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Jala Rahasya: The Secret of Water in Ayurveda

“May waters filled with medicinal properties protect my body, so I may have the vision of the Sun!”
-Rig Veda, IX.9.7 (Author’s translation)

According to Ayurveda, the properties of water vary. Different types of water are thus useful for different people, disorders and times.

Unboiled water is said to take 3 hours to digest, boiled and cooled water 1.5 hours to digest and boiled water taken warm takes 48 minutes to digest according to the principles laid out in Ayurveda.

Drinking too much and over-hydrating suppresses the digestive fire and enzymes and hence can lead to disease. Especially drinking cold water can lead to various complications such as hiccups, gas, pains etc. and is thus also contraindicated in such cases (vata-rogas and kapha-rogas).

Warm and hot water helps alleviate these symptoms, especially when taken at night-time as it helps reduce the cooler properties of vata and kapha respectively.

The below isn’t at all a rigid nor exhaustive system, but one merely based on properties and generics alone, relative to jalapana (intake of water).

Note these seasons are based on the western four-season model outside of India, since India has a unique six seasons:

Vata Prakriti / old age / late autumn and early winter:

Warm water baths and warm water taken internally and warm milk with spices (ginger, cardamon etc.). For dryness, warm water taken with a little ghee is useful or castor oil with ginger at bed-time for constipation. Waters from the jungle-regions is better as it is agni-dipana or stimulating to the digestion, as well as water that has been reduced by 75% while boiling, which is good for vata.

Pitta Prakriti / middle-aged / summer, early autumn and men:

Luke-warm and cooler water baths and cool water, milk or coconut milk taken internally or aloe juices. Water that has been reduced by 50% by boiling is suitable for pitta as well.

Kapha Prakriti / young age / late winter, spring and women:

Warm to hot water baths and warm/hot water taken internally as well as honey (except when there are menorrhagia and pitta disorders / artavavahasrota rogas). Jungle-water can be taken as well for kapha. Spiced water can be taken here such as with pippali, dry ginger or trikatu formula to stimulate digestion and alleviate accumulation of phlegm. Water that has been boiled and reduced by 25% is suitable for kapha-types and disorders.

In addition:

Cold water on the face is useful for all types (except kapha) as also is not using excess hot /warm water on the head (especially vata and pitta types) as this causes excess sadhaka-pitta leading to premature balding, dry scalp, grey hairs etc.

*Geographical climates to be considered

*Women should alternate these according to hormonal changes and cycles also.

*Where there is ama or fevers, this also needs to be tweaked accordingly.

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Ritucharya (Seasonal Routines):

[EXCERPT from Up-coming book “Ayurvedic Wellness Tips”]

© Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham/Arogya Ayurvedic Health Ltd.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form, without direct permission from the author. Quotes may be used in research works, providing proper citations and references are given.

Ayurveda considers the effects of seasons on our lives, due to their constant changes due to exogenous effects, that can affect our daily metabolic functions, both physically and mentally.

We have discussed in the beginning, how Ayurveda correlates various times of the day and correlates them with the doshas and their aggravation. Likewise, as a part of the Ayurvedic circadian clock, Ayurveda also looks at various effects relative to seasons (ritu), which we will now discuss here, as an important topic, relative to the scope of this book.

As a part of its preventative medicine scince, Ayurveda thus looks at the effects of these seasons and the changes they have relaive to affecting us, as individuals.

According to the traditional six-season model in India, vata accumulates in the summer-time and aggravates in the early rainy-season; pitta accumulates in the rainy or monsoon season and aggravates in the autumn and kapha accumulates in pre-winter and aggravates in the spring.

