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Ayurveda as an alternative medical solution to allergies

Dr Lipsa Shah
Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Allergies are one of the most common medical problems facing people across the globe. An allergy is an abnormal reaction of the human body’s immune system to specific substances such as food, pollen, fur, dust, dampness and odours, among others. Allergies, if not treated in time, can lead to chronic conditions like asthma or irritable bowel syndrome. Allergies can surface in a few minutes or within the hour. Symptoms of allergies vary between individuals and the amount of allergens needed to trigger a reaction also varies. The severity of the allergy is dependent on the allergens and the individual at large.

Ayurveda focusses on holistic healing and treats the root cause of a disease rather than its symptoms. The word 'Ayurveda' comes from the Sanskrit word 'ayur' meaning 'life' and 'veda' meaning 'to know'. Hence, Ayurveda loosely translates to 'the science of life' and thus offers measures for healthy living through the entire span of one's life. The use of well-balanced combinations of plants, herbs and other natural ingredients, is fundamental to Ayurveda. Among its host of treatments, Ayurveda also offers varied solutions for many allergies, with no side-effect and long-lasting effects, and improved immunity. Let’s delve further into the world of Ayurveda to understand what it says about healing allergies.
 
According to Ayurveda, allergies are generally caused by two factors:

Hereditary: The tendency of developing a particular allergy can be genetically transmitted. If both parents are allergic to a certain substance, then it increases the likelihood of the child developing the allergy, either at infancy or at a later stage in life.

Seasonal/Climatic Changes: Certain changes in the weather can lead to the development of allergies. Such factors cannot be controlled and require immediate treatment.

Most allergies generally affect three physiological systems such as  Respiratory system; Digestive system and Skin.

In case of an individual being allergic to a particular food or smell – it is considered an easier option to avoid the food and smell and in-turn the allergy. As obvious as it may seem, avoiding exposure to a particular allergen can give your body a much needed rest from the over-active immune response at the root of your allergy. If an individual is allergic to pollen, it is advisable to stay away from certain flowers for a while. If you’re allergic to cat dander, try to avoid all contact with felines. It is also advisable to wear clothing that is hypo-allergenic. Look out for fibres that are organic and chemical-free. If possible, avoid contact with synthetic fibres like polyester or rayon. However, if the allergy is seasonal or climatic in nature, it becomes difficult to control it without a treatment.
Ayurveda follows a simple principle for seasonal allergies - detoxify your body at the end of each season. This is based on the impact the weather and environment will have on your body during a particular season which creates certain imbalances, in turn causing the body to accumulate Ama or Amavisha. Ayurveda suggests flushing out these toxins before the start of the new season in order to prepare your body to face the new changes the season brings along with it.

Ayurveda further classifies allergies as the result of a particular substance which has aggravated a specific dosha: vata, pitta or kapha. In some cases, it can be a combination of doshas.

Vata allergies are often experienced in the digestive tract. Common symptoms include burping, bloating, digestive discomfort, gas, gurgling intestines, vague abdominal pain, and intestinal colic. itta types of allergies usually occur when the hot, sharp qualities of an allergen come in contact with the skin and then subsequently enter the bloodstream.

Pitta allergies are often skin-based reactions such as hives, rashes, itching, allergic dermatitis, eczema, and may also involve bloodshot eyes. Kapha allergies are the most likely to occur during the spring season because of the higher presence of pollen-based allergens in the atmosphere.

Kapha allergy symptoms include irritation of the mucus membranes, hay fever, cold, congestion, cough, sinus infection, water retention, bronchial congestion, asthma, and even sleeping disorders. In order to treat such cases, we have been turning to Ayurveda since time immemorial.

Ayurveda has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illnesses, and in particular allergies. These principles incorporate positive health and therapeutic measures relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare of human beings. Ayurveda also calls for following a cleansing diet, lubricating nasal passages and removing toxins from the body.

Allergies with genetic predominance can be controlled by Ayurvedic Rasayan drugs. Seasonal allergies can be controlled by Ayurvedic Panchkarma treatment, which helps detoxify the body and improve the immune system. For respiratory problems like cold and cough arising from an allergic reaction:

  • Consume 10 to 15 drops of Tulsi (holy basil) juice with honey, or chew 15 leaves every morning on an empty stomach
  • Mix half a teaspoon of haldi (turmeric) with 10 drops of ginger juice; drink it every morning on an empty stomach and before going to bed
  • Consume roasted turmeric with honey or ghee, every morning and at bedtime
  • Mix dry ginger powder, black pepper and pipli (long pepper) in equal proportions. Add half teaspoon of this mixture to honey or ghee and consume it three times a day.
For allergies of the digestive system such as irritable bowel syndrome or hyper-sensitivity towards wheat, corn and lactogen:
  • Take one tablespoon of bael twice a day in the form of bilwadi leha or bael in the form of a tablet twice a day
  • Consume half teaspoon of panchkolchurn with ghee after every meal
  • Have hingvashtakchurn with ghee before each meal
  • Consume 10 gm of haritakichurn every night before going tobed
  • Take 10 gm of amlachurn in the morning and at bedtime
For skin related allergies like eczema:
  • Take two guduchi tablets three times a day
  • Have two tablets of ashwagandha twice a day
  • Consume 5-6 gm of shirishchurn with water twice a day
In addition to above remedies, there are other Ayurvedic medicines which are prescribed as per the patient’s allergy or constitution.

Ayurveda also provides certain detoxification treatments for seasonal allergies. Generally these detoxification procedures are performed prior to the season that the person is allergic to. For example, in order to treat allergic asthma, Vaman is conducted in spring, to prevent asthmatic attack in the monsoon.

As per Ayurveda the Suvarnaprashan Sanskar is performed to improve the immunity of a child. It can be administered during Pushya Nakshatra, to a newborn until he/she is 12 years of age. As the immunity system of a child is not fully developed, he/she is prone to allergies. Therefore, prescribing anti-allergic or antibiotic medicinal drugs is not advisable.
In some Indian states, Suvarnaprashan is practised as a vaccination process, in order to strengthen the immune system. One of the most important aspects of Ayurveda is its ability to heal everyone and has many effective strategies, as seen in cases of allergies. This 5000 year old system of medicine is all about balance and using natural remedies to find it within ourselves.

Ayurveda provides us the tools to strengthen our bodies and move closer towards a natural state of body and mind.  It is a way of life that helps you stay close to Nature, and if adopted, it will result in overall health from within.

(Author is ayurvedic consultant at Saifee Hospital, Mumbai)

 

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