed because the cells have stopped producing melanin, the pigment that colours our skin. The white patches that are known as vitiligo are painless and remain sensory. He also set my mind at rest by assuring me that the patches are not harmful in any way, except for the cosmetic problems that they may cause.
Leucoderma is called Shivtra in Ayurveda. My physician told me that the belief that it cannot be treated was a myth. On the contrary remarkable re-pigmentation can be achieved in every patient and its spread can be arrested- provided that patient follows dietary restrictions and take appropriate treatment for prescribed period. The first step in this process is to try and determine the root cause. An irregular lifestyle, improper food and drink habits, chronic constipation, colitis or intestinal worms are some reasons. Other causes could be the side effects of certain drugs, allergies, mental tension or any form of trauma. Once the cause had been determined- in my case, it was the combined effect of several factors- treatment began.
I underwent both Sodhan and Shaman Chikitsa. Shodan is a cleaning procedure and Shaman a palliative one. Certain Ayurvedic medicines were also prescribed. They were a mixture of purely herbal medicines and well as herbo mineral remedies. The herbal medicines were photo sensitizing and blood purifying. They had to be used along with systematic exposure to sunlight. The herbo mineral remedies act as immune- suppressants to prevent the spread of the white patches. As regards my diet, I was advised to increase consumption of vegetables that are bitter in taste and to stay away from away from difficult to digest foods, sour taste, excessive salt, curd, fish, jaggery and sesame seeds. Some specialized practitioners in Kerala advise the following as diet for 40 days with external applications – 600 gm raw cucumber and 3 betel leaves three times a day and food made from bitter gourd…but this treatment requires a lot of determination! Certain lifestyle changes were also advised which I continue to follow faithfully to this day.
I was told that I must continue the re-pigmentation protocol until the white patches disappeared completely. In case one or two patches remained, I was advised that a paste made from mehndi leaves must be applied to the affected area or a lotion made with the root of Plumbago Zylanica in absolute alcohol can painted over the skin. This imparts natural colour which lasts for two to four days after which it can be reapplied.
My physician also suggested several home remedies that I could try after returning to the Gulf. These remedies can be tried by anyone who suspects that they may be developing Leucoderma. One home remedy is to mix 5 teaspoons of turmeric powder in 250 ml of mustard oil. The paste must be applied on the white patches of skin, twice a day, for a period of 12-15 months. The application of Sweet Basil leaf extracts with lemon juice for 5-6 months also produces good results. Water kept in a copper vessel overnight and drunk the next day is believed to be very good for those with this condition. Application of a paste of 50 gms white radish seeds ground with vinegar is another option.
Leucoderma is a condition that can affect any one at any time. However, experience has taught me that it need not be a cause for worry. In the initial stages, home remedies can be helpful, and later on, Ayurveda offers a course of treatment that I personally have found effective. So if you think the white spots on your face, hands, groin or lips may indicate Leucoderma , I suggest you try Ayurveda.
When you visit an Ayurvedic physician, whatever you ailment may be, there are certain factors that determine the course of treatment that is best for you. Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of medicine, is a highly personalized healing science. Therefore your physician will first determine several crucial physical and mental factors before prescribing a course of treatment. These factors can be classified into dosha, rasa, vipaka, veerya, prabhava, guna and pathya. According to Ayurveda, every living organism is controlled and governed by three major life forces known as the tridoshas. The tridoshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and all physical and mental disorders occur when these three doshas lose their unique balance in the body. Vata governs our nervous systems and Pitta is the energy for the body’s internal functions. Kapha regulates the heat and biological processes of the body as well as influencing the secretion and formation of body fluids. When one of these doshas become either high or low, disorders begin to occur and your physician’s first order of priority is to go to the root of your problem by determining which of the doshas is out of balance.
