Much to the relief of thousands of Thalassemia patients, a team of researchers in India have found that the active ingredients in ‘Wheatgrass’ can actually help drain-out excess iron from the system of ‘Thalassaemia’ and ‘Leukaemia’ patients. This has been confirmed after a successful animal trial, now being put through human trial, and is likely to be turned into a drug soon for treatment purposes.
The study, published in the science journal ‘Nature’, was actually conducted by researchers from Netaji Subhas Cancer Research Institute (NSCRI), the National Research Institute for Ayurvedic Drug Development (NRIADD) and NRS Medical College.
According to NSCRI Director, Ashish Mukhopadhyay, a member of the research team, the ingredients promise to reduce frequency of transfusions. The transfusions are generally expensive, and are usually used to expand the lifespan of thalassemia patients, whose lifespan is a maximum of 20 years.
Animal trials have proved that the ingredients are non-toxic. Wheatgrass is readily available and have no side-effects, researchers said.
According to experts, this could be a major step in thalassemia treatment, and would be ‘godsend’ to several patients who survive on transfusion.
Scientists from NRS Medical College, NSCRI and NRIADD got together in 2006 to analyse the properties of wheat grass. After a study of the juice, they identified a compound that absorbed iron. The team further examined the compound, and the results were all positive.
The wheat plants to be used for the purpose need to be eight to ten days old. It is far cheaper and will benefit thalassemia patients who have had to discontinue treatment due to cost factors, said a researcher.
This herbal remedy not only reduces the iron deposits in organs, but will also cut down on cost of treatment. The drug can be administered without pain and will allow patients to lead a more hassle-free life. The deposits left behind by the transfusion damages vital organs like liver, lungs, spleen and heart.
A paper on this work has also been published in the European Journal of Medicinal Plants.
Thalassemia is a group of inherited blood disorders that affect the body’s ability to produce haemoglobin and red blood cells. Patients with this condition have lower-than-normal number of red blood cells in their bodies and little haemoglobin. The bone marrow of Thalassemia patients, do not produce enough haemoglobin or red blood cells, leading to anaemia and fatigue, leaving the body organs short of oxygen. In severe cases, there may be organ damage resulting in fatality. In patients with severe forms of the disease, regular blood transfusions may be necessary. For people with very mild thalassemia, transfusions are not required, but, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise cannot be ruled out.
Thalassemia and Ayurveda
Ayurvedic medicines are prescribed cautiously, as majority of the patients diagnosed with this illness are children, and the dosage of the drugs need to be adjusted carefully and should not be administered without consulting an Ayurvedic physican.
Some of the drugs used for curing thalassemia are Abhrak-Bhasma, Suvarna-Sutshekhar-Ras, Suvarna-Bhasma, all of which are taken in combination of other herbal medicines such as Punarnavadi-Qadha, Daadimadi-Ghrut, Arogya-Vardhini, Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu, Amalaki, Hartaki (Terminalia chebula), Marich, Pippali (Piper longum), Laxa (Purified wax), Kumari (Aloe vera) and Manuka (Vitis vinifera).
To improve formation of blood in the body, herbal medicines such as Manjistha, Haridra, Daruharidra, Nimba, Bhrungraj, Tulsi are prescribed.
Other diseases successfully treated with Wheatgrass juice
Several diseases can be successfully treated by regularly drinking wheatgrass juice. Wheatgrass is used in treating arthritis, psoriasis, premature greying, general weakness, falling of hair, kidney stones, debility, weak eyesight, abdominal pain, constipation, asthma and insomnia.
Several physicians have confirmed the miraculous effectiveness of wheatgrass therapy, and have referred to Wheatgrass chlorophyll as ‘New Age Food’, capable of alleviating several sicknesses in humans.
Vitiligo, also known as Leucoderma is a non-infectious skin disorder, which literally means white skin. Medical statistics have shown that this is a common condition across the world, affecting children and adults alike.
The disorder starts as a small white or pale coloured patch on the skin, which grows into larger patch in course of time. Although the exact cause of this condition cannot be pointed out, it could be due to failure to sustain melanin in the skin, wherein, the white blood cells, instead of protecting the pigment cells, destroy it, leading to pale or white skin.