Here, the six seasons are:

Vasanta
or Spring
Grishma or Summer
Varshaor Monsoon season
Sharada or Early autumn
Hemanta or Late autumn
Shishira or Winter

Today there are many that claim to use the classical six-season system of the classics of Ayurveda (introducing shishira or late-winter / cold season and varsha or rainy / monsoon season) and apply them to western and other environments. Yet, the reality is that that we cannot use the six-season model of Ayurveda as in India, as we don’t have six seasons! Moreover, the seasons also differ in the Northern and Southern hemisphere! In Australasia for example, we celebrate Christmas in the summer-time, not in the cool winter as in the Northern Hemisphere and hence the same regimens and times cannot be superimposed. India is also a tropical nation, whereas others are not and change accordingly.

Moreover, these differ as per nation as per specific climates and cycles also, especially in relation to the North and South pole, which Ayurveda understands well with desha (land or region)etc. which all of this also comes into.

The climates across the US alone can change quite dramatically, especially the South closer to the equator and the North which is closer to the North Pole! This reveals that different models are here required as seasons have different properties even in the North American continent, let alone between continents themselves and localised variations of weather patterns. Land-locked regions of the south are also different in the desert to those bordering coastlines etc.

Even ecologists today employ four-seasonal systems in temperate and sub-polar regions, but employ a six-season system for more temperate or tropical regions. Kerala for example has to be treated as a kind of “rainy season / monsoon” (varsha season) climate due to having the highest rainfall of India. Hence, such issues need to be addressed relative to these sciences, as such again doesn’t apply to the rest of the world – just as the consumption of turkey, chilies, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados etc. native to the Americas[1] is suitable for those habitually used to other foodstuffs in their diets for thousands of years (as Europeans) – whereas such are anti-doted with spices to aid in their digestions in the orient where they were introduced through trade in the past 400 years[2] – what is known as satmya or suitability in Ayurveda, as per cultural and social norms in dietary, lifestyle and other habits that are not always the same. Not all nations eat curries or spiced foods as India does for example and thus may not be able to handle the hotter, more pungent spices (such as Indian long pepper, ginger and garlic) traditionally used in South Asia.

Here we must remember that regions nearer the equator will have different kinds of seasonal effects to those nearer the poles, especially relative to summer and winter. India as a more tropical climate has its system centered more upon this system which differs from many other nations here and thus such properties must be assessed in a more unique manner – just as one should differentiate between predominating doshic factors in a patient, as also their vayas (age) in which doshic predominating factors are high, as also relative to their ethnicity also, as such variations exist. Smaller eyes for example are not always a sign of a vata person, just as a larger nose is not a sign of a kapha person when it comes to race. India possesses various racial types from Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Australoid and Negrito. We have to allow for differences here, just as we do for seasonal changes and changes in climatic factors and properties relative to them.

As such, the following four-season model is adapted to the west and such relative to Ayurveda. We must remember that Ayurveda considered such things as desha (location) and the effects of such regional changes, relative to how it assessed various things and gave such various properties accordingly. We know these by our own regions, once we have understood the gunas or properties of these.


[1] As per Ayurveda, these foods wouldn’t necessarily cause issues to people habitually suited to them, but may for others newly adopting them. Ayurveda often,as Indian cooking, uses spices to “anti-dote” these toxic effects of new foods and those we are unaccustomed to. 

Here, Charaka Samhita, Chikitsasthana, XXX.321-325 gives examples of, just as how the diets of Chinese, Europeans etc. doesn’t affect them, though sometimes contrary to disease, so sometimes like qualities of the doshas can alleviate them, as pitta deep within the tissues can be brought out by heat as in poultices or hot application and that excreta from a fly, though causing vomiting sensations, can also cure it (things which are normally contrary, but in certain cases help the disorder)!

[2] There is evidence to support the use of potatoes, chillies, maize, pumpkins etc. in India and Indian cooking in the pre-Columbian period.  Maize is seen on Hoysala and other sculptures in earlier times, as as early as 100AD (Sorenson, John L & Johannessen,  Carl  L: Scientific Evidence for Pre-Columbian Voyages Sino-Platinoc Papers,  Dept. of  East Asian Languages and Civilisations,  University of Pennsylvania, April 2004.).        Amaranth has also been culyivated since Indus-Valley times (source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/indus-valley-non-vegetarian-national-museum-6278349/).

