Skin is the biggest organ of the human body, constituting of seven layers. Unlike what many of us think, skin is not merely peripheral, but stretches itself to deeper levels in the body. Hence, Ayurveda believes that skin diseases have deep-rooted causes. Most skin diseases are rooted deeply into various tissues, and ‘dhatus’ like fat, blood, muscles etc.
July and August, the monsoon months, or ‘varsha ritu’ as mentioned in Ayurveda, is the time for aggravation of pitta. All the heat generated by ‘Greeshma ritu’ (Summer season) gets aggravated in the monsoon season, and hence several skin diseases are prevalent during this time. Knowledge of Ayurveda can help in prevention and treatment of these painful skin disorders.
Although topical application of oils and creams help in disappearance of symptoms temporarily, they do not reach deeper layers of skin. However, Ayurvedic treatments are not merely ‘skin deep’, and rather goes into roots of the problem. Ayurveda believes that skin diseases are caused through aggravation in pita and vata, due to some external influences or due to imbalances in internal system.
Common skin diseases and its characteristics:
Some major skin diseases are: Itching, Erythroderma, Psoriasis, Urticaria, Eczema, Blisters, Angioedema, Metastatic skin cancer, Widespread blistering, Photosensitivity, Acne, Scabies, Pressure sore, and Vitiligo.
Itching (Pruritus) – provokes a desire to scratch, sometimes accompanied by a scaly rash, and is a common symptom of primary skin diseases and underlying medical disorders.
Erythroderma – Eczema, drug eruptions, psoriasis, lichen planus may all rarely progress to erythroderma, which presents itself with or without scaling on all of the body surface.
Urticaria – This is also known as Nettle Rash or Hives, characterized by itchy or burning swellings, occurring throughout or anywhere in the body and lasting less than 24 hours.
Photosensitivity – Sunlight is the main cause of several skin diseases, due to exposure from UV radiation and visible light. Face, particularly nose and cheeks or area under the chin, hands, are usually light-exposed sites subjected to photosensitivity.
Eczema – Presents itself with symptoms like redness and swelling, ill-defined margin and papules, blisters, vesicles, cracking or scaling.
Psoriasis – is a non-infectious inflammatory disease of skin, presenting with defined erythematous plaques with large adherent silvery scales. It is believed to be due to excessive division of cells in basal layers, and is well-treated in Ayurveda.
Vitiligo (Leucorderma) – This disorder is due to little or no melanin in the skin, and is an acquired condition, with depigmented patches developing often in the wrists, knees, neck and around the body orficies.
Psoriasis is believed to be due to emotional stress that poisons internal system, manifesting in the form of rashes and skin problems in the body’s surface. Ayurveda believes that Urticaria is largely caused by allergies, whether external or internal, while Eczema is caused by major aggravation in kapha, which coincides with more minor unsettlements in vata and pitta.
Ayurveda also believes that wrong diet and lifestyle are two main causes of skin diseases. For instance, following a diet or lifestyle that is against the season or nature of a person, results in creation of imbalances in bodily energies, thereby contaminating body tissues resulting in skin disease.
Although, skin diseases are caused due to imbalances of the doshas, the prime dosha involved here is Pitta, which symbolizes heat or fire. Apart from that, allergies, over-exposure to hot conditions, mental stress, genetic disorders and fatigue are also common. Diabetes is also a major cause for skin disorders, as the excess sugar in the body is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which multiply rapidly using the skin cells.
Treatment and Remedies
Removing the root cause of the disease is the main line of treatment in Ayurveda. As stress and mental fatigue are major factors in development of skin disease, you should avoid them. So, simple things like maintaining a regular sleep pattern can work wonders in this regard. Yoga, meditation and other breathing exercises can keep the body steady and allow a sense of stillness and of being in-tune with nature.
Avoiding all foods and activities that increase pitta is a major treatment. Visiting an Ayurvedic physician can help you in this case, as the doctor can advise you a proper toxin elimination diet suitable for your constitution. Ayurveda believes that following a diet that is against the season or prakriti can cause imbalance in bodily energies, thereby contaminating body tissues resulting in skin disease.
Since skin diseases are primarily believed to be cause due to pitta aggravation, all foods or activities that increase the fire element in the body should be eliminated. These include all hot, spicy, oil, fried and greasy foods. Acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, yogurt and vinegar also should be avoided. Also avoid excess exposure to Sun, drinking too much coffee and tea, alcohol and use of tobacco, all of which can aggravate pitta.
Some ayurvedic home remedies suggested for skin problems are:
- Mix equal quantities of Amla, turmeric, and neem leaves. A teaspoonful of this powder can be taken twice daily with water. If Amla and neem are not available, turmeric powder can be used in the dosage of half-a-teaspoon twice a day with water.
- Boil neem leaves in water and wash the affected area with this water. Do not use normal soap if you are suffering from skin eruptions.
- Add 5gms of powdered camphor to 100ml of coconut oil and store in a glass bottle. Place the bottle in sunlight for two hours, and apply this mixture on the affected area.
- Take soft or mild laxatives to clear the bowels, as this is beneficial in treatment of skin diseases. For this, take a teaspoonful of Triphala powder at bed time every night with warm water or milk. Else, have natural laxatives like raisins, figs and prunes.
- Applying fresh juice of apricot leaves on affected parts of the body, gives relief in cases of eczema and scabies.
- Wheat grass juice is an excellent skin tonic and is considered beneficial in treating skin diseases as it boosts immune system to fight the disease.
- Aloevera is beneficial for skin diseases as it purifies blood.
More Ayurvedic tips:
- To keep your skin healthy during monsoon (when skin diseases are most prevalent), avoid spicy, oily and sour foods, as these aggravate pitta, which is primarily responsible for skin breakouts and eruptions.