January 2012 Archives

Skin Diseases of Adolescence

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Adolescence represents a time of the greatest change humans experience during their lifetime--the dramatic shift from childhood to adulthood, with all the attendant reproductive capabilities. At one end of adolescence is an innocent child and at the other end a fully grown man or woman. This dramatic time of transformation effects doshic changes that, more often than not, lead to the skin diseases of adolescence, acne vulgaris and keratosis pilaris.

Puberty, the defining event of adolescence, consists of a number of phases of hormonal change that bring to an end the kapha time of life and usher in the pitta time. The first change, occurring about a year before puberty proper, is adrenarche, the maturation of the adrenal cortex, signalled by the appearance of pubic and axillary hair. Adrenarche involves production of the adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S). With DHEA-S to stimulate androgen production, gonadarche or maturation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG axis) occurs about one year later. The rapid changes of this time provoke vata while the onset of the pitta time of life with its attendant androgens can lead to a state of pitta provocation that endures until the body's physiology learns to adapt to its new, adult state.

Skin diseases of adolescence affect upward of 85% of all adolescents in varying degrees of severity. Acne vulgaris is a nearly universal skin disease afflicting 79% to 95% of the adolescent population in Westernized societies (1,2), while keratosis pilaris affects 50-80% of all adolescents. Appearance is extremely important to adolescents, who may suffer intensely due to even a benign or harmless skin condition. To make matters worse, severe acne may leave scars that are permanently disfiguring. Another pitta condition that soars during adolescence is suicidal depression, which may be exacerbated both by the disfigurement of a facial skin disorder as well as by some of the prescription medications given for these conditions (3).

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Remedies for Menstrual and Premenstrual Problems

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

The moon, the tides of the ocean and woman, these three cycle together each month. A woman's monthly bleeding sets her apart from all other females, none of whom have menstruation as part of their reproductive physiology. Mysterious and powerful, a woman's cycle is a source of her deep connection to the moon and the cycles of nature. Yet all too often, her cycle is experienced as troublesome and painful rather than as enriching. One of the most important things an Ayurvedic practitioner can do in the care of a younger woman is to help her have a positive experience of her menstrual cycle. PMS and menstrual cramps rob a woman of the potential richness of this experience and can lead to her feeling negative about her femininity. This in turn can create worse problems such as malignancies in the reproductive system.

Remedies for Allergy Season

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)
Pollen from a variety of common plants: sunflo...

Pollen from a variety of common plants: sunflower (Helianthus annuus), morning glory Ipomoea purpurea, hollyhock (Sildalcea malviflora), lily (Lilium auratum), primrose (Oenothera fruticosa) and castor bean (Ricinus communis). The image is magnified some x500, so the bean shaped grain in the bottom left corner is about 50 μm long. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A home medicine chest for allergy season can help get through a time of year that would be delightful were it not for the allergies. To make your kit, first determine whether your allergies--or those of your family or clients--involve vata, pitta or kapha. Then you can build the appropriate home medicine chest with remedies for before, during and after allergy season.

Pitta allergies and hay fever express in very red, sore eyes and sore, red, inflamed and itchy nose. It may feel exactly as if you have been chopping onions. You may run a low fever or feel tenderness throughout your body. The liver area may be sore and tender and you may feel unusually irritable. Exposure to bright sunlight sets off sneezing attacks. There are some allergens that are notorious for setting off pitta allergies in people of any constitution. Citrus blossoms, for example, can initiate a pitta allergy attack because the pollen is so hot, sharp and sour. The same applies to the pollen of anacardiaceae or members of the Sumac family such as mangoes and cashews.

Kapha allergies manifest with a dull, heavy feeling in the head, very stuffy nose and sinuses, a feeling of fullness in the face, swollen eyes, lethargy and sleepiness, and copious mucus production. There may be onset of asthma related to post-nasal drip. Some damp-related allergens such as molds will set off kapha allergies and asthma in susceptible people of all constitutions.

