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Nutraceuticals: Ayurveda’s

Yogita Rani, N. K. Sharma


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i.e. if wholesome diet is given in a planned way then there is no need to administer medicines. And if wholesome diet is not being given then too there is no need to give medicine, as it is not going to cure the disease in the absence of wholesome diet. For this reason the classical texts of Ayurveda are replete with the scattered references of implication of various food products in various disease entities e.g. use of butter milk in treatment of dysentery, use of goats milk in tuberculosis, Ginger in generalized edema and so forth. The science of food & nutritionals in Ayurveda was so developed that Charaka (an Ayurvedic Scholar) has categorized all the food articles into twelve classes, viz. corns with bristles, pulses or legumes, meat, leafy vegetables, fruit, vegetables which are consumed raw, wines, water from different sources, milk & milk products, products of sugarcane, food preparations & accessory food articles as oils, salts etc. & has further subcategorized these. Another classification is based on the consistency of food products. These are: Peeta (liquid in consistency, advisable for the newborns, children & diseased people & advocated in summer), Leeda (Paste form that can be licked, advisable for children, convalescing & old people), Ashita (Semi solids, advised for aged people) & Khadita (solid food, advisable for young people with good digestion).

It is interesting to learn that Ayurveda lays a great emphasis on the quality of nutritious food for i) averting the degenerative changes caused by ageing (Rasayana), ii) convalescence after an illness (Balya), iii) enhancing the defense system (Roga Pratibandhaka Rasayana), iv) maintaining the vigor & vitality (Vajikarana), and v) for maintaining the joie-de-vivre (Jeevaniya). The category of Rasayana drugs is divided into three categories, viz. Kamya (for vitality, intellect etc.), Naimmitika (For specific disorders) & Aajasrika (general), the last one dealing with the consumption of specific food products daily to rejuvenate the body. These food products are said to improve the quality of life by offering protection from internal and external stressors. The usage of nutraceuticals as advocated by Ayurveda can be again classified depending upon the age of the individual, season of consumption, time of consumption, physiological conditions & according to the target organ.

It would be worthwhile to mention here that according to Ayurveda, sound health depends on three biological forces named as Vata, Pitta & Kapha, which are all pervading & in their state of equilibrium, are responsible for healthy structuro-functional setup. Although different levels of their predominance are said to determine different types of physical disposition (called Prakruti), age wise also, their levels tend to vary. In brief, while the predominant Kapha in childhood promotes growth & development by supporting the anabolic activities, Pitta in adults maintains a higher metabolic rate & ensures increased productivity/performance, whereas the increased Vata in old age leads to elevated catabolism, wear & tear and ushers us to degenerative changes. For this precise reason, it is important to take these factors in consideration while advocating any nutraceutical. For e.g. paste of B. monniera, A. calamus along with honey is given to the new born to pacify the increased Kapha Dosha & to improve the memory of the child. All the Rasayana & Vajikarana formulations are advocated in the young age while Chyawanprash is a Rasayana for old aged as well.

Another important aspect enumerated by Ayurveda pertains to the influence of environmental factors on the physiological factors. The external stressors in the form of changes in temperature, humidity etc. tend to have an impact on the three biological factors. To neutralize these impacts, some recommendations are made. A unique nutraceutical based on seasonal variations is ‘Ritu Haritaki’ i.e. use of fruit of T. chebula as per the season. The fruit should be used along with rock salt (Saindhava) in rainy season, with sugar in autumn, with dried rhizome of Z. officinale in early winters, with fruit powder of P. longum in late winters, with honey in spring & with jaggery in summer season. Another example of use of nutraceuticals as per season is of Bhallataka Rasayana (preparation of fruits of Semecarpus anacardium), which should not be consumed in summer season.

Third category pertains to use depending on the time of consumption. Most of the Rasayanas have been advised to consume in the early hours of the day. Use of ginger mixed with rock salt before meals is advocated to enhance the appetite & aid digestion. Another example is of Triphala Rasayana according to which fruit of T. chebula should be consumed after the digestion of previous meal, of T. bellerica before taking food & of E. officinalis after taking meal.

Another class of nutraceuticals belongs to those formulations that have been conceived to offer specific benefits in certain physiological conditions. Use of Satavari Ghrita (a formulation of A. racemosus with clarified butter) is advocated in lactating women to improve lactation. Use of Dashamoola Ghrita (Dashamoola is a group of ten drugs whose roots are used) after delivery is advocated to facilitate the involution of uterus to its normal state.

Another approach adopted by Ayurveda is organ or body system oriented wherein use is aimed at delivering benefits to a particular organ. Chyawanprash is aimed to give strength to the respiratory system. Pippali Rasayana (use of fruit of P. longum with honey) is also advocated to confer immunity to the respiratory system. Use of Triphala powder (powder of fruits of T. chebula, T. bellerica & E. officinalis) along with honey & clarified butter is advocated for maintaining/improving the eyesight.

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