THE AYURVEDIC APPROACH TO THE TREATMENT OF SKIN DISEASES
From the perspective of Ayurveda, the underlying cause of any disease or disorder in the body is an improper lifestyle and dietary choices that go against the basic nature or constitution of the individual, also known as Prakriti. Skin diseases can result from an imbalance in any of the three doshas, but it is associated more with the imbalance of the Pitta dosha or the heat element. Any activity that contributes to the aggravation of the heat element in the body can give rise to skin problems.
Before treatment is prescribed for a particular skin condition, Ayurveda suggests to appropriately analyse the skin condition of the individual and also diagnose their food habits, lifestyle, pulse, general health, and dosha composition. The aim of Ayurvedic treatment of skin diseases is to correct the imbalance of doshas in the body, and that can be achieved with traditional therapies mentioned in classical Ayurvedic texts along with balanced diet, meditation, herbs, and daily routines.
Panchakarma is one of the best Ayurvedic treatments for skin problems that restores the doshic balance and promotes skin health by removing the toxins that have accumulated in the body. Panchakarma therapy is a complete detoxifying program that flushes out toxins from the body and cleanses it at the cellular level. When the toxins are cleared from the body, the doshas gain equilibrium, and the organs and skin go back to their normal functions.
While Ayurveda has mentioned about several herbs, ointments and Ayurvedic medicines for skin infections that offer relief to the skin lesions, wounds or irritation, its treatment methods are always focused on addressing the underlying cause of the disease so that the individual can heal their body from within and eliminate the symptoms of skin diseases.
Causes of Skin Diseases
Excessive intake of yoghurt, fish, black gram, radish, sesame, jaggery, milk and milk products, fermented foods, unctuous or oily foods, sour food prepared with vinegar or sauce can lead to several skin problems. In addition to that, even overeating and consumption of incompatible foods together like fish and milk, sour fruits and milk can be the causative factor for skin diseases.
Exercising immediately after having meals.
Getting angry after meals.
Drinking cold water or taking a bath with cold water immediately after physical exercise.
Suppression of natural urges can vitiate the doshas, which is responsible for the manifestation of skin diseases.
Types of Skin Diseases
According to Ayurveda, there are two main categories that all skin diseases fall into, which are further subdivided into seven and eleven types.
Mahakushta or Major Skin Diseases
The seven types of Mahakushta are:
- Kaapaala (Kapala) Kushta, Audumbara (Oudumbara) Kushta,
- Mandala Kushta, Rushyajihwa (Rishyajihwa) Kushta,
- Pundareeka (Pundarika) Kushta,
- Sidhma Kushta,
- Kaakana (Kakana) Kushta.
Kshudra Kushta or Minor Skin Diseases
The eleven types of Kshudra Kushta are:
- Eka Kushta,
- Charmakhya Kushta,
- Kitibha Kushta,
- Vaipadika Kushta,
- Alasaka Kushta,
- Dadru Kushta,
- Charmadala Kushta,
- Pama Kushta,
- Visphota Kushta,
- Shataru Kushta,
- