Ayurveda (the science of life) is a system of traditional medicine practiced in India for centuries and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda comprises the words ayus, meaning 'life' and veda, meaning 'science'. Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas , the Atharva veda in particularand is connected to spiritualism and mythology. The earliest literature of Ayurveda appeared during the Vedic period in India, the Sushruta Samhita and the Charaka Samhita were influential works on traditional medicine during this era.
Ayurvedic practitioners also claim to have identified a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for curing various ailments and diseases. Ayurveda is considered to be a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within the western world, where several of its methodssuch as herbs, massage, and Yoga as exercise or alternative medicineare applied on their own as a form of CAM treatment.
Ayurveda believes in 'five great elements' (earth, water, fire, air and space) forming the universe, including the human body. Chyle, Blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow, and semen are believed to be the seven primary constituent elements of the body. Ayurveda stresses a balance of three substances: wind/spirit/air, phlegm, and bile, each representing divine forces. According to Ayurvedic beliefs, the doctrine of these three Doshas vata (wind/spirit/air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm) is important. Any imbalance in these three elements results in a disease. Traditional beliefs hold that humans possess a unique constellation of Doshas. It is believed that building a healthy metabolic system, attaining good digestion, and proper excretion leads to vitality.
Ayurveda also focuses on exercise, yoga, meditation, Pranayam and massage. The concept of Panchakarma is believed to eliminate toxic elements from the body.
Ayuverda and Depression
Depression is a neurological disorder. When a person is too overcome with negative emotions, it becomes difficult to focus on any other issue. The person may become lethargic and lose interest in what is going on around them. Such a state may occur when a person fails in an examination, loses a job, gets jilted by a lover, gets divorced, loses some dear one, etc. Some people are able to get over their emotions quickly. But in some others, depressions may last for several days, weeks or even months.
In Ayurveda, depression is known as Chittavsada. It is caused by the increase in the tamas and rajas of the mind with a vitiation of the kapha dosha. Sometimes, an imbalanced vata may also be responsible for depression.
From the ayurvedic perspective, emotional imbalance is caused by lack of coordination of an individual's senses, emotions and thoughts. The heart and mind are intimately connected, because the heart is the "seat" of consciousness. In the Charaka Samhita, a major ayurvedic text, it is said, hridaye chetana sthanam, which means, "the seat of consciousness is in the heart.
The main cause of emotional imbalance is the lack of ability to process emotions in a timely fashion. Some people are able to process an emotion quickly, which means they are able to let go of it and move on with their lives. For others, the processing or "cooking" of thoughts is slow, so the negative impression remains with them for a very long time and impacts their current thoughts and emotions, resulting in depression.
Useful Herbs in the Treatment of Depression
1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha has the requisite properties to remove negative thoughts from the mind. The aphrodisiac properties of ashwagandha also help in improving the mind and removing depression.
2. Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
Brahmi is prescribed before a yogic session. The reason is that brahmi helps to relax the mind and bring it to a comfortable state. Brahmi is very popularly available in the form of oils. The oil has a cooling and soothing effect on the mind. Regular use of this oil can prevent the person from feeling depressed.
3. Cardamom (Elattaria cardamomum)
Cardamom has a very pleasing odor which can soothe the nerves. When a person is depressed, a tea made by putting cardamom in it can have almost miraculous effects.
4. Guggulu (Commiphora wightii)
Guggulu has become the focus of attention recently due to the presence of special chemicals in it called as guggulsterones. These chemicals improve the nervous coordination and hence are beneficial in the treatment of depression. Guggulu is more effective in depression caused due to seasonal affective disorder.
5. Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi)
Jatamansi brings a calming effect on the mind. By canalizing the energies of the mind in the right direction, jatamansi can remove the depressive thoughts.
6. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is effective in treating depression that is caused by the change of seasons, i.e. seasonal affective disorder.
Dietary Treatments for Depression
For people with depression a heavy food is not advised. The person must not eat to the full capacity. Hot, spicy and pungent tastes must be avoided as these will aggravate the senses further. Fluids and fresh vegetables (in salads) must become an important part of every meal. The person can have cool sherbets like rose sherbet in the middle of the day, especially in the afternoons and when the evening is beginning. Tea and coffee may be taken occasionally to stimulate the brain.
Most people with depression lose their appetite and desire to eat. For such people, food must not be forced, or it could lead to vomiting. When such a disinterest in food occurs, fruits can be consumed. A diet rich in fruits is beneficial in the treatment of depression.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Depression
The Ayurveda Panchakarma therapy is the cleansing process that helps to purge unwanted toxins. The Panchakarma treatments are extremely helpful in relieving deep seated diseases. Besides, they are benefical for maintaining and improving both physical and mental health.