Ayurvedic texts refer to this condition as ‘Swithra Roga’ or ‘Shveta Kusth’. Ayurveda considers Vitiligo to be also caused due to factors such as improper hygiene, wrong food combination, excess exposure to chemicals/insecticide, history of jaundice/typhoid, misuse of detoxification therapies, suppression of natural urges, excessive exposure to heat, stress and trauma, intake of fatty and spicy food, and hereditary factors.
The common affected areas are face, hand, feet, groins, axilla and trunk, although any part of the body may be affected too. Generally, the areas which are subjected to friction and trauma are involved, and any damage to skin would leave a white de-pigmented scar. The lesions of vitiligo are usually painless, but, remain sensory, unlike Leprosy. Vitiligo is otherwise a harmless disease, except for the cosmetic defects.
Ayurvedic treatment methods
Treatment can help in achieving re-pigmentation, and its spread can be arrested, provided, the patient follows appropriate treatment for requisite period. Ayurveda adopts three kinds of therapy for Vitiligo, based on health condition and age of the patient:
- Pacification therapy (use of herbs and mineral medications).
- Detoxification therapy (involves two-fold purification therapies like purgation and Leech therapy).
- Nasal Drops (involves administration of medicated oil through nose to cleanse accumulated toxins)
- External applications (smaller patches are usually treated with herbal powder or oil applications…usually for children below the age of 7).
Some of the single and compound herbal combinations for Vitiligo used in Ayurveda, such as Acacia catechu bark extract,Bakuchi / Vakuchi (used as internal medication / external application) are all well documented by scientific research. These herbal medications act on melanoblasic cells and successfully stimulate it.
Ayurveda uses photo-sensitizing drugs and herbo-mineral drugs to treat Vitiligo. Certain drugs made with Bavichi, Marking nut and Kakodumbar, are used locally as well as systematically on exposure to sun. It is advised to avoid sun exposure for at least three hours after drug administration. As for blood purifiers, Haridra, Bhringaraj, Guduchi, Sariva, Apamarga and Khadir are used.
The Herbo Mineral Drugs include Ras Manikya, Taal Sindur, Sameer Pannag Ras and Talkeshwar Ras, which act as immune suppressant used in patients where disease spread at a fast rate. Generally, medicines like Khashish bhasm, Tamra bhasma and Subhra bhasm are used to re-induce regimentation.
Not all patients suffering with Vitiligo are treated with same medicines. There are different types of Vitiligo and their nature, are different. However, some common medicines based on ancient Ayurvedic formulae are Gandhak Rasaya, Kishore Guggulu, Somraj Ghrita etc.
Purified Psoralea-corylifolia, Bhringraj leaves extract, Hartal, Ghungchi root, Mainsil, Sandalwood oil, Root of Chitrak, and Somraj oil are used for external application.
Bark of Margosa tree, Dhanvantari, abstract of Amrita, Punarnava, Ashwagandha, Dhanvantari, Purified Somraj are all used as internal medicine.
- Application of 5 teaspoons of turmeric power in 250 ml of mustard oil on the white patches of skin, twice a day, usually advised for a period of 12 to 15 months.
- Soak tamarind seeds and Bakuchi seeds in water, grind into a paste and apply on the patches.
- Bakuchi seed powder can be mixed with coconut oil and used for external application.
- Ginger juice with red clay may be used for external application.
- Application of sweet basil leaves extract with lemon juice advised for 5 to 6 months.
Ayurveda is effective in treatment of Vitiligo, but long time medications and treatment may be required for results. Along with medicine, prescribed diet and stress-free lifestyle play a vital role too. Remarkable re-pigmentation can be achieved in every patient, and its spread can be arrested if appropriate treatment is followed for prescribed duration.
Eye diseases are on the rise these days, with prolonged work on computers, poor eating habits, long and frequent travel, and inadequate hours of sleep. Eye disorders may also be due to prolonged television viewing or continued reading of small print, inappropriate head position when sleeping or even heavy sneezing. It has been reported that increasing number of people are turning to Ayurveda to resolve eye problems.
