Pandemic Influenza: An Ayurvedic Perspective
by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)
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.
- Wash your hands frequently. Ideally, use neem soap and hot water
- Reduce the level of toxins in your body by practising food combining (see below) and agni rules (see below)
- At the first sign of flu, stay home, fast, drink plenty and consult a doctor
- Stock up immediately on food, drinking water, and Ayurvedic herbs. In a pandemic situation, there will be store closures and supply issues
- Have a supply of candles, matches and ready-to-eat foods. There might be power grid disruptions due to lack of workers
- Have a supply of cash. There may be bank closures or transportation issues
- Have a supply of antiseptic substances to sanitize your home and office (e.g. peroxide, tea tree oil)
- Sanitize telephones and keyboards. Viruses can survive for a long while outside the body
- Have a supply of facial tissues and pedal bins for their disposal
- Get a mask to use when you go out. Get it now
- Use a mask when nursing, tending or assisting someone who is coughing or sneezing
- Avoid mass gatherings
- If you feel sick, take zinc lozenges
- If you feel sick, drink turmeric and tulsi tea
- Get myrrh or boswellia to burn for fumigating your home
- Fumigate your home daily
- Practice agnihotra to help purify your home
- Use your own pen. Some folks chew pens or may not have washed their hands before use
DON’T directly touch door handles in public bathrooms. Use a paper towel.
DON’T go near people who are coughing or sneezing.
DON’T go out and about if you are coughing and sneezing.
DON’T eat junk food or white sugar—it will predispose you to get sick.
DON’T take immune stimulants if you are sick. These include Echinacea, honey and chocolate.
DON’T use telephones used by others—unless you sanitize the mouthpiece and wash your hands after use.
DON’T use pens used by others (e.g. at the bank or grocery store).
Knowledge is power. The more we know about how to prevent and manage pandemic flu, the better we can help ourselves and others. Ignorance breeds fear and panic. Epidemics remind us of impermanence and help us become aware of what truly matters. Please use this article to be prepared, act wisely, and come from love, not fear. We can use this opportunity to pull together and develop community, altruism, and sharing of our gifts.
Food Combining Guidelines
Remember to allow three hours between meals for digestion to complete itself and to avoid toxic buildup in your tissues.
MILK is incompatible with:
YOGURT is incompatible with:
EGGS are incompatible with:
VEGETABLES are incompatible with:
NIGHTSHADES (Potato, Tomato, Eggplant, Chilies) are incompatible with:
HONEY is incompatible with:
FRUITS are incompatible with:
STARCHES are incompatible with:
LEMON is incompatible with:
MELONS are incompatible with:
PEANUT BUTTER is incompatible with:
Caring for your Digestive Fire
- Eat food at room temperature or slightly above
- Allow three hours between meals to allow digestion to be complete before adding new food to the system.
- Don’t drink and eat at the same time. Drink a half hour before or two hours after eating.
- Use proper food combining
- Relax after eating to allow for proper digestion
- Don’t eat and then sleep—wait two hours
- Don’t eat and then exercise—wait two hours
- Don’t eat and then meditate—leave one hour
- Follow the diet appropriate to your constitution and the season
Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma) is director of Alandi Ayurvedic Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and principal teacher of Alandi School of Ayurveda, a traditional ayurvedic school and apprenticeship program. She can be reached at 303-786-7437 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.