A vata-caused allergy attack could be set off by exposure to dry dust and would typically involve a feeling of excess dryness and pain in the nose and sinuses, as well as a dry, hoarse feeling in the throat. Spasmodic asthma may result in severe cases. However, above and beyond these typical vata manifestations, it is very important to be aware of the role of vata in allergies that appear to be related to pitta or kapha. The doshas that are present throughout the body are not necessarily those that are expressing in the head. It is often the case that vata may push the other doshas to the head. In fact, it is in this situation that Ayurvedic analysis really comes into its own.

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Working with Marijuana Smokers

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

In the last edition of Banyan Vine, we talked about working as an Ayurvedic practitioner with individuals who smoke tobacco. In this edition, we will look at issues involved in working with Marijuana smokers.

Despite its illegal status, Marijuana smoking is extremely prevalent in an increasingly wide age group, from the Baby Boomer generation down. Vietnam veterans, old hippies, would-be Rastas, college students and high school students are likely candidates for this habit. Vata smokes Marijuana calm down, pitta to, "Mellow out" and feel less angry and driven, kapha to suppress deep-seated grief. Of the three types, however, pitta, endlessly over-achieving, is the most susceptible to the lure of Marijuana. It is pitta too, who receives the most negative impact from Marijuana, a pitta toxin.

Two common misconceptions support pot smokers in their habit. First is the belief that Marijuana is harmless or even beneficial for health. The second is that ganja or marijuana is sacred and hence its use is not merely condoned, it is even enjoined. In India, where ganja is a native plant, there is a very ancient history of its use under specified conditions. Based on this long experience, Ayurveda is aware of significant physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of Marijuana use.

Alakananda's Basque Pie

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This is a great vegetarian centerpiece for a Christmas or New Year's dinner as well as a fine winter meal.

 

Serves 6-8

 

3 carrots,                                                

3 turnips,

2 rutabegas,                                             

2 Parsnips,

3 medium zucchini,                                  

3 golden beets,

3 celery stalks,                                         

2 heads of broccoli,

2 large portabello mushrooms,                   

2 cloves garlic,

3 medium tomatoes,                                 

1 bunch Italian parsley,                    

1handful rosemary

1 handful  sage                                          

 1 teaspoon salt

½ tablespoon thyme                                  

fresh ground black pepper to taste

3 lbs potatoes organic, Yukon gold are best

4 ounces butter                                        

½ cup whey                          

Sheep pecorino

 

Slice the root vegetables and the  zucchini,  cut the celery in1/2" thick pieces and the broccoli in florets.Lightly sautee the veggies and arrange in bottom of a large baking dish.Add olive oil, chopped herbs, sliced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic cloves.Meanwhile, boil the potatoes.Mash the cooked potatoes with salt, pepper, butter, and whey. Spread on top of the veggies.Grate parmesan on top, cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for at least 50 minutes or an hour.At the end, take off the foil to brown the top for about ten minutes. Vegans can substitute sunflower oil for butter and rice milk for whey and use a vegan cheese substitute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rejuvenating Vata

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Rasayana or rejuvenation for vata is needed in a variety of vata-related situations. In individuals of vata prakruti, during the management of diseases due to vata, in the vata season (autumn) and in the vata time of life, from age fifty onwards, it is important to address vata rasayana. Rejuvenation of vata is also important for those who live in jangala desha, the vata-predominant regions that are arid, with less vegetation and much high wind.(1) In terms of the United States, this description of jangala desha incorporates most of the desert and mountain West, with its high altitudes and arid or semi-arid conditions.