Doctors at Sreedhareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital and Research Centre, Kochi, have asserted that the ancient Indian system of medicine can easily cure several eye diseases without surgery.
Kerala has been drawing in thousands of Indian and foreign tourists each year, who visit in search of ayurvedic treatment, but only few beyond Kerala are aware about the role of Ayurveda in the field of Ophthalmology.
The Chief Physician and Managing Director of Sreedhareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital, Dr. N.P.P Namboothiri says that early detection of eye ailments help in faster and better recovery, and when treated early, Ayurveda strengthens the nervous system and prevents degeneration of the optic nerve.
Even complicated and rare eye diseases which affect the optic nerve and retina, which can lead to blindness, are being treated with great success through Ayurveda. Ayurvedic remedies treat eye diseases in a holistic way, taking into account the health profile of a patient.
Among the major eye diseases treated at Sreedhareeyam are diabetic retinopathy, cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration and detachment of retina.
Ayurvedic ophthalmology has achieved great progress, particularly in treating diseases like diabetic retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa. There is a steady flow of patients seeking cure for these two ailments, and rising healthcare costs have also prompted people to turn to alternate systems of medicine, says Dr. Namboothiri.
The brand of Ayurveda that deals with all ailments above the neck is called ‘Shalakya Tantra’. Ayurvedic texts describe 76 eye diseases.
The main traditional treatment procedures used for eye diseases in ayurvedic centres are Njavarakizhi, Dhara, Pizhichil, Steam Kizhi, Netrasekam, Tharpanam, Aschotanam, Anjanam, Putapakam, Vitalakam, Pindi and Prathisaranam.
Today all leading ayurvedic ophthalmology centres have eye drops and capsules that retain all values of traditional medicinal formulas.
There are also some para-surgical procedures that are used in ayurvedic ophthalmology, such as lekhanam, Jalakavacharanam, Kharakarmam, and Agnikarmam. These procedures are less complicated, with minimum preparation and after-care required, and produces maximum level of result.
Researchers at India’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) have made a dramatic discovery about the effectiveness of ancient Ayurvedic practices in treatment of anxiety disorders.
Ayurveda has been found to be more effective than one of the most popular conventional treatments, and has been able to provide relief without side-effects.
The study tested 72 patients who had been diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety disorders for seven or more years, and researchers analyzed their anxiety using Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS).
One group received a standard daily dose of Clonazepam (Klonopin), while the second group received 200mg of ‘Manasamitra Vataka’, an herbal Ayurvedic remedy. The third group was given ‘Manasamitra Vataka’ and ‘Shirodhara therapy’, wherein the forehead is treated with warm Brahmi oil. All three treatment regimens were given for 30 days.
The Clonazepam group saw 67 percent better disposition after the 30-day period, while the Manasamitra Vataka group experienced 73% improvement. However, the third group which received Shirodhara therapy along with Manasamitra Vataka, experienced 91% improvement in symptoms.
The thirty day treatment with Manasamitra Vataka reduced anxiety, severity of the disease and offered better quality of life and improved clinical profile. Also, use of Shirodhara as an add-on therapy decreased daytime sleepiness and improved quality of life in patients.
Manasamitra Vataka is an ancient complex Ayurvedic formula comprising 73 natural ingredients and herbal extracts.
Several of the herbs in Manasamitra Vataka, including Tulsi (tulasidala or the Holy Basil) have the ability to calm and soothe the nerves. For instance, in a clinical trial involving 35 subjects diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, it was found that Tulsi considerably reduced anxiety when 30 days and 60 days of treatment were given with 500mgm of Tulsi twice a day. The researchers are therefore of the opinion that Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) may also be useful in treating General Anxiety Disorder in humans, and may be a promising anxiolytic agent in future.
Anxiety disorders could also be due to high stress levels. Stress and fatigue are two main factors affecting the modern-age population. This could be due to various factors including erratic work hours, taxing environment, lack of sleep etc. However, the ancient practice of yoga, meditation and an ayurvedic lifestyle can help de-stress in an effective manner.
The word ‘Kapha’ or ‘Shleshama’ means that which is adhesive, tenacious or sticky, or something that generates through water.
