Combating back pain with Ayurveda

indian ayurvedic oil body massageFrom shoulder aches and pains to chronic repetitive strain conditions such as sciatica, back pain has affected many of us through numerous causative factors. Back pain or ‘kati shoola’ as it is known in Ayurveda is a common condition where the one or more dosha becomes imbalanced, and of these, vata (air + space element) would be commonly responsible.

Back pain could be of varying types and caused by various factors Incorrect posture, external or sports injury, trauma or RSI will result in a degeneration of tissues (bone, muscle and connective tissue) with a rise of vata resulting in intense pain.

The increase of dry, rough and cold qualities of vata is another cause of emaciation and degeneration of bone and connective tissue leading to osteoporosis as the space element in the pores become increased in size, as vata needs to travel resulting in pain of a cutting or numb nature or as pins and needles.

Blockages in the channels of the body (veins, arteries, lymph etc) increases vata and not allowing vata to flow naturally and is forced to other spacial areas, creating again pain. The involvement of Pitta and kapha dosha are often cause complexities.

Doshic imbalance ranges from increased vata caused by stress, old age, lack of quality sleep, over-exercising, excessive intake of foods such as chickpeas, sprouts, tea coffee, alcohol, exposure to cold climates, drinks. Increased pitta dosha due to over exposure to the sun, hot and spicy, non-veg and acidic foods. Kapha increase due to day sleep, lack of exercise, intake of sweet cold foods such as yoghurt, ice-cream, fruit juices, dairy. These causative factors coupled with influencing factors of age, climate, occupation, digestive capacity can lead to doshic imbalance.

The first line of treatment would firstly be to remove the causative factors. Then physical Ayurvedic treatments to alleviate the back pain would carefully administered depended of type of pain. For example, lower back and neck pain can be effectively treated by kati basti (a pool of warm medicated oil). Pinda Sweda (hot herbal poultice) used with medicated oils to alleviate the vata out of the tissues. A simple abhyanga with specially selected medicated oils can help to alleviate back pain. In deep seated conditions vata would be eliminated through the administration of enemas, since the seat of vata resides in the colon.

Useful internal herbs to balance the dosha and condition would also be used as well as suggested back-bending yoga postures such as bhujangasana, khandarasana, surya namaskar all used with yogic breathing to heal through prana.

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Traditional Ayurvedic Technique Now Fashionably known as ‘Oil Pulling’

Ayurvedic Oil Pulling

Ayurvedic Oil Pulling

This ancient traditional technique of Ayurveda know as ‘gandusha’ has been recently commonly brought to light  as Oil Pulling. A practice which has been a health ritual in India for over 5000 years.

As the oil is retained in the mouth, it mixes with the saliva becoming thinner in consistency and white in colour. This subtly draws toxins from the local area and the blood by the enzymatic stimulation and lipophilic action, collecting all the accumulated fat soluble toxins ready for expulsion beyond in the mouth and beyond. If the oil is still yellow it could indicate that the pulling needs to be done for longer. Cured sesame is widely used in Ayuveda for this and numerous other treatments for it therapeutic actions on the body.

The Benefits

The health benefits for using this technique are plentiful. Here are a few of to get you thinking:

  • Brilliant for oral healthcare, preventing gum disease, cavities, firmly rooted teeth, heals bleeding gums, prevents sensitivity of the teeth and tooth aches.
  • Keeps breath freshen by removing local toxins
  • Pulls toxins and removed mucous from the mouth, throat and head
  • Improved taste and digestive metabolism
  • prevents dryness in mouth & throat
  • Invokes a clearer mind, reduces headaches
  • Helps keep sinuses clear and healthy
  • Strengthens jaw and voice

Try it for yourself:

Do this technique in the morning before Breakfast and on empty stomach.

After brushing teeth, and using a tongue scrapper. Take a table spoon or body temperature cured sesame oil or coconut oil. Retain in the mouth swooshing gently from side to side for 10-12 minutes and then expel the oil. Simple, easy, inexpensive, harmless and effective.

please note: this used should not be swallowed as it has become laced with toxins

Reference: Charaka Samhita. Ch 5. V78 -80 (Ayurvedic classical text)

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Neem (azadiracta indica) – The Ayurvedic Friend for Skin Health

neemParts used: leaves, flowers, bark & roots

Energetics: bitter, cool, pungent, -PK +V

Neem is a fast-growing tree that can reach up to heights of 50 feet, growing in many parts of India and the subcontinent, with the ability to withstand very high temperatures and low rainfall. In Ayurveda it is known as sarva roga nivarini,  translating as ‘the curer of all ailments’, indicating its vast healing benefits. The most commonly used part of the neem tree are its dried leaves which are very bitter in nature.