The Role of the Rasas
Rasa is taste and taste plays an important role in restoring the balance of the doshas. Ayurveda classifies taste into six types. Madhura or sweetness pacifies Pitta and Vata but aggravates Kapha. Madhura is a pleasant taste that is a good tonic for heart and brain if consumed in correct quantities. Amala or sourness aggravates Pitta and Kapha but pacifies Vata. It promotes the appetite and improves digestion if consumed within limits. Lavana or saltiness also aggravates Pitta and Kapha but pacifies Vata. It is diuretic and it works as digestive expectorant and appetizer. It is easily soluble and acts as softening and water retaining agent. Katu or pungent taste aggravates Pitta and Vata but pacifies Kapha. It promotes the secretion of saliva and tears. The tingling sensation produced by katu taste on the tongue is useful in dyspepsia. Tikta or bitterness pacifies Pitta and Kapha but aggravates Vata. It is an excellent appetizer, though it produces dryness in the mouth. Kasaya or astringent taste also pacifies Pitta and Kapha but aggravates Vata. It is a diuretic and helps in healing of wounds.
Vipaka and Veerya
Vipaka refers to the metabolism of various organs caused by biochemical changes brought about by foods and drugs. It is directly related to rasa, but while the action of rasa is immediate, local, physiological and psychological and quite perceivable, vipaka action is delayed, systemic, physiological and inferable but not-perceivable. Veerya is the potency of a food or a drug. Veerya is is further classified into sheeta or cold and ushna or hot. Sheeta diminishes secretions, stabilizes our excretory functions, stops bleeding, promotes vigour and vitality and aggravates Vata and Kapha, while pacifying Pitta. Ushna, on the other hand helps in storing up of internal energy, leads to easy digestion, causes thirst and aggravates Pitta, while pacifying Vata and Kapha.
Prabhava , Guna and Pathya
Prabhava refers to the empirical action of a drug- its characteristic influence. When talking of remedies, Guna on the other hand, denotes the actual physical properties of any drug, of which there are 20, according to Ayurveda. Pathya is the study of food-to-drug and drug-to-drug interactions or to put it in Ayurvedic terms, Pathya and Apathy. In Ayurveda certain food items or drugs must be completely avoided during treatment, because they reduce the absorption of essential ingredients of the drugs. Certain drugs can lead to side effects when they interact with other drugs, and so it is essential that Pathya and Apathya be strictly followed during the course of treatment.
In Kerala, a tropical paradise in South Indian there are Ayurvedic physicians who are probably the world’s foremost experts in charting out a course of treatment that is uniquely designed for you, after carefully considering all the above factors. Their families have been practicing this ancient science and art of healing for generations – in fact, some of them trace their lineage back to the ancient sages. On your part, they will expect you to be an active participant because Ayurvedic treatments require changes in diet, lifestyle and habits for which you should be willing for the treatment to be a success… so finally, Ayurveda’s success depends on you, as a patient.
In Kerala, a tropical paradise in South India, where Ayurveda has been a way of life for thousands of years, a special ceremony is conducted for newborns. A pinch of a paste made of honey and the herb Acorus Calamus, known as Vayambu in Malayalam, is placed on the infant’s tongue. Acorus calamus, also known as Vacha and Sweet Flag, is believed to have both medicinal and divine properties. In fact, the very smell of its root which is the part used in healing, is said to be therapeutic! According to Ayurveda, illness- whether physical or mental- is caused by the imbalance of the three vital life forces in the body- Vata, Pitta and Kapha. So medicines derived from the rare herbs found in Nature are used not only to treat a particular disease but to restore complete harmony to the body. Sweet Flag is believed to be especially useful in treating those problems that have been caused by an imbalance of Vata and Kapha doshas .
Sweet Flag is a semi aquatic plant that is widely cultivated in Asia. It is generally found near lakes, ponds and streams and is up to 6 feet tall ,with aromatic, sword-shaped leaves, small, yellow- green flowers and a branched rhizome The leaves have a lemony scent and the roots have a sweet fragrance.
A Flag for Good Health
In Kerala, Sweet Flag is given to small children and young students as it is believed to have a positive effect on their mental development. It is also given to infants, in small quantities for relief from colic. The dried root of the plant is rubbed against a stone and the paste is obtained. A quarter teaspoon of this paste is mixed with honey and is given to the baby. It is believed to be good for regulation of body heat and helps in bowel movement. The mixture often used in cases of infant diarrhea as it soothes the stomach. Sweet Flag is believed to improve a child’s voice and enhance his or her intelligence too.