In Ayurveda, too much Kapha is said to cause mucuos build-up in sinus and nasal passages, in the lungs and colon. Emotionally, it creates rigidity, fixation of thought, and inflexibility. On the other hand, insufficient kapha leads to a dry respiratory tract, burning stomach and lack of concentration.
Symptoms of vitiated kapha:
Generally, excess Kapha surfaces due to factors such as excess intake of fat, cold, heavy, and sweet food. Some symptoms of vitiated kapha are, fullness of stomach, yawning, indolence, excessive sleep, feeling of heaviness in body parts, general malaise, excessive salivation, loss of strength or energy, accumulation of cough in chest or heart, atherosclerosis, obesity, goitre, poor digestion, boils, thick white tongue coat, sluggish bowel movements, complacent or stubborn in character.
Classification of Kapha:
Different types of kapha are Kaledan, Avalamban, Rasan or Bodhak, Snehan or Tarpak, and Shleshak.
Recommended diet when kapha is predominant:
Some foods generally helpful in reducing kapha dosha are: ginger, bittergourd, amla, mango, carrots, dates, watermelon, pomegranate, maize, puffed rice, honey, lemon, drumstick, turmeric, asafoetida, Indian marrow, and chick-peas. All bitter, dry articles, astringent, maize, barley, old rice, peanut, green gram, praval, gular, mustard, banana flower, ginger, piper longum, betel, are also good.
Foods with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes are best suited for reducing kapha. Avoid sweet, sour and salty food. Light, dry and warm foods are preferred by people with kapha constitution, and certain heating spices are recommended such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin and ginger. Have plenty of vegetables, but, have only minimal amount of oil or ghee in your daily diet.
Food to avoid when kapha is vitiated:
All sweet objects, fats, new rice, black gram, fish, meat, sugarcane, milk and milk products, coconut water, kathal, dates, coconut water, ice or cold items, excessive eating are all prohibited.
Note: However, when applying a particular diet, it has to be taken care that the patient’s already existing health problem, if any, does not get aggravated or complicated. Hence it is important to discuss frankly with the physician about the health condition of the patient before starting the diet.
Few other lifestyle tips for reducing Kapha:
- Stick to an energetic routine and avoid stagnation.
- Stimulate your body and mind on a daily basis.
- Indulge in 10-20 minute self-massage daily with warm sesame oil before bath.
- Avoid leading a sedentary life. Take up exercise routines like hiking, jogging, biking, and other forms of yoga or martial arts or other challenging forms of exercise minimum five times a week.
- Avoid heavy breakfast before 9 am, and stick to light meal in the evening.
- Have regular baths and sauna to promote sweating.
- Keep yourself warm and dry irrespective of the weather and make time for relaxation by including meditation, music, and yoga in your daily routine.
In Ayurvedic philosophy, the five elements, namely – earth, water, fire, air and ether, combine together to form three dynamic forces called ‘doshas’. The term ‘dosha’ refers to ‘that which changes’. This is because the doshas are always moving in dynamic balance with each other. Doshas are the primary life forces or humours, and their dynamism is what makes life happen.
The three doshas are – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Here we take a look at the general characteristics of ‘Vata’ predominant constitution individuals, and the type of food and life they should lead.
‘Vata’ is a force made up of the elements ether and air. The proportions of ether (space) and air determine how active vata is. The amount of ether (space) affects the ability of air to gain momentum, and expresses itself in the individual of vata constitution. Vata manifests itself in an individual as the movement of nerve impulses, air, blood, food, waste and thoughts.
The six characteristics of vata are – cold, light, irregular, dry, mobile and rough. These qualities have their effect on the body. Too much of vata force can result in nerve irritation, high blood pressure, flatulence and confusion. Generally dry climates or cold autumn wind increases vata.
Generally, an individual with vata constitution may have the following characteristic or appearance, although it need not be true in all cases. A Vata-type person is either unusually tall or short, thin, has prominent joints, long tapering fingers and toes, gains weight around the middle, is of dark complexion with scanty body hair, small forehead, small active eyes, has dry skin and hair, dislikes dryness and cold, has dry tongue, tendency to develop nervous disorders if ill, has short concentration span, tends to forget quickly, dislikes routine, anxious, and feelings and emotions change quickly.