The anti fungal and anti viral and powerful blood purification and properties of neem makes it a key ingredient for remedies of skin conditions and curing diabetes. It was also found to be effectively used to cure diseases like malaria, insect bites, nausea, vomiting, rheumatism, jaundice, obesity, arthritis, hair loss, urinary tract problems and parasites.

With its powerful detoxification properties, neem cools fevers and clears the toxins involved in many inflammatory skin diseases (especially burning). It has the qualities to pacify all doshas, however cautions needs to be applied in conditions of colds and debilitation.

One of the reknowned uses for Neem is the prevention of tooth decay & gum disease. Neem twigs and leaves have been used for thousands of years in India by millions of people to brush their teeth and to promote oral hygiene.

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The Ayurvedic Perspective of Gastritis

Gastritis, otherwise known as urdhvaga amlapitta in ayurveda is an inflammatory condition of the mucous membrane and glands of the stomach. Pitta types are more prone to this conditions and it is a vitiation of the pitta dosha where stomach acids such as Hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes secreted by the stomach become inflamed and results in the increase of these liquid secretions leading to indigestion and symptoms such as, loss of appetite, nausea, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal pain, heartburn coated tongue, foul breath, increased salivation, sour belching, irritable bowels.

The typical root causes could include, excessive intake of alcohol, strong tea/coffee, sauces, vinegars, anger, worry, grief, strong drugs such as NA

In managing and treating this condition it is advised to avoid the causative factors such as alcohol, spicy and sour foods, fried foods, yoghurts, pickles, chutneys, chocolate, caffeine, smoking, stress, aspirin. Do increase intake of boiled milk, vitamin C (not from oranges), rice and dahl, kitchari, ghee, bitter gourd, pomegranate, barley, wheat, honey.

A panca karma approach would consider a purgation treatment to eliminate the excess pitta dosha out if the body. In terms of herbs there are various options depending on the type of condition that prevails and these can include simple herbs such as yasti madhu (liquorice), Shatavari (asparagus racemosus) and Amla (Emblica officinalis) amongst other specialist compounds.

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Ayurvedic Abdominal Massage Treatment – Nabhi Abhyanga

digestive healthAyurveda & Yoga places great importance to healing the abdominal area as the Nabhi (naval centre) is located here which is considered to be one of the most important position in our bodies. Seventy-two-thousand Nadis (channels of the body) are regulated by the Nabhi imbalances residing in the Nabhi, often caused by emotional or physical trauma can affect the entire physiology of the mind and body.  Warm herbal oils are massaged into abdomen followed by gentle stretches. Sometimes the naval centre may become displaced causing uncomfortable aches, pains and digestive disturbances in such cases corrective procedure can help restore balance

The body is always talking to us, if we only take time to listen. Louise L. Hay. You Can Heal Your Life. P127

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New Year, New Ayurvedic Outlook

Ayurvedic Herbal TeasSo we are well into the new year and so many of us made a resolution to start a ‘detox’, lose the holiday weight, stop drinking and get back into the gym. How many of us actually last past the first few weeks or even the first few days? So many people fail to complete a detoxifcation cleanse in January as it does not fit in with their lifestyle, they are not mentally prepared and lets face it, there’s still plenty of indulgences lurking in the cupboards. But do not fear all is not doom and gloom, changing diets drastically during the winter months is not conducive to our overall health and according to Ayurveda the ideal time to go through a detoxification programme is in Spring time, so plenty of time to plan and prepare.

Ayurvedic advocates following a seasonal regime to support our well being, we are in the hemanta and shishira months (December to March) and our Agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest during these months, hence the tendency to feel increased hunger. The quest to lose weight can have an adverse affect on our metabolism at this time as we starve our body of essential nutrients.

Without radical dieting, we can adopt methods to pacify winter ailments such as fatigue, mental confusion, digestive problems, aches, pains and persistent cold while giving ourselves time to prepare for a deeper cleanse and weight loss in a more suitable season. Winter is essentially a vata and kapha period and a vata pacifying diet is most suitable.