Here, we know that India-America relations were possible in the earlier centuries AD, as also as early as the Ramayana and the Chola etc. Empires. Thus, it’s possible we used chilies much earlier!

According to the Asian Scientist magazine (June 1, 2018), sweet potatoes have have first been cultivated in India itself, and not the Americas as history tells us., due to fossils of leaves around 57 million years ago (Source: https://www.asianscientist.com/2018/06/in-the-lab/fossil-sweet-potatoes-asia-india/ ).


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The Importance of Ojas – Vitality

Ojas or vitality is a key concept in the ancient system of Ayurveda. Ojas is said to be our basic immunity, or immune system and vitality, described as a kind of “sap” in the body.

The ancient author, Charaka (1500BCE) noted (from earlier texts of his mentor, Sri Agnivesh), that ojas is either red (rakta – blood), white or yellowish in the body, and is in the heart. It is responsible for the vitiation or emaciation (kshaya) of the body and impairment of mental and sensory faculties. It is said to have the colour of ghee (clarified butter) and taste of honey (Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, XVII.73-75).

Ancient Ayurvedic texts also mention a disorder known as ojakshaya, in which the body starts to shut down, as a result of impairment to the immune-system, causing emaciation of all of the dhatus or bodily tissues, viz. plasma, marrow, blood, adipose, muscle, bone and the reproductive system. This disease is quite different from that of arbuda (cancers, malignant tumours) noted in the body, and appears to be not dissimilar to modern diseases we known, such as AIDS.

Overactive or hyperactive immune systems with inflammations etc. are described as pitta and ama (bile, and toxins) entering into the immune system (ojas), corrupting it and causing these flare-ups. Bile in the body in excess, caused by excess salt-intake, sour foods, alcohol etc. and pungent spices aggravates the small intestine and liver, causing an excess of bile, fevers etc., eventually leading to impairing the immune system. Imagine burning oil beyond its temperature threshold!

Ayurveda thus looked at preserving vitality or ojas in the body. There were many herbs, formulas and substances for this:


  1. The Formula Chyavanaprasha, which contains Amalaki (Elblica officinalis), the “Indian gooseberry”. Rich in Vit. C, this fruit is taken and prepared into this tasty, sweet paste with numerous other herbs. Amlaki is also useful relative to boosting collagen. This formula itself is named after the aged Seer, Chyavana, whose youth is said to have been restored by it, including his weathered skin, to new.

    Amla is also one of the three fruits in the recipe Triphala for eyes, skin and digestive health, and in itself, also helps to promote eyesight and hair.

    Hundreds of rasayanas or rejuvenation pastes or confections exist in Ayurveda for various purposes, including Brahma Rasayana, which contains more Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), than Amla. It is a rejuvenate herb in its own right, also, promoting ojas.

  2. Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia). One of the most immune-boosting herbs in Ayurveda, it is anti-pyretic, and also useful in cases such as HIV and Cancer to boost immunity of patients.

  3. Hira Bhasma (Diamond Ash) and Swarna Bhasma (Gold Ash). These might seem quite strange concoctions, however, the process of these goes back to the ancient iatrochemical system of rasa-shastra or alchemy in India. Parada or Mercury is also used, such as in the formula Makardhwaja, which is extremely useful for booting immunity, or ojas. These exotic, and expensive formulas are taken in extremely tiny dosages, under strict supervision of practitioners trained in their specific administration, along with specific diets for disorders from cancer, or debility or Parkinsonism.

  4. Shilajit / Mineral Pitch. The term “bitumen” originates originally from the Sanskrit “jatu”, meaning pitch. It was used as early as 3,000BCE in India to seal baths, sewers and drainpipes against leakage in the Indus-Saraswati civilisation (which also boasted sit-down toilets, separate bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms etc!). Shilajit comes from rocks in the Himalayas and is a great rejuvenate for the skin and hairs. It is also a rejuvenate for the uro-genital system, especially against diabetes (of which, Ayurveda recognises 20 different types – as also Type1 and Type2 for the first time).