The king of vata rasayana herbs is of course Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also known as winter cherry. Ashwagandha is a shrubby plant with greenish-yellow flowers and red berries. "Ashwagandha reduces increased vata and kapha and cures vitiligo, oedema, and wasting. It acts as a tonic and tissue vitalizer. It is bitter and astringent in taste and hot in potency and increases the quality and quantity of semen." (2)

Although it is particularly famed for its action on the deeper dhatus, majja and shukra, Ashwagandha rejuvenates the dhatu agni of all seven dhatus. This broad spectrum activity is perhaps related to the large number of active principles in the herb root. The main active principles in Ashwagandha are steroidal alkaloids and steroidal lactones. At least thirty five different withanolides, or steroidal lactones as well as twelve alkaloids have been identified in Ashwagandha. Withanolides have anti-oxidant and adaptagenic actions and suppress generation of free radicals (ageing factors). They are anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and anti-cancer. They act on majja dhatu in supporting nerve regeneration and ameliorate beta amyloid neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease. (3, 4)

Rakta Shodhan - Blood Cleansing

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Spring is here, and as the sap rises in the trees, its time to consider the sluggish, stagnant energy in the biliary tree. The rakta dhatu, comprising the blood, liver, spleen and gall bladder, needs to be cleansed at this season of the year, just as gardens need to be cleared of dead foliage and trees and shrubs need to be pruned. Rakta shodhan, or blood cleansing, is vital as a preliminary to spring pancha karma. It is also essential for those who suffer from allergies such as hay fever. In the case of allergies, it is best to start a programme of blood cleansing a month before peak allergy season. The liver is the root of the rakta dhatu, so herbs that cleanse the blood also cleanse and remove stagnation from the liver, helping that organ to detoxify allergens. Blood cleansing in spring is also important for prevention of pitta issues such as acne, boils, and eczema, which may otherwise become exacerbated once the hot weather arrives.

Since time immemorial, ancient cultures have instituted a spring cleanse as integral to their annual rituals. The Canaanites burnt the old, mouldy wheat and refrained from wheat for eight days while fermenting their new dough starter from fresh winter wheat. Jewish people, in a continuation of that practice, abstain from all gluten grains for eight days, with the exception of matzo--a crisp, dry, more kapha-soothing food. Roman Catholics traditionally used to follow a vegetarian diet for forty days during Lent, while Greek and Russian Orthodox believers follow an even longer and stricter Lent. Sacralized by the dictates of religion, these practices embody the collective prajna in maintaining the health of the community through a regular spring cleansing process. As these traditions teach, blood cleansing brings much more than absence of disease. Mental clarity, emotional joy and spiritual upliftment can be enhanced by blood cleansing.

by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Introduction
In this paper we will present brief case histories demonstrating how medical testing validated pulse diagnosis. Using the system of pulse reading described in Secrets of the Pulse by Dr. Vasant Lad, we will indicate the original pulse reading, the Ayurvedic diagnosis based on that reading, the initial medical diagnosis and the definitive medical diagnosis based on surgery, biopsy or CAT scan. We will show how skillfully applied pulse diagnosis can be used to dispel needless fears, to prevent relapses and to provide a non-invasive method of early diagnosis of life threatening problems.

In using pulse reading as a tool for early diagnosis, we will frequently refer to a phenomenon known as gandhakal or, "indicator of critical time". Felt at the fifth level or dhatu pulse, this is an irregular quality of beat noted at a particular dhatu. The gandhakal may have either a vata, pitta or kapha quality. It is also possible to note a tridoshic gandhakal, which consists of three irregular beats endowed with the respective qualities of vata, pitta and kapha spikes. This tridoshic gandhakal is an important indicator of a malignancy or other tridoshic disorder in the relevant dhatu.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

In a previous article we surveyed the field of female infertility. In this article we will look more deeply into one of the most common causes of menstrual irregularity, hormonal imbalances and infertility, a grouping of symptoms known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. We will see how Ayurveda brings added depth to the understanding of this poorly understood condition and can offer treatment options that are more than merely symptomatic.