  • Avoid the causative factors such as refined sugars, fried, leftover or cold foods saturated fats, and heavy dairy.
  • Eat foods that are naturally sweet, sour and salty by taste to help pacify vata dosha, such as soups, stews, hot teas and stewed fruits.
  • Favour foods that are wholesome and easy to digest including, carrots, tomatoes, figs, dates, cane sugar, nuts, seeds, seasonal root vegetables, wheat, gram flour, rice barley, rye, milk products, edible oils such as ghee and olive oil
  • Immunity is connected to digestion and when digestion is strong then immunity is robust, so drink warm/hot water and digestion enhancing spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. Strengthen your immune system with chywanprash, a jam packed full of immune boosting herbs.
  • Good news, Ayurveda says that a glass of warmed red wine can be and beneficial in winter, you can warm with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, fennel, nutmeg and black pepper
  • Opt for regular massage and hot or steam bath
  • Arise at 7am and take plenty of exercise to keep lymph moving and prevent congestion,
  • sexual activity is encouraged
  • Wear warm clothing of cottons, silks and wools.
  • Take exposure to sun when possible
  • Engage in calming meditation

Following a more natural regime will ensure that the body is able to cope with a detox and expel the toxins out of the body more effectively. Consult a practitioner for one to one guidance on your constitution and a personalised detox plan for the Spring.

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Ayurvedic Kansu bowl foot massage

Ayurvedic foot massage

Ayurvedic foot massage

Who doesn’t love a foot massage? Not only does it feel nice and relaxing for tired feet, there are many therapeutic benefits of massage to the feet. With over 12 of the 107 marma points found on the feet and lower legs, subtle rebalancing can be achieved as these points correlate to various organs as well as numerous nerve endings in the feet.

A foot massage can detoxify and stimulate the proper functioning of the vital body organs. This massage can help stimulate circulation of blood, lymph and free flow of prana (vital life force energy). Being a tri-doshic treatment, it is suitable for people of all doshic constitutions whether they are vata, pitta or kapha dominant.

Ayurveda has a special technique using a kansu bowel, traditionally called a ‘vatki’ containing three metals, copper, bronze and zinc each with their own therapeutic benefit. Copper helps absorb the excess body heat and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties particularly in the joints. Zinc stimulates the muscular tissue (mamsa dhatu) as well as contain antiseptic properties. Bronze acts as a catalyst for the former.

The treatment is performed with ghee (clarified butter) to massage the feet and lower legs and therefore balancing for pitta (fire element). This treatment can assist deeper sleep, reduce stress, depression and anxiety improve overall metabolism and strengthen the lower limbs. Just try it! 

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Forget HRT try Natural Hormone Therapy

Menopause is an inevitable and natural change in every woman’s life where the monthly menstrual and ovulation cycles draws to an end. We hear of some pretty disturbing symptoms from fellow females who have been through the menopause, however it needn’t be so traumatic if we embrace the changes by adjusting our diet and lifestyle before and during this period. After all the more balanced your diet and lifestyle is when you hit the change age strongly determines how smooth your transition will be. Stress is the main cause to erratic and problematic menopause. According to Ayurveda, we can expect varied menopausal symptoms depending on our dominant ‘dosha type’, vata, pitta or kapha.

Typical vata symptomsPain in the abdomen
Mood swings

Vaginal/bowel dryness

Aching joints

Increased sensitivity to the cold

Typical pitta symptomsNight sweatsHot flushes


Anger/hot tempered

Heavy bleeding


Urinary Tract Infections

Typical kapha symptomsTiredness/lethargyWeight increase


Fluid retention


Yeast infections

A practitioner can help you identify your dosha type and may incorporate herbal-based medicine, purification practices, diet and lifestyle guidance, spiritual healing, yoga. Here are a few pointers to get you on road to stress free hormonal changes.

A diet plan according to ones dosha will ensure that menopause stays manageable from the outset. For a vata type of person, warm foods and drinks, regular meal and sleep times, warm oil massage, regular gentle exercise such as walking and hatha yoga. Include spices such as cumin, fennel, cardamom, liquorice and useful herbs include ashwagandha.

For a pitta type, opt for cooling and water based foods such as yellow squash, cucumber, courgettes, fennel, watermelon, grapes, coconut oil massages and meditation. Favourable herbs include shatavari, aloe vera and arjuna.

For the kapha type opt for warm, light and dry foods such as whole grains, leafy & green vegetables and bitter and pungent spices such as ginger, turmeric, black pepper Avoid cold/heavy foods such as cheese, meats, yoghurts and ice in drinks. Exercise and periodic fast are favourable as well as massage with mustard oil and opt for spices such as mustard, cayenne, cinnamon.