Shirodara: the patient lies on a special wooden bed and a steady stream of warm, aromatic oil, milk, or buttermilk is rhythmically poured across the forhead. This treatment calms the mind and soothes the nervous system. It brings on profound peace and happiness.
Abhyanga: this is a firm but gently whole body massage of aromatic herbal oils that are administered by two skilled technicians who work in complete harmony. The abhyanga massage may last up to one hour.
Udvarthanam: this is a massage using a special Ayurveda herbal paste to enliven and energise the body. It helps to promote good digestion, healthy skin, firm muscle tone, better circulation, and it reduces cellulite. It is perfect for those who wish to lose weight.
Nasya: the nose is seen as the doorway to the brain and also to consciousness. This therapy helps to ease problems of excess mucus and blocked sinuses. A stimulating head massage is followed by a steam inhalation with aromatic herbs and the application of hot towels. Finally, herbal nasal drops are administered to melt, loosen, and release mucus from the sinus passages.
Pizhichil: is also known as „Royal Treatment“ as it is the ultimate therapy for relaxing. The patient remains in a sitting position and a cloth soaked in oil is squeezed all over the body. This treatment softly heats the skin and helps to draw impurities to the surface. It leaves the patient feeling peaceful, calm, and wonderfully relaxed.
These are just a few examples of Ayurveda Panchakarma healing treatments.
1. Get someone do a good head massage with a cooling oil like brahmi oil.
2. Improve the regimen of your day. Begin with yoga in the morning and then listen to good soothing music. For some people, visiting their religious places of worship also helps to come out of depression.
3. Focus your mind in other activities and hobbies in order to keep the thoughts causing depression away.
4. You can try eating an apple with milk and honey. This helps to improve the mood.
5. Simple lemon juice (the extract of one lemon in a glass of water, sweetened with sugar) is also good. It releases stress-removing hormones and brings the mind at ease.
Fighting Winter Depression with Ayuverda
Winter depression is considered by health experts as one of several Seasonal Affective Disorders, or those disorders that develop as part of the body's response to changes in season or outer atmosphere. During winter, one experiences shorter days and longer nights. Meanwhile, the weather becomes chilly such that you have to switch to winter clothing or gears that enable your body to stay warm.
As of now, experts are still in search of reasons that would explain why one develops winter depression. However, a few evidences reveal that it could be due to lack of sunlight exposure, although the extent at which this factor cause winter depression to arise still needs to be further examined.
Some of the common symptoms of winter depression include the following:
- Tendency to overeat.
- Consumption of too much sweets.
- Craving for carbohydrate-rich foods.
- Uncharacteristic weight gain.
According to Ayurveda principles, winter is believed to be the time for Hemanta ritu (period between mid-November to mid-January) and Sisira ritu (period between mid-January to mid-March). Ayurveda has a valid explanation when it comes to the human body's response to the seasonal changes. Winter depression is one of those conditions. Any changes that take place on your body, physiologically speaking, is due to the increase of Vata or body fire, which aims to compensate for the extremely cold weather on the outside such that you can regulate internal body temperature.
People who have vata as their major constituent in their body are at the highest risk of developing winter depression. Thus, ayurvedic treatments against winter depression recommend reducing vata to combat any effects of this condition to your body.
Since winter depression is believed to be caused by lack of sunlight exposure, then you must try to get as much sunlight as you can. In the absence of sunlight, you must expose yourself to artificial source of lighting such as sitting by the fireplace. This Ayurveda tip is believed to be really effective. Also, you must keep your home well-lit to reduce the depressive symptoms or intensity of the condition.
Engaging in regular but moderate exercise is also ideal for relieving winter depression. One such exercise that would reap effective results is yoga. A more suitable alternative would be to regularly engage in a sexual act, since it not only improves physiological condition but can improve your mood, as well.
Below are additional tips that you can use for Ayurveda treatment against seasonal affective disorders, such as winter depression:
- Use a vata balancing herbal oil such as abhyanga and massage it all over your body. Concentrate the application of oil and massaging on your head.
- After massaging with the oil, remove it off your body by taking a warm or hot bath. You can also prepare a homemade herbal scrub to use on your bath, which includes a combination of the following ingredients in equal proportion: yellow and green gram, and fenugreek seeds.
- You can consume warm soups.
- Eat foods that are known to balance your vata such as black gram, wheat, oil, and jaggery.
- Instead of focusing on a single type of food, you can cycle through various tastes – from sweet, to salty, to sour.
- Wear thick sheets or clothing materials such as wool, cotton, or silk.
- Never forget to protect your feet with the right kind of winter footwear.
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