    Other forms of dietary aids included the yogic-diet, consisting of wholegrains and also dairy, such as milks infused with cardamom, cloves etc. and sweetened, as well as nuts and fruits, said to help boost immunity.

    We can thus see the importance of boosting immunity in the body, especially against modern pandemics, and also general viruses and seasonal changes alone, that can disturb the natural rhythms in our bodies.

    Simple things such as taking in garlic cloves daily, can also assist with immunity, especially disorders such as fibromyalgia. Garlic cloves boiled in milk,. with a little sugar added, can also help keep disorders at bay and boost immunity on a daily basis!


    References:

    -Charaka Samhita
    -Sushruta Samhita
    -Ashtanga Hridayam
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Taking Care of Yourself Amidst COVID-19

PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS PURELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT SEEK TO TREAT, CURE OR PRESCRIBE, OR ACT AS AN ALTERNATIVE FOR ANY CONDITIONS, ESPECIALLY NOT COVID-19. ONE SHOULD ALWAYS SEEK PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE FROM THEIR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS SURROUNDING THE COVID-19 VIRUS AND COMPLICATIONS ARISING FROM SUCH.

THIS ARTICLE MERELY ADDRESSES SUCH BASED ON TRADITIONAL AYURVEDIC PRACTICES ALONE, AND AS NOTED, IS PURELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

Amidst the latest scare and also hysteria that has ensued, we must remember some things to keep us reasonably calm and level-headed, so as not to “freak out” and cause more issues for ourselves – and also others!

Anxiety:

It’s normal to be anxious, as a natural human response to any major calamity or epidemic. However, we mustn’t get too hysterical and remain calm as much as we can by stopping our minds and thinking rationally.

In certain situations, the best we can do is to remain careful about things, and take precautions, but remember the situation is such that it is out of our control, and we must develop a certain level of faith, either personally (philosophically) or in our world leaders to put steps in place to help us go forward and keep safe. Keep this in mind!

Secondly, food will not run out. There is no need to usher in Armageddon by impulse and stress-buying. Supermarkets have measures in place for deliveries and such, if need be, and the supply chains and factories remain open. Supermarket staff, merchandisers and reps of groceries and produce are currently in demand themselves and are working around the clock to keep the supply chains open. Yes, by all means “stock up”, but don’t become too hysterical due to the social anxiety out there and take every day as it comes; don’t become a doomsday prophet!

Whilst the news and advertising media can be useful, it is also naturally hyperbolic in nature and tends to cause more stress and anxiety, especially surrounding epidemics such as COVID-19. Look at how we, as humans, compare ourselves to the stereotypes on Television soap-operas and also advertisements relative to lifestyle, relationships, body-images etc. and also buy into consumerism as a result of such manipulation, for example. Now apply that to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus!

Simple herbs as Brahmi (Barcopa monnieri), Valerian and others can help with anxiety and also help us to reason things better – even the causes of our own anxiety. Ancient yogis used to drink a beverage of Brahmi leaves made into a tea, for enhancing mental faculties, especially discernment and reason – often in periods of social and political strife in ancient India, so as to better deal with these situations by looking at the whole.

The mindfulness method of STOP method also helps:

Stop and simply take a breather. Stop the mind for a second!

Take a few breaths. Here, slow, yogic breathing helps as well.

Observe any thoughts that come to mind and associated emotional responses. In yogic, this goes deeper with manasika-vichara or mental-questioning and origins of thoughts.

Proceed
 in another direction. Stop looking at or associating with triggers of our anxiety, especially the virus and do something more conducive, such as yoga, meditation, a walk or applying some of the techniques Ayurveda recommends to stay healthy. Be around positive people and recognise change – not hysteria!

DO NOT PANIC! Humanity has historically been a very resilient species and we’re still here, despite numerous world wars, plagues and other epidemics as the swine flu, SARS etc. and we’re still here!