Sweet Flag is a very popular ingredient for the remedies of cough and cold and also other respiratory disorders like bronchitis. In a raw form it can be used as a cough lozenge. The dried root of Acorus Calamus can be chewed directly. Though it is bitter in taste, it has excellent medicinal properties. No matter how old the root is, its healing properties remain unaffected. Sweet Flag is a body coolant that provides aid to the digestive system. It acts against flatulent colic, dyspepsia, and vomiting.
In Ayurveda, Sweet Flag is used in formulations as brain tonic. The rhizome has sedative properties too, as it depresses the central nervous system, and so it is a well known ingredient in remedies that are used to treat psycho-somatic disorders like epilepsy. It is used in formulations for obesity control and skin disorders and to control blood pressure as well. The root of the Sweet Flag is one of the main components of a pill that is used for the treatment of Snake bites. External application of Sweet Flag helps to control inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis osteo-arthritis and paralysis The vapours from the roots of this herb repel insects as well as being an anodyne, aphrodisiac, a sedative, a stimulant- and Ayurveda’s green flag for the good overall good health of body and mind.
Flax seeds or linseeds as they are also known have been used in Ayurvedic preparations for ages, because of their therapeutic properties. They are the seeds of a plant that is grown all over the world, and that comes in many varieties. Oil is extracted from seeds, and fiber from the stems. The fiber is used to make thread and for linen cloth. The seeds are sweet and oily with a mild smell. According to Ayurveda these seeds have hot, pungent, heavy, purgative and strengthening properties.
Flaxseed has a nutty flavor and is used in bread and bakery products. The seeds from the flaxseed plant are also used to make linseed cakes and in liniments Generally speaking, though, linseed grown in hot climates is considered to be the best for medicinal purposes. In Kerala, a state in South India where the purest form of Ayurveda has been practiced for thousands of years, linseeds play a key role in several Ayurvedic protocols like Virechana which is medicated purgation therapy. Virechana cleanses the sweat glands, small intestine, colon, kidneys, stomach, liver and spleen. A number of effective and safe herbs, including Linseed, are used for this purpose.
Benefits of Flaxseed
Flaxseed oil is a potent source of essential fatty acids which the body cannot make on its own. Apart from having Omega-6 fatty acids in the form of linoleic acid – the same good fats that are present in most other edible vegetable oils- , flaxseed oil has Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alfa- linoleic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids offer protection against heart disease by getting to the membrane of body cells and acting as guards that admit only healthy substances and bar damaging ones. Thus flaxseed oil helps to lower bad cholesterol which causes heart disease, angina and high blood pressure.
The essential fatty acids present in flaxseeds also help in the transmission of nervous impulses. This makes flaxseed oil very useful for numbness and tingling as well as for preventing serious nerve ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Flaxseed oil also helps in speeding up the healing of skin lesions, and has proved very effective for everything from acne to psoriasis, to eczema and to sunburn. It promotes the health of hair and nails and contains substances called lignans, which have beneficial effect on the hormonal system of the body. .
Another important benefit is that flaxseeds contain phyto-oestrogens that can mimic the human sex hormone estrogen. In this capacity the oil is useful for infertility, impotence, menstrual cramps, endometriosis and menopausal problems. Crushed flaxseeds are an excellent source of fiber and absorb water 10 to 14 times their weight. As a result crushed flaxseeds are effective in cases of constipation. The crushed seeds have a bulking effect, reduce hunger in those trying to eat less and help in binding with and removing fats and cholesterol. The high fibre content also makes flaxseeds a good ingredient in foods that would control blood sugar.
Ayurvedic Home Remedies
There are many home remedies with flax seeds that are simple and effective. Take one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds mixed with 5 to 10 ounces of water to curb hunger between meals or as a therapy to reduce cholesterol or blood sugar. Ayurvedic physicians suggest a hot poultice of flaxseed oil to treat eczema and other skin complaints. For headaches, grind seeds in cold water and apply on forehead..This is also good for insect bites. For reddish eyes, grind seeds and apply pulp around the eyes. Linseeds ground with Isagbol and applied on painful joints can bring welcome relief while a poultice of linseed oil is helpful in cases of arthritis too. A word of caution though… linseed imparts a lot of heat and so in cases of prolonged use, it is best that it is used under the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician or ‘vaidya’.