With a prevalence of 6-10% of the female population, PCOS is a common cause of morbidity, infertility and quite possibly of increased risk of mortality. (1) PCOS is a syndrome characterized by multiple small cysts on the ovaries, menstrual irregularities and features of excess androgen production such as hirsutism (excess facial or body hair), male or female pattern balding, acanthosis nigrans and acne. Not all women affected with PCOS have all thee features but to make a diagnosis of PCOS, at least two of these three characteristics must be present. In terms of menstrual irregularity, menses may be irregular; there may be oligomenorrhoea (reduced frequency of menstruation) or amenorrhoea (periods of six months or more without menstruation). Menstrual irregularity is noted from menarche on. As one menopausal patient noted, "First I was told that my periods were irregular because I was young, then because I was under stress in school, then because I was travelling and then because I was premenopausal. From the day of menarche, my periods were never regular."

Pandemic Influenza: An Ayurvedic Perspective

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Recorded talk by Alakananda on Pandemic Influenza

Influenza viruses responsible for causing pandemics are influenza A viruses which emerge as a result of a process called "antigenic shift" causing sudden, major change in certain proteins on the surface of the influenza A virus. This change is great enough that the body's immune system finds the new virus unrecognizable. Unlike seasonal or epidemic flu--which causes mortality mainly in elderly or sick subjects--pandemic flu kills young, healthy adults with strong immune systems. The 1919 Spanish flu pandemic killed 20-100 million people--a much greater lethality than WWI. This was caused by a type of H1N1 virus. The virus currently originating in Mexico is also an H1N1, which has mutated to a form never seen before. A vaccine has not been developed for this new virus and there is no certainty that existing flu vaccines will provide protection.

Much of the severity of pandemic flu may result from over-reactivity of the immune system, a process known as 'cytokine storm' which results in severe lung damage and ultimately necrolysis of the vital organs. In this situation it is vital to avoid immune stimulants such as Echinacea or Immune Support which are so valuable in epidemic and sporadic influenza. Honey should not be used for the same reason. Turmeric is the ideal herb to use in this situation since it will both fight the virus and calm the immune response. Tulsi and neem will be valuable for the same reasons.

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Thanks to your wholesome remedies, O God, May I attain the span of a hundred winters! Drive far away from us all hatreds and troubles Scatter to the four winds every sort of sickness. (1)

All of us have a desire for longevity, yet we wish to see old age with a sound body and mind. Age related cognitive decline, also known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or age associated memory impairment (AAMI) is a prevalent condition (recent estimates vary from 18% to 85%) that robs the 'golden years' of their glory. (2)

Beginning at around age fifty, or, for women, at menopause, our elder years usher in the vata time of life, with accompanying neurological impairments that can range from mild memory loss to full-blown Alzheimer's or Parkinson's Disease. Memory loss in general can arise from vata, pitta, kapha or toxic causes, even though the end result is vitiation of prana vayu in the central nervous system.

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Male Fertility

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

The man alone without progeny looks like a tree with only one branch... He is a lamp in a picture, a pond dried up. (1)

The dismal picture Charak paints of the infertile male is an image many a man suffering from infertility may have of himself. Approximately 15% of couples are infertile (defined as failure to conceive after a year of unprotected sex) and about half of these cases are due to male infertility(2.3) Sperm counts appear to have declined significantly over the last thirty years. Yet according to a study by Norwich Union healthcare, men perceived fertility as being a female issue, even though in fact as many as 9% of men in the UK may be infertile.

In a previous article we discussed potency and erectile dysfunction. Potency refers to the ability to obtain and sustain an erection and fertility to the ability to ejaculate semen with adequate sperm count, quality and motility. Hence it is possible for a man to be potent but infertile and vice versa, although both potency and fertility are needed for unassisted conception. In this article we will look at issues of fertility and sperm count.

