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SARS-CoV2 or COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness. Ancient Ayurveda classics narrated the effect of environmental factors on human body humors (Doshas). This phenomenon is circadian rhythm; this is referred to as Kala or Dosha Gati in Ayurveda. This trend has been observed in the occurrence of the disease in the northern hemisphere (except the Indian subcontinent). The peak of disease is observed in a cold season whereas in the Indian subcontinent the epidemic period is in autumn and spring.
The surge in the number of COVID-19 diseased patients was observed in September-October 2020 and March-May 2021. If the virulence of the organism follows this rhythm the disease surge may be observed in the spring of next year i.e. March-June 2022. The recent mutation or variant, known as Omicron, may have a similar effect or more that can't be predicted. Therefore, there is a need for preventive measures to correct the host defence or immunity.
What Is Immunity?
Host defence or immunity is the protective mechanism that prevents the body from the onset of disease and recovery from the disease. The immunity is believed to be of two types viz. Vyadhi Utpad Pratibandhakatva (disease doesn't occur) and Vyadhi Bala Virodhitatva (corrects and heals the disease).
As narrated above, an infectious disease occurs when the organism successfully produces changes within the body tissue (pathological change). The toxins released by the microbe, toxins liberated interaction of body tissues and microbes and pathological changes in the body tissues produce characteristic changes in the body that are the signs and symptoms of the disease.
The elevation in body temperature, impairment in coagulation, etc. are results of these changes in the body. Body immunity primarily works to stop the infection and if it fails it tries to restrict the disease and helps to restore normalcy but if it fails complications can occur.
This is by the virtue of Oza, Kapha, Agni as per belief in Ayurveda and cellular component and humeral component in contemporary science (Allopathy).
Prevention Of Disease
Prevention of disease is always preferred over curing the disease. This may be done in two ways - the first way is by specific immunity and the second, by non-specific immunity. Both these mechanisms use the body's resources to produce immune reactions in the body but their mechanism is different.
The specific immunity is by the virtue of immunoglobins (protein) that are produced by different immune cells, liver, etc. after identification of a specific antigen. This immunity is highly effective and neutralises microbe antigen. But if the body is infected by the mutated microbe and the body immune memory cells have not been exposed previously to the microbe, then the body requires more time to produce specific immunoglobulin to neutralise the antigen. The amount of immunoglobulin produced in such a way is usually very less.
Whereas non-specific immunity can act on all types of microbes and is more comprehensive as compared to specific immunity that is chiefly mediated by leucocytes (white cells and their variants).
Immunisation is the sensitisation of the body and it is intended to produce antigenic memory; i.e. if the same microbe (antigenic same microbe) infects the body, the body immune produces immunoglobulin faster and in abundance. The success of immunisation needs a good body response system.
It would not be wrong if the immunisation (exposure of microbe or its part) is done with the use of immunomodulatory drugs. But diet and rhythm would be more useful in successful immunisation. The second factor that affects the success of immunisation is the antigenic identity of microbe. If the person gets infected by a mutant microbe the body may or may not have a similar response and there is the possibility that the body identifies as the other organism (different from the microbe memory that the body has).
When we look to ancient Indian medical wisdom the concept of specific immunity and non-specific immunity is evident with the name of Vyadhi Utpad Pratibandhakatva. To achieve the goal of normal homeostasis (Dhatu Samyata) ancient classics used both the means of specific and non-specific immunity by including them in daily routine procedures, seasonal measures, medication (herbal origin, mineral origin, herbominaeral compounds) and procedures (that eliminate morbid material and detoxify body).
Here are some measures that will be helpful in arresting the Omicron infection and the morbidity - mortality can be contained.
- Nasal Drops: Administration of medicaments by nasal route is called Nasya. This is a medical procedure and a daily routine procedure also. These may be performed as inpatient procedures, outpatient procedures as well as self-care procedures. The self-care procedure of performing nasal administration of oil after massaging on the forehead, face followed by fomentation on the face (protect eyes) and then tilting the head backwards and putting two drops of oil (medicated or nonmedicated oil) in both nostrils using a non-contaminated dropper at least twice a day. This procedure is known as Pratimarsha Nasya. This simple self-care procedure has many beneficial effects - this procedure doesn't protect one-self against microbes but also acts as a barrier for allergen. The medicament administered through the nasal route reaches to brain and nourishes brain tissues, it promotes hair growth, improve face glow, improves the function of sense organs and neurological function, it also helps to arrest ageing. This procedure can be performed more than 2 times a day; the classics describe that Nasya can be performed on different occasions and out of them the relevant in today's contest is performing this self-care procedure before going out of home for work. This simple step helps to improve the host defence mechanism of non-specific immunity measures that restrict the entry of the microbe into the body.