Binoy was studying for his final year in engineering, when his parents noticed that he was becoming more and more prone to violent mood swings. For days he would be in high spirits, bubbling with energy, and then he would slow down and go to the other extreme, becoming lethargic, indifferent and depressed. In the beginning they attributed it to a teenager’s unpredictable behavior, but once it started affecting his studies and his relationships, they sought help. He was diagnosed as having a bipolar disorder also known as manic depression. It is an illness characterized by cyclical shifts in a in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. No particular cause has been found yet for bipolar disorder… people may be genetically disposed towards it. Factors like abnormal thyroid function, high levels of the stress hormone, and neurotransmitter imbalances, or lack of co-ordination between the right and left lobes may also cause this condition. In Binoy’s case, ‘mood stabilisers’ were prescribed, and they certainly helped to some degree. However, his parents wanted to try a holistic approach to the problem too, and decided to go for Ayurveda. They consulted one of the famed Ayurvedic physicians of Kerala, a state in South India, where Ayurveda has been a way of life for almost 5000 years.
The Ayurvedic Way
Traditional Ayurveda has no specific equivalent disease for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder written in the classical Ayurvedic texts. However, it offers a multitude of holistic tools and ways of approaching this disease that can restore health with herbal remedies and lifestyle changes. Fitting a set of symptoms into the diagnosis of a particular disease is not a prerequisite to treating it using Ayurvedic methods. According to the Binoy’s Ayurvedic physician, bipolar disorder is caused due to imbalances in the three fundamental biological qualities that govern the body -vata, pitta and kapha-as well as imbalances of the mental qualities that govern the mind- sattva, rajas and tamas. Generally speaking, the nature of bipolar disorder points to an underlying vata imbalance. In addition all patients suffering from bipolar disorder are likely to have low ‘ojas’ which can be defined as contentment, ability to cope, vitality and immunity.
The two main Ayurvedic treatments for managing bipolar disorder center on increasing ojas and reducing stress. The stronger a person’s ability to cope and withstand the things that cause us stress, the greater will be his or her ability to prevent wildly fluctuating moods. The help of Binoys family and friends was sought to identify situations that triggered stress in his case. In dealing with the doshas, vata must be balanced first. The main thing that helps both is to develop regular solid routines and stability. When the body is subject to irregularity, we will be prone to problems like indigestion and insomnia that put great stress on our bodies and reduce ojas.
The most important factor concerning meals is eating at regular times each day and also making sure not to go without eating. Foods that pacify vata are whole grains, cooked vegetables, green gram, fresh dairy, nuts and oils. The emphasis should be on sweet, sour and salty tastes, as well as warm, moist and heavy foods. Canned, frozen, old, processed, micro waved and rancid foods should be avoided. Coffee and other stimulants should be avoided too since they lead to more vata imbalance.
When treating bipolar disorder with herbal therapies, nervine tonics are the key to building stability and mental ojas. The remedies are personalized according to the constitution of the patient and the severity of the disease. Some generally good herb choices for tonics are ashwagandha, brahmi, shatavari, ginseng, shanka pushpi, nutmeg, skull cap, kappikacchu, haritaki and bhringaraj. Brahmi is a great choice for any mood state since it can both act as a mild stimulant and sedative depending on what mood state needs to be balanced. . All of these herbs should be taken with herbs that aid in their digestion and absorption. Since bipolar disorder is partially rooted in the nervous system, medicated ghees are an ideal medium for enabling these herbs to penetrate deeply into these tissues.
Yoga is also an important way to manage the disease. During a manic phase, it is advised to employ calming positions while energetic positions are for those who are in the depressive cycle. Proper breathing helps in controlling extreme mood swings too. In a depressive state, practice breathing sessions through the right nostril, while it helps to breathe through the left nostril during the manic phase. To sum up, Ayurveda is not a quick process and relies on the development of healthy routines and habits over a lifetime. It is therefore important for a patient already diagnosed as bipolar to continue with the treatments laid out by his or her existing physician. In fact, conventional western medicine can often provide the acute stability needed for the individual to work on developing Ayurveda’s long-term habits and routines. A year on an Ayurvedic treatment plan would be a reasonable minimal timeframe for a patient to follow before he or she should think of being weaned away from conventional medicines. The path is long and the journey is not easy… but for those who want total healing of mind, body and soul, Ayurveda can definitely help.