Food/Diet for vata types:
Ayurveda suggests different types of food, when a specific dosha predominates. The food to be taken/avoided by Vata types are:
Recommended: All sweet and sweeteners are good for pacifying vata, bitter things, oil, rice, black and green pulses, milk, curd, ghee, wine, sugar, garlic, amla, pomegranate, betel, currants, meat, fish, wheat, oranges, bananas, grapes, cherries, peaches, plums, mango, papayas, cucumbers, asparagus, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, mustard seeds, black pepper and sweet potatoes.
Prohibited: Barley, corn, rye, buckwheat, black gram, peanuts, leafy vegetables, dry food, bitter gourd, lotus root, reduce intake of all beans, except tofu and moong dhal.
Symptoms of vitiated Vata:
Various disorders of human body are attributed to each individual’s humour and an expert physician can determine as to which constitution the patient falls under, after examining the individual’s appearance and feeling the pulse. The expert can find out which of the dosha’s have been vitiated.
General ailments caused by vitiation of vata are:- Brittle nails, pain in feet, numbness and immobility of hands and feet, stiffness in heels, toes, cracking of knee, stiff thighs, pain in pubic region, backache, rapid pulsation, pain due to concussion of chest and lungs, headache, paralysis, vertigo, insomnia, etc., to name a few.
All these pains and aches in the body are caused by vitiated vata, and these are symptoms of air vitiation.
For reducing Vata dosha:
Consume warm foods and drinks, foods with predominantly sweet, sour or salty tastes. Have a good oil massage for body with sesame and essential oils. Avoid excess exposure to cold wind, excess travel, dampness, television, radio, movies, and excess talking. Practice yoga regularly, which helps in calming you down. The exercise adopted should be non-vigorous and non-exhaustive, like brisk walking or swimming. Have fibre-rich diet, and natural laxatives such as flax seeds and psyllium. Strictly avoid cold food and drinks. Have small frequent meals. Ensure that you go to bed before 10pm. Warm and moist climates suit Vata types the best. If living in cold weather conditions, take care to protect head, neck and chest, and to keep yourself warm.
The meaning of Pitta cannot be confined only to ‘bile’, which is, in fact the heat, generated or caused by sun or fire. Bile/heat enables a person to see discern colours, feel impact of heat, experience valiance, joy, anger, power and intelligence. Bile is the hot liquid, bitter, yellow or blue, acidic, pungent, and is present in noble leanings.
Vitiated bile causes indigestion, inability to perceive abnormal range of body heat, unnatural fear, anger, involved affection, lacks glamour, non-absorption of massaged oil by body and lack of nobility.
Symptoms of imbalanced pitta
As for symptoms caused by vitiated bile, you may experience symptoms such as all-over swelling with sweat, burning of single body part or all parts/sense organs, heat and inflammation, burning in hands and feet, externally cold but internally heat body, foul odour from arm-pit, falling and decay of skin, red spots or eruption on skin, yellow taint of body, jaundice, pungent taste of mouth, foul smell from mouth, no satiation from food intake, swelling of mouth, eyes, throat, anus, rectum, penis, discharge of pure and potent blood, yellow taint of faeces, eyes, urine, nails etc.
Classification of Pitta:
Ayurveda classifies types of Pitta as ‘Pachak Pitta’, ‘Ranjak Pitta’, ‘Sadhak Pitta’, ‘Alochak Pitta’ and ‘Bhrajak Pitta’.
Recommended Diet when bile is vitiated:
All pungent, sweet and cold food items, barley, wheat, rice, oats, green gram, ghee, milk, coconut water, cold water, banana, currants, dates, orange, grapes, pomegranate, parval, amla, use of cold applications like sandal paste when bathing, fragrant creepers, broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom, coconut, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, soy, fruit and vegetable juices, milk and water.
