Immune System and Ayurveda

Our Immune System protects us from diseases by detecting a wide variety of agents - from Viruses to other harmful Micro-organisms. But unfortunately, given our Erratic Lifestyles, Improper Eating Habits and Irregular Routines, we end up compromising on our Immunity that makes our body more susceptible to dangerous diseases. Immune-deficiency is a state in which the body’s ability to fight infectious diseases is compromised or entirely absent. An immune-compromised person may be particularly vulnerable to opportunistic infections, in addition to normal infections that could affect anyone. Immune-deficiency may also increase the risk of Cancer. 

The concept of immunity is nothing new! Immunology, in fact had been rooted in the Ayurvedic system of medicine much before 600 BC. Described as 'Vyadhikshamatwam' in Charaka Samhitha, Immunity is the ability of the body to overcome and resist diseases. According to Ayurveda, Ojas is considered to be the Optimum Health State of the system, and is therefore related to immunity. Ojas results from the wholesome food properly ingested, digested and assimilated, which gets distributed all over the body through various channel systems under the influence of Agni(digestive fire) and Vata (driving force). 

When this sequence is broken due to improper metabolic functions, it results in a stressful condition that causes improper nourishment leading to susceptibility of living beings. That in turn, produces various diseases of intrinsic or extrinsic origin.

The Ayurvedic approach is that the body is kept in balance and the immune system at peak efficiency so that infections and various inflammations seldom manifest. If there is a lapse in balance, then rebalance and specific herbal treatments may be necessary to bring the body back to health. To stay healthy, the five basic elements of the Universe (Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Ether) need to remain balanced and in harmony within the body. Most illnesses arise because of the imbalance of any one or two of the Tridoshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), which leads to malfunction of the internal organs. Although Ayurveda acknowledges that germs spread infective diseases, the treatment is based on the system of Tridoshas. Ayurveda does not ‘kill’ an infection like antibiotics do but instead it strengthens the body’s immune system to fight disease or infection.

Ayurveda suggests internal treatment. An anti-pitta diet is suggested. Avoiding excessive consumption of tea and coffee, avoiding oily and spicy food, stopping alcohol consumption, etc. are all an essential part of this treatment. Plenty of salads, sprouts, juice from bitter leaves (e.g. neem juice) and some astringents are recommended.

Important Ayurvedic herbs recommended in this treatment are manjistha (rubia cordifolium), katuka (picrorrhiza kurroa), neem (azadiracta indica) haridra (curcuma longa, commonly known as turmeric), daruharidra (berberis spp., commonly known as barberry), etc. Most of them are bitter in taste. Kumara (aloe Vera) in the form of medicinal wine (asava) is a good medicine that helps in improving liver function and thus in detoxification.
These are all Ayurvedic blood purifiers and help to establish a pitta balance in the body. Ghee (clarified butter) is used internally as well as externally. Laxatives like triphala churna {a powder consisting of haritaki (termilania chebula), bibhitak (terminalia bellerica) and amalaki (emblica officinalis)}, gandharvaharitaki {a powdered form of haritaki (termilania chebula) prepared in castor oil} or eranda tel (castor oil) are recommended because they help in cleaning the bowels.

Dr Nirav Joshi, Ayurvedacharya