Eight year old Aswin came home from school one day with a slight fever. He complained of a headache and backache, and by the next day a small blister had appeared on his forehead. His mother at once suspected chicken pox, as many children in his class were already down with it. Chicken pox is a common childhood illness- and those who escape it when they are children often get it as adults. It is caused by a virus known as varicella zoster, and even after the illness passes, the virus can remain in the body and resurface years later as shingles.
Aswin’s mother knew that what he needed most was plenty of rest and fluids. She did not want to give him any drugs, because since chicken pox is a viral infection it would have to run its course anyway. So she opted for Ayurveda to manage the disease. The reason for her decision was that she had firsthand experience of the efficacy of this 5000 year old system of holistic healing, coming as she did from Kerala, the state in South India that is often referred to as the ‘home of Ayurveda’.
The Ayurvedic name for chicken pox is Laghu Masurika. Aswin’s mother consulted one of Kerala’s famed Ayurvedic physicians who explained to her that the blisters would increase with new ones appearing every day for a couple of days. They would spread to the scalp and limbs, and even the mouth and genitals. After a few days, the blisters would turn into scabs, which would gradually drop off. He warned her that Aswin might have quite high temperature. The blisters would turn very itchy, but should not be scratched as this might lead to infection. His advice was that Aswin should be kept at home until all the scabs had fallen off. Generally speaking, the disease would take between 10 and 15 days to run its course.
According to Ayurveda, a person suffering from chicken pox should avoid salt, chillies, ghee and heavily spiced food. Food should be light and easily digestible.
Neem leaves play a key role in Ayurvedic treatment for chicken pox. Aswin’s mother made a paste of Neem leaves and applied it to the blisters. She fanned him with Neem fronds and hung Neem fronds around his bed too. Neem has antiviral properties and hence combats the varicella zoster virus. It quickens the drying of the fluid in the blisters, and reduces the itchy and scratchy sensation that the chicken pox blisters cause. Bathing with Neem leaves is also one of the best home remedies that go in treating chicken pox as well as all the other skin disorders
Pure honey, applied on the blisters helped the healing process too. Aswin’s mother mixed ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water, and sponged him with it. This helped to decrease the itching and irritation. The water in which green peas had been cooked was also very effective in reducing itchiness.
Another popular Ayurvedic home remedy is to use oatmeal for bathing .Take two cups of oat meal and add it to two liters of water. Cook the mixture for around twenty minutes. Put this mixture in a cotton bag and allow it to float in a bucket until it turns the water turbid. Splash this water on the scabs. In Aswin’s case, Ayurvedic medicines like Swarnamakshika Bhasma, Eladyarishta, and Indukala vati with water were prescribed in dosages that were determined according to his constitution. Within 15 days, Aswin was back at school with just the faintest of scars …and his mother earnestly advised all her friends to stick with Ayurveda should their kids get chicken pox!