Food to avoid when bile is vitiated:
Anything bitter, hot, acidic, garlic, lentil, kulthi, potato, liquor, wine, dry ginger, tamarind, pepper, curd, fish, ghee, carbonated drinks, caffeine, alcohol, almonds, peanuts, sesame, oil, excess oil, acidic, spicy, sour, oily foods, yogurt, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye, buttermilk etc should be avoided.
For reducing vitiated bile / pitta dosha:
Ayurveda offers several tips to help balance pitta, allowing you to stay calm and cool through the summer months. Establishing a regular routine, including going to bed before 10pm, eating meals at regular times, and daily oil massage with coconut oil can help balance the body.
Some additional tips are:
- Cool foods and drinks are best suited for reducing pitta. Avoid food with pungent, sour and salty tastes. Massaging scalp with coconut oil serves as coolant for body.
- Do regular liver flushes – make juice of 1 lemon, 1tbsp olive oil, 1 small diced apple or other fruit, blend and drink instead of breakfast. (Vata and kapha body types can add ginger, garlic and cayenne).
- Avoid restricted food whenever possible. Avoid excessive sauna, sunbathing and hot tub bathing.
- Take breaks, meditate or relax to quell reactive emotions of high stress situations.
- Avoid excess exposure to chemical or fumes.
- Limit sunbathing and try moon-bathing, as the cool light helps balance pitta.
- As for yoga practice, try forward bends such as Uttanasana, moon salutations, spinal twist etc., under expert guidance.
- Meditation is a good way to channel naturally sharp focus of pitta.
Latest studies have once again proven that regular consumption of apples can effectively lower cholesterol and keep cardiovascular diseases at bay. Eating at least an apple a day is said to help adults over 50 years of age, to live longer.
The study by Oxford University, UK, claims that prescribing apples to everyone over 30 years of age is associated with 30 percent reduction in vascular deaths. The study shows that apples can be as effective as drugs in preventing heart diseases and stroke.
What does Ayurveda say?
While the age old saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” holds good even now, Ayurveda emphasizes that it is the ‘cooked’ apple that keeps the doctor away, as raw apples can be cold and drying and may not digest as easily, particularly if un-skinned. Cooked apples are warm, soft, and like soups, digest easily.
Applesauce may taste sour, but, the taste increases saliva and stimulates digestive tract, cleanses liver, and cools the blood by drawing bile out of the body into the small intestine.
Apples, with its comparatively low glycemic index and calorie count, can also be consumed by diabetics in moderate quantities. The high fibre content bulks up stool for an easy elimination, cleansing the colon.
Apples are good for people with pitta and kapha constitution, but, may be too drying for vata, unless it is well cooked and spiced. Although raw apples stimulate Vata, it relieves constipation, bleeding gums and excess salivation.
Apple remedies in Ayurveda
In Ayurvedic healing, apples are also used as medicine. For instance, to stop dysentery and diarrhoea, peel and cook apples until soft. Add a pinch of nutmeg, saffron and a teaspoon of ghee, and consume.
Ayurveda suggests chewing apple an hour after meal, to regularize bowels, and clean teeth and tongue.
Apple juice is particularly helpful for burning sensations in Pitta conditions such as Colitis, gastritis, and bladder infections.
Beginning the day with a stewed apple, helps build appetite for lunch, stimulates regular bowel movement, increases vitality and offers a light satisfying start to the day.
To prepare apple juice, blend the apple and extract the juice. Add about 30ml of honey (for 1 fruit) and add desired quantity of water and stir.
Apple juice, when consumed with honey, cures conditions such as gout, anaemia, skin diseases, digestive disorders, obesity, dental problems, cold, asthma and relieves stress.
Apple juice also helps nerve and brain tonic, regulates menstruation, stops excessive bleeding, is a rejuvenator (Rasayanam), and is an aphrodisiac (Vajikaram).
Healthy Ayurvedic dessert with apple
Apples also make an excellent winter dessert. The Ayurvedic preparation method suggests dicing one whole fresh sweet apple (cored and peeled). Add the diced apples, 5 whole cloves and quarter cup of purified water in a covered pot and cook apples until they are soft. Discard the cloves, cool slightly and enjoy. This preparation also boosts immunity and enhances energy during winter.