Keeping Healthy:

The ancient system of Ayurveda tells us that two things cause diseases, primarily; low ojasa (immunity) and impaired agni (metabolism). When both are compromised, then disease manifests.

Ayurveda isn’t simply about a few simple herbs in villages, either. It has one of the world’s most ancient and advanced system of microbiology and surgery – from where many of our current techniques arose! Classical texts mention that wise-spread plagues and epidemics were primarily the result of corruption in society; visha-vayu (toxic air) here also referred to numerous airborne viruses and bacteria that was easily spread via air and also touch (sparsha – connected to the subtle element of air or vayu). Thus, if there is toxic air in society, viruses will spread via touch also, as with COVID-19, such as the ancients understood.

Cleanliness and good personal hygiene related to sparsha (touch, or air) is hence important. Many plagues broke out in Europe as a result of bad personal hygiene also – especially cleaning of the skin – and hands.

Indian culture has always advocated cleaning of the hands before and after meals to help prevent these issues.

Aloe-vera gel, neem powder and alcohol can make a good”home-made” sanitizer. Indian culture also believes that cow’s urine and dung also possesses these qualities, as well. I am neither stating one should be using these, or not relative to COVID-19 – I am simply stating what our ancestors have said!

Some basic tips, however:

1. Immunity Boost: Chyavanaprasha, the main ingredient which is the anti-oxidant and immunity-boosting Amalaki (Indian gooseberry), high in Vit. C has been used for both low immunity (ojasa) and also respiratory conditions for millennia.  This can be taken daily to help prevent issues relative to COVID-19. Again, whether or not it is 100% effective remains to be seen – but there it won’t do any harm and can, according to the classics, help develop immunity with many disorders and help with classic respiratory disorders as well.

The classic “Golden Milk” with turmeric and milk, as well as spices as cardamom and ginger is also said to be good for vitality.

Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is also useful as it helps boost our immunity, as also does Sheelajit, the ancient mineral pitch.

2. Metabolism: Boosting our metabolism means metabolism of all tissues in the body also, and proper enzymic function. The classic formula Trikatu (Indian long pepper, Black pepper and Ginger powder) is a classic for sluggish digestion – and also lung congestion and related issues, as also is Holy Basil or Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).

These help prevent disorders of the lungs and respiratory system. Ayurveda has a long-standing history of treating severe forms of TB (rajayakshma) as also pneumonia (swasanaka-jwara) by helping the lungs, as also with alchemical formulas.

To boost metabolism at home – a simple drink of warm lemon juice, ginger powder and black pepper powder can help. This also helps to dispel kapha or mucous which develops in the stomach and lungs and causes issues.

Viruses are seen as tamasika (darker and stagnant) in nature and hence need some rajas (agitation, movement or aggression) to be dealt with, returning to a state of ultimate health, or sattvas. Such spicier herbs combined with those that protect the lungs, immune system and help treat pneumonia are useful.

3. Oral Hygiene: Ayurveda tells us that we should always crape our tongue with a tongue-scraper and brush our teeth on a daily basis, as also chew mixtures of cardamom for fresh breath, and rub our gums with powders of cinnamon, clove, cardamom, rock-salt or triphala powders to keep gums healthy. These formulas, as also triphala also help with any bacteria and reduce excess bleeding and mucous; scraping the tongue also does this and improves metabolism.

As per the current climate, these are very minor measures but could be conducive towards helping with viruses as COVID-19, especially with sufferers and their compromised respiratory systems, so as they do not become too vulnerable to abcterial infections that complicate the virus they suffer from already.

These methods are simply all about trying to be healthy, and again, are not a replacement for professional advice or treatment, but simply what Ayurveda has recommended for thousands of years, as also methods of “preventative medicine”, Ayurveda is also known for – just as authorities are telling us relative to keeping hands clean, using hand sanitizer, wearing gloves and isolating ourselves at present.


Namah Shivaya!

-Durgadas


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