We can optimize the production of estrogen even after menopause as the female body is designed to continue its production by having a ‘balanced nutrition with plenty of whole grains, spouted grains and beans, lentils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, asparagus, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic and broccoli, grapes, pears, plums and strawberries. Ayurvedic herbs can support this.

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Palliative care for cancer patients

Herbal TeasRadiation to cure cancer affected parts of the body can leave a patient feeling drained of energy and feeling low in spirits. In the early stages various measure can be taken to holistically prevent cancerous tumours from developing such as herbal oils and pastes with heath therapy as well as the internal cleansing treatments of pancha karma to reduce deep seated toxins in the body. Treatments are tailored for the particular type of arbuda (cancer) and care is advised based on the individuals doshic constitution. If allopathic treatment has already taken place then palliative care can be given to improve the quality of life.

Ayurvedic treatment focuses on improving the immunity by strengthening the digestive power and metabolism of the patient. Treatment would start with eliminating the damaged tissues and then protection of the healthy tissues cells from becoming damaged and then regeneration of healthy tissues.

Diet is very much a part of the wellness programme when it comes to an Ayurvedic treatment. Though not an extensive list, supportive foods include, ghee, goats milk, abundance of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables suitable for your dosha, these can includes soups, stews, sprouted beans, raw soaked nuts and semi-dried fruits such as dates, figs, raisins etc. Tailor-made herbal decoctions are given to control cancerous growths. Foods to avoid of course include lifeless foods that come in tinned, fried, junk and fast foods forms as well as over spiced and vata aggravating foods. Practitioners can give advice on specific food choices based on the type of cancer, for example liver patients would be advised a reduced fat diet and renal patients would be advised a reduced salt diet.

Support for the patients mind and emotions are just as important as the physical. Staying positive is a key component in improving the quality of life and the healing process. Uplifting books, activities that make the patient happy turn the focus away from dwelling on the disease itself. It’s a perfect time to adopt breathing exercises and meditation that create inner stillness and increase prana. The healing power of our mind and attitudes is incredible. Gentle exercise can be stimulating both physically and mentally. Two easily available herbs that can enhance immunity are withania somnifera and tinospora cordifolia. Consult a practitioner before use.

A sticky situation

Netra tarpana

Ayurvedic Eye Treatment

Conjunctivitis, a highly contagious and sore condition prone to manifest in rainy weather. In this condition the conjunctiva becomes inflamed and turns red. The whole eye can become pink with burning sensation, itching and excretes a sticky yellowish discharge which can crust over.

This condition is knows as netra-abhishyandam in ayurveda and is often caused usually by similar causative factors to that of colds and flu’s such as bacteria and sometimes viral infections. Chemical exposure and environment conditions such as wind, smoke, dust and allergies can also be causative factors as well as internal factors such as blockages in the tear duct drainage.

Some basic do and don’ts:

  • Avoid rubbing or touching the infected eyes
  • Soak the eye area with warm water to reduce crusty residue
  • Do not wear contact lenses or eye make-up (and never share)
  • Do cold compresses to the eye (see below)
  • Observe extra hygiene, clean pillows, clothes, towels etc – replenish daily
  • Avoid hot, spicy & sour foods as this can be aggravating
  • Increase intake of turmeric, honey, green vegetables, fruits, vegetable & Indian gooseberry juice.

Ayurvedic Remedies:

  • Triphala powder can be taken orally to reduce viral infections by increasing anti-oxidants on the blood stream
  • Triphala infusion can be used as a wash to the infected eye area
  • An infusion of turmeric water is cooling and antiseptic, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial to the eye
  • Place warm salt water (sterile) cotton swabs on the eyes, this can be combined with turmeric
  • Mix a raw honey with warm sterile water and place 1-2 drops in each eye (effective but may cause a little burn) – best if there is a lot of discharge.
  • Relieve burning & swelling with a cooled coriander seed infusion, wash eye or place cotton swabs on eye
  • Use pure rose water drops cool & relieve redness
  • Triphala grtam can be administered in netra tarpana (medicated eye bath) by a practitioner for a deeper cleanse of the whole eye.

An ayurvedic practitioner can guide you to the best way to treat this and eye infections at  home, based you dosha type and the root cause – be it bacterial, viral, chemical, allergic or other. It is nice to know and share  quick, simple effective ways to manage the sight for sore eyes!

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