Male infertility can have an array of causes:

  • At the level of the brain and hypothalamus
  • At the level of the pituitary
  • At the level of the testes
  • At the level of the epididymis or urethra

Influenza

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Jwara (fever) is the lord of the diseases, born from sin, causing death, feeds on ojas, lead to the final end...characterised by santapa (discomfort from heat), arising from improper conduct; is a cruel one, affecting all species of living beings and called by different names. (1)

In the Charak Samhita, Puranvasu explains that fever originated when Daksha, King of Kashi, excluded Shiva from his sacrifice. In his anger, Shiva emanated a boy who, heated with the fire of anger, could destroy Daksha's irreverent sacrifice. Once Shiva calmed down, the emanation of his fire of wrath, possessed of three heads and nine eyes, holding a weapon of ashes and surrounded by flames, needed a job. Shiva told him, "You will be fever in the world." (2) Since then the emanation of Shiva's wrath has run around the world making immense trouble. Just in terms of influenza alone, there are 250,000-500,000 new cases each year in the United States, with a resultant 20,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations annually. (3) The 1918 pandemic flu was more lethal that World War I, killing from 20,000,000 to 50,000,000 people in two short years. The magnitude of the health challenge presented by influenza and its common incidence render it an extremely important topic, particularly in the winter months when epidemics of influenza tend to occur. In this article we will consider differences in how Ayurveda and biomedicine see influenza, complementarity between the two, benefits of influenza, hazards of influenza, prevention, treatment, aftercare and pandemic influenza.

A Home Pharmacy for Pitta

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Pitta clients are distinguished by their ability to take on their own Ayurvedic care as a project. A typical pitta client will have Ayurvedic food lists on the refrigerator and a special tote bag for their herbs, anupans such as aloe vera and their flask of Brahmi tea. Pitta needs to feel empowered. Thus it can be good to encourage your pitta clients to create a home pharmacy of herbs and mixtures they can use at their discretion. This article can be used as a handout to help pitta in creating and making the most of their home pharmacy. For maximum, shelf life, the herbs in the home pharmacy should be stored in screw top glass jars and kept in a cool, dark place.

Herbs for Immunity

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

During the winter months of cold and flu season, herbal allies can be a great help in supporting our immune systems. Out of the array of Ayurvedic immune boosters, here are three of the most important.

Tulasi, known as ocimum sanctum or Holy Basil, is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body overcome stress and maintain a healthy immune system. This is extremely valuable since, aside from the job, relationship or financial stresses that many of us encounter, modern life is a stress to our immune system. Air pollution and noise affect our adrenal glands and overall resistance, leaving us more vulnerable to disease. Regular use of Tulsi can help us overcome these impacts of modern life and enjoy optimum health. A cup of Tulsi tea in the morning is a delightful and soothing way to support immunity on a daily basis, made even tastier with the addition of ginger, another herb that helps fight infections, and some raw honey, an immune booster in its own right.

Gall Bladder Health for Ayurvedic Practitioners

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

The gall bladder is a non-vital organ associated with the rakta vaha srotas. Often gall bladder disease manifests with an acute and possibly even life-threatening episode which will present to emergency room or urgent care. Yet the Ayurvedic practitioner may be confronted with silent or undiagnosed gall bladder disease and in addition needs to consider prevention of gall bladder disease in vulnerable populations. In this article we will review the anatomy and physiology of the gall bladder and consider options for preventing gallbladder disease and for diagnosing and managing chronic gall bladder disorders.

A hollow organ approximately 8 cm long and 4 cm in diameter, the gallbladder is seated on the liver in the gallbladder fossa. It consists of fundus, body and neck. The neck connects to the cystic duct, which joins the common hepatic duct to form the common bile duct. Microscopically, the gallbladder has three layers. Its lining of simple columnar epithelium is characterized by small pouches known as Aschoff's recesses. The lamina propria, a layer of connective tissue, overlies the epithelium. This in turn is covered by the muscularis externa, the smooth muscle wall which contains cholecystokinin receptors and contracts when the duodenum secretes this hormone. The components of bile include water, electrolytes, bile acids, cholesterol, phospholipids and bilirubin. In the exquisite economy of the body, bile serves both to emulsify fat and aid fat digestion and absorption and to eliminate waste products including bilirubin produced by the breakdown of erythocytes (RBCs).

Cultural Issues in Bringing Ayurveda to the West

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A paper for the 2004 NAMA conference
by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

English: Dhanvantari (धन्वंतरी), known as an a...