- Dhooma Pana (Medicated Vapours): Medicated vapours in form of inhaling through the nose also help in restricting microbial growth, passage into the body and thus promote body defence mechanism. This can be done by making herbal Dhooma with medicinal herbs like Agru, Tulsi, etc. this is also a self-care as well as a medical procedure that promotes the health of respiratory tissues. This is different from smoking tobacco that may lead to lung disease.
- Herbal Medicaments: These improve immunity these class of medicaments not only helps in correcting the pathological changes but also improve host defence that eventually corrects normal homeostasis of the body and thus restores healthy tissues in the pre-disease state. This property of herbal medicaments have an added advantage on conventional medicaments in that it decreases the duration of microbial recovery or pathological recovery post clinical recovery considerably and reduce the post disease carrier phase (that will reduce the burden in the health care system) and reduces the chances of the sequel of disease. Medicaments like Guduchi possesses immunomodulatory properties that have added advantage over conventional immune boosters in that it regulates the immune response i.e. increase or decrease as per the needs of the body tissues.
The medicaments that can be used for health promotion of the respiratory system are as follows:
- Tulsi - Also known as holy basil, it is a shrub usually found in an average Indian home. The plant is considered a holy plant, it improves psychological actions (also useful to promote positive response on immunity by the virtue of psycho-neuro-immunological axis), helps to treat cough, asthma, improves respiratory health. This medicinal plant has antimicrobial properties (all forms of pathological microbes), anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, etc. These properties make the plant most suitable to use in the treatment of the majority of microbial induced respiratory infections. This can also be used as preventive and promotive health care also. Tulsi can be used as fresh juice usually 10 ml once or twice a day dosage depending on the status of the disease, and constitution of the individual (preferably to be taken under the suppression of an ayurvedic physician). The dried leaves of tulsi and their seeds can also be used in form of freshly prepared decoction for treating the morbid condition and also preventive purposes. Detox water containing Tulsi can be used to prevent the invading & lodgement of microbe in the body thus disease may not produce at all or if occurs of mild nature. This can be done by using approx. 10 - 15 leaves in the detox water bottle of 1 litre and take approx. 1.5-2 litres of detox water in one day.
- Guduchi - Guduchi or Tinospora is a creeper. This is also found in India in abundance; this can be found around trees, or as herbal boundaries. The medicament possesses immunomodulatory properties, anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, anti-malarial, etc. The drug is used as fresh juice, powder, dry extract or as a combination with other medicaments. Fresh juice of the herb can be made by the stem & leaves of Guduchi; this is easy to make and easy to administer. Dry water extract of Guduchi or Guduchi Ghan can also be taken as a preventive purpose. (ayurvedic physician supervision preferred).
- Ginger - Ginger is the third important herb and is used as a condiment in average Indian homes. Ginger is used as fresh ginger (Ardraka) and as dried ginger (Sunthi). The properties of both differ a little bit the fresh ginger is on one hand is not hot but the dried ginger is considered to possess hot potency. Ginger possesses antimicrobial properties, immunomodulatory, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, cardiovascular protective, anti-malignant, etc. This can be used in multiple ways. The simplest way to administer the herb as pre-food addictive - taking a small amount of fresh ginger (approx. 5 gms) with a pinch of rock salt - this simple measure initiates the secretory function in the alimentary system, stimulates the liver, stimulates digestive movements, improves taste, improve appetite, and speeds up digestion, etc. This simple step improves liver action - i.e. over and above formation of bile that is needed for digestion; liver helps in the synthesis of different types of proteins (including immunoglobulins) that eventually helps in detoxifying the microbial antigens. The second way to use ginger is as medicated water - this treated water improves digestive action, liver action, and improves immunity. This can be taken for a short period especially during high risk or epidemics and in short dosages on daily basis. The other formulation is also available that can be used as per the advice of an Ayurvedic physician.
