What is Ayurveda? Ayurveda is a term derived from two words: ayus and Veda. Ayus means “life”, while Veda, a Sanskrit word, means “knowledge”.
Ayurveda defines life as a combination of elements, rather than a simple measure of time since birth, for example, body = sarira, senses = indriya, mind = manas, and soul = Atma. Without one of these elements, life cannot exist, according to Ayurveda.
Ayurveda remedies are centered on the three doshas: Kapha, Vata, and Pitta; or phlegm, wind, and bile. Each dosha is composed of one or more of the following great elements: air, ether, earth, fire, and water.
Pitta, which includes the skin, primarily aligns with fire, or heat, but also water to a lesser extent; Kapha aligns with water secondarily and earth primarily; Vata aligns with air and ether equally.
First of all, context is important when learning about the relation between Ayurveda and skin ailments. Summer months comprise the world’s rainy seasons, but in India particularly July and August are considered the rainy season, or ‘Varsha Ritu’, and as a result, the time of the year when skin ailments tend to flare up.
The ‘Varsha Ritu’ follows the ‘Grishma Ritu’, or summer season, and acts as a release of the heat stored up within the body during the Gresham Ritu.
Just as dermatologists study the different layers of the skin — epidermis, dermis, fat, connective tissue, and muscle – so do practitioners of Ayurveda. Though many skin ailments occur upon the epidermis and as a result, topical treatments are the prevalent treatment, often the true cause of skin ailments lies much deeper.
For example, a simple lack of hydration is commonly known to result in dry skin and thus a host of related rashes and ailments affecting the epidermis. Ayurveda, in turn, aims to permanently end skin ailments by discovering and subduing their root causes.
The Ayurvedic skin types align with the three doshas: Vata skin, Pitta skin, and Kapha skin, as well as a combination of two doshas.
For example, Vata-Kapha skin is dry with some oiliness; Vata-Pitta skin is sensitive and dry, and Kapha-Pitta skin is sensitive as well as oily. Kapha skin is prone to all the problems of too much oil, including pimples, blackheads, moist eczema, water retention, varying complexion, and enlarged pores.
Vata skin types are dry and prone to itching, cracking, dehydration and as a result dry weather also. Pitta skin types are soft and fair; tend to be warm, temperate, and thus susceptible to spicy dispositions as well as foods.
The fundamental Ayurvedic cure for common skin ailments is simply following the prescribed diet and lifestyle, which is not very different from many modern dietary regimens.
Current dietary requirements suggest similar prescriptions such as limiting the intake of meat, particularly red meat. Returning to the three doshas, as described above, Ayurveda cites each as a contributor to skin ailments but highlights Pitta as the chief factor, as it represents the heat built up during the summer season and expelled during the rainy season as a host of skin ailments.
Amongst the items to be avoided, according to Ayurveda, are preserved foods, white flour, white sugar, packaged foods, coffee, tea, alcohol, sour foods, hot spices, acidic foods, and fried foods.
Likewise, amongst the remedies according to Ayurveda, are Aloe Vera, which is said to purify the blood; a powder of turmeric, amla, and neem leaves, in place of soap; ample fresh air in conjunction with loose clothing, and the consumption of 3-4 liters of water daily; 50 grams of powdered yellow sulfur combined with 250 ml. of mustard or coconut oil as a salve; the freshly squeezed juice of apricot leaves, for scabies and eczema; 100 ml of coconut oil combined with 5 grams of powdered camphor as a general salve; as well as gentle laxatives such as Triphala powder to cleanse the system.
Treating common skin ailments according to Ayurvedic methods is not as simple as one powder or one herb. Perhaps the most beneficial element of Ayurveda is how it challenges a patient to study their health problems and experiment with a variety of treatments for their skin type. Again, it’s essential to correctly assess one’s skin type to implement the correct category of treatments.
Ayurvedic treatments for acne include applying Jamun on pimples; massaging the face with papaya ripened in water and formed into a paste, after which coconut oil is applied to the face.
One must then rub the face with orange peel and wash the face with buttermilk twice daily. Then, apply water-soaked neem roots to pimples and apply a paste of ghee, red lentils, and camphor.
Adding salted hot water to the face with a rough towel after squeezing the moisture from it, is also used in treating acne.
Ayurvedic extracts such as Aloe Vera, Gunja, Amla, Brahmi, Yashtimadhu, and Bhringraj have proven to help combat dermatitis.
Ayurvedic treatments for dermatitis also include several medicines, such as Khadirarishta, Arogyavardhini, Guduchi tail, and Mahamarichyadi Talia.
3. Skin Cancer
Astragalus is employed as an immune system booster to aid it in combating the cancer cells; flaxseeds are used to prevent the spread of the cancer cells themselves, implementing the element of lignans in the seeds.
Applying turmeric to the areas affected by skin cancer is also suggested in paste form for 15 minutes, as it prevents the spread of cancer cells as well.
Finally, as a natural sunscreen, Aloe Vera should be applied, the added benefit includes the reduction of chemicals, which are known to cause skin cancer, according to Ayurvedic methods.
Ayurvedic methods consider psoriasis the result of the corruption of the Vata and Kapha. Furthermore, they suggest removing toxins from bodily fluids in treatments referred to as panchakarma.
Herbs recommended include the juice of the black nightshade massaged into the skin; garlic to purify the blood through simple ingestion; neem extracts for blood purification as well; turmeric added to food to combat inflammation, pain, and swelling. Jasmine paste is issued for itchiness and guggul resin for the purification of bodily fluids.
Ayurveda recommends treatments suitable for wet and dry eczema. Medicines include Shudh Gandhaka, Paradadi Malham, and Mahamanjisthaadi Kashaya.
Home remedies include turmeric paste and wheatgrass juice applied to the skin; applying neem leaves on the skin to purify the blood. Snuhi herb, a paste of mustard seeds, and oil applied to the skin are also highly recommended.