Introduction
Transplanting Ayurveda to the West raises a number of significant cutural issues. An ancient, indigenous indian art, Ayurveda has evolved within a specific cultural and religious milieu. The cultural context of a country such as the USA is in many ways the polar opposite of this milieu. How can we transplant Ayurveda to this culture without doing violence either to the integrity of the teachings or to the cultural bias of our students and patients? In this paper, rather than attempting to provide answers, we will highlight some of the issues as well as suggesting a conceptual frame within which to understand the ways in which we may choose to make this adaptation.

What Happens When Cultures Meet?
Jesuit missionaries, engaged for the last four hundred years in bringing Catholicism to different lands, have described two different dynamics at play in the meeting of cultures.The first is Inculturation. Here, the transplanted philosophy adopts the dress, customs, language, food and artistic and architectural style of the host culture. Inculturation involves a deep soul-searching on the part of the transplanted philosophy. What is the immutable essence of the teachings? What are the dispensible cultural trappings? During the process of inculturation, core values must be identified, and essence separated from form. This process, by its very nature, brings renewal to the original philosophy, just as a ship is renewed when it is brought out of the water and the barnacles are removed.

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Ayurvedic Perspectives on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

There fell in this battle of Marathon, on the side of the barbarians, about six thousand and four hundred men; on that of the Athenians, one hundred and ninety-two. Such was the number of the slain on the one side and the other. A strange prodigy likewise happened at this fight. Epizelus, the son of Cuphagoras, an Athenian, was in the thick of the fray, and behaving himself as a brave man should, when suddenly he was stricken with blindness, without blow of sword or dart; and this blindness continued thenceforth during the whole of his after life. The following is the account which he himself, as I have heard, gave of the matter: he said that a gigantic warrior, with a huge beard, which shaded all his shield, stood over against him; but the ghostly semblance passed him by, and slew the man at his side. Such, as I understand, was the tale which Epizelus told.

- Herodotus (6.117 - Rawlinson translation)

Ayurvedic Support for Menopause

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

With the boomer generation heading into their late fifties and sixties, there are more menopausal and post-menopausal women around than ever before in human history. Our understanding of this important phenomenon and of how to support women in all stages of menopause is thus an essential aspect of Ayurveda practice today. Yet menopause is a more difficult topic to approach than, for example, uterine cancer, because menopause is not an illness. Any woman, however healthy, will go through menopause sometime in her mid-forties to mid-fifties. This seemingly obvious point is key, if only because in allopathic medicine today, menopause is seen as a deficiency disease and is typically treated with "hormone replacement therapy," a phraseology indicating the pathologizing of this natural process.

Within Ayurveda there are two fundamental traditions which I like to call the Father lineage and the Mother lineage. The Father lineage, contained in the sutras and in the traditions of vaidya families, contains a wealth both of theoretical and philosophical teachings as well as specific approaches to every known pathology. The Mother lineage, held for generations by the grandmothers of the Indian subcontinent, includes recipes and home remedies that particularly address the support of natural processes such as pregnancy, birth and menopause. Both lineages are of great value in menopausal support, depending whether actual pathology has entered into the process or not. For a healthy menopause, home remedies such as cumin-coriander-fennel tea are of great value, while proper chikitsa must be applied where doshic imbalances are affecting the progress of menopause.

Ayurvedic Management of Insomnia

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

"As wholesome diet is needed for the body, so is sleep. Obesity and leanness are particularly caused by sleep and diet." (1)

"Yoga is not for those who sleep too much, nor for those who stay awake too long" (2)

The Ayurvedic texts and Bhagavad Gita attest to the value and necessity of sleep for health, longevity and spirituality; facts supported by contemporary research linking insomnia to a range of conditions including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, mood disorders and car accidents (3). "Dependent on sleep are happiness and misery, corpulence and leanness, strength and weakness, potency and impotency, intellect and non-intellect, life and death." (4)

Yet chronic insomnia is a widespread and common disorder affecting10% to 15% of adults, with an additional one third of all adults experiencing transient or occasional insomnia (5, 6). Patients suffering from insomnia frequently present for Ayurvedic care, feeling dissatisfied with long term prescriptions for sleeping pills.