- Kiratikta - Kiratikta or chirata is considered best for management of pyrexia. Fever is usually observed in any infection and it is a cardinal symptom in the disease of the respiratory system. This herb can be used as a single herb or a combination. The most popular polyherbal compound of chirata is Sudarshana that can be used as tablets, decoction, or extracted form. The drug possesses anti-hyperglycemic properties, anti-microbial properties (can be used in many infections), etc. It has been observed that the drugs lower TNF-ά, Interleukin, INF-γ and thus correct inflammation. The drug has added advantage that the drug also has hepto-protective property making it suitable for managing the disease.
- Ashwagandha - Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng is potent medicine. The recent studies on Ashwagandha validated regenerative properties described in ancient Ayurvedic texts. The drug possesses potent regenerative properties, the drug possesses anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, analgesics, anti-arthritic, anti-stress, immune-booster properties, etc. The drug can be used in a dosage of 2 grams a day with milk for preventive purposes. The therapeutic dosage of Ashwagandha can be more and can be decided as per the individual constitution or stage of the disease.
- Ajwain - Ajwain or copticum is a common herb found in Indian homes. This can be used as fresh juice preparation of leaves or dried leaves. The herb is useful in treating respiratory illness, over and above this, the drug has antiparasitic, antibacterial, hypolipidemic, antioxidant properties, etc. This makes the drug suitable for the management of the disease; as the drug corrects cholesterol in the blood reduces the chances of coagulation. The coagulative changes were observed in COVID-19 infection.
- Amla - Amla or Indian gooseberry is considered a rejuvenator drug in Ayurveda. The drug has five tastes with a predominance of sour. Amla is a rich source of Vitamin C and the constitunal structure of Amla is of the nature that it doesn't ferment. Amla possesses antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, hypolipedemic, hepatoprotective properties, etc. In this way, Amla drug of choice and can be used in different ways. The popular method is taking Chyavanprasha in the winter season, fresh juice of Amla as diet, nutritional supplement, and also medication.
Therapeutic procedures or Panchakarma eliminates toxic materials - metabolic toxins, microbial toxins, from the body and helps to restore normal homeostasis of tissues. Ancient classics emphasis that this may be done in all morbid conditions as it eliminates the morbid material from the body so that it would let any residual inside the body and ensures better health - positive wellbeing after the disease.
This could be understood by these simple words - in any infective disease one may have two types of recovery the first is recovery from the symptoms and clinical signs of the disease this is known as Clinical recovery in this stage the person regains the health and feels good but the microbes need to be removed from the body - even after regaining health status the shedding of the microbes continues and this bears risk to public health as they can spread the infection.
After some period of time shedding stops, this recovery is named pathological recovery. The saying that Panchakarma resolves from root and disease seldom afterwards may understand this concept of Pathological recovery.
Panchakarma may be used for medical clinical management, promotive health care and preventive health care measure. Doshas (body humour) changes as per the time of day, season, diet, sleep, etc. Atmospheric factors affects the body sense of humour and these measures eliminate from the body to ensure health. The popular therapeutic measure Vasantic Vamana and Sharadiya Virechana i.e. performing therapeutic emesis in spring and therapeutic purgation in the autumn season. The former removes morbid Kapha from the body and the latter eliminates morbid Pitta from the body.
Yoga, Pranayama and Sudhi procedures help to improve body immunity. Performing Pranayam is improving vital lung capacity and improves host defence of lungs. This also has a positive effect on psychological attributes and corrects the immunity by correcting the psycho-neuro-immunological axis.
Ancient Ayurveda classical text Charaka Samhit narrates the positive wellbeing and improving interpersonal, intrapersonal and behavioural practices have a beneficial effect and this can be achieved by practising these practices and other measures may not have the effect if these are not practised.
To Sum It Up
Here a short description of how one can live a healthy quality of life by practising Ayurveda is narrated. An attempt has been made to justify the entire topic but some may be left as they may elongate the article considerably. Those topics would be dealt detail in future.
Be prepared to live healthy in the coming year with the Indian wisdom of the health care system. For more details consult a qualified Ayurved physician or Ayurveda hospital.
The article has been contributed by Dr. Nishant Shukla, Ex-Head of Kayachikitsa (Ayurveda Medicine), Shri Gulabkunverba Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar.
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