Ayurvedic Approaches to Intestinal Parasites

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by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Intestinal parasites, known in Ayurveda as krumi, are troublesome, widespread and often poorly understood. In this article we will consider the types of parasite commonly found, who may be affected, how to make the diagnosis, how this condition may be managed Ayurvedically and how it may affect other aspects of Ayurvedic treatment.

Perhaps the most common parasite affecting people in the US at this time is giardia lamblia, a flagellate protozoon which can give rise to giardiasis. Giardia can exist in a hardy, dormant cyst form which can survive for long periods of time in soil or water, becoming active and reproducing once it enters the host body. It can affect both humans and animals and can be readily transmitted between species. Much more virulent, though less common in this country, is endamoeba histolytica. This is a simple nucleated cell which can invade the colon through secreting histolytic enzymes which destroy tissue. Amoebiasis is a cause of considerable death and disease worldwide. Like giardia, e. histolytica can survive outside the body in a cyst form which becomes active when ingested. It relative, endamoeba hartmanii, can cause sublinical infection in susceptible individuals. Blastocystis hominis is a common microscopic parasite that can survive in the body for years and is thought to give rise to troublesome symptoms of blastocystosis in certain individuals.

by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

Throughout the developed world, coronary artery disease is the foremost cause of morbidity and mortality, causing over half a million deaths a year in the US alone. To a great extent, the disease is lifestyle-related, and results from a kapha-provoking sedentary lifestyle, coupled with excess consumption of fatty foods, especially trans-fats, and insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables. Pitta factors such as stress and overwork are also known to play a major role. "Metabolic syndrome", as it is currently described, is the precursor to heat disease. Consisting of abdominal obesity, elevated serum cholesterol and triglycerides, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance and a prothrombotic state (sticky blood that clots too easily), metabolic syndrome could more accurately be called kapha syndrome.

Modern, reductionist physiology has tended to see the heart's importance mainly in terms of its action as a circulatory pump. However, contemporary research shows that the heart is also an endocrine gland, producing neurotransmitters in response to emotional stimuli. The heart produces adrenaline and dopamine as well as oxytocin, the "love hormone."(1, 2).

by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

In this article we will give a general overview of arthritis or sandhivat and its relevance in an Ayurvedic practice, saving specialized topics of each specific type of arthritis for later articles. We will particularly consider three major common arthritic conditions: rheumatoid arthritis (ama vata), gout (vatarakta/vatashonita) and osteoarthritis.

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition of one or more joints, manifesting typically with pain, tenderness, swelling, and morning stiffness of the affected joint or joints. Since joint cartilage is an upadhatu of asthi dhatu, the condition results from invasion of doshas into asthi. Sleshak kapha may be dried up by vata (ruksha) or burnt by pitta ama, while vyana vayu may by blocked in the affected joints, cause roughening (khara) of the articular surfaces. Occurrence of arthritis indicates the vyakti stage of disease, which may have been preceded by joint discomfort or cracking and popping during the sthana samshray stage. Left untreated, most arthritic conditions progress to the bheda stage with deformity, destruction of the articular surface and loss of function.

by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)

According to the latest medical research, optimal blood sugar levels should be significantly lower than the so-called "normal" range, "shifting the entire population glycaemia curve to the left." (Editorial, BMJ 2001; 322:5-6). It is essential for us as Ayurvedic practitioners to be abreast of these current understandings, so that we can apply the correct chikitsa to prevent serious illnesses in our clients.

In an important article in The Lancet, (2006 Nov 11; 368(9548):1651-9) the authors note that "Cardiovascular mortality risk increases continuously with blood glucose, from concentrations well below conventional thresholds used to define diabetes." They further note that, "Higher-than-optimum blood glucose is a leading cause of cardiovascular mortality in most world regions." In fact, high blood sugar is linked, worldwide, to 3,160,000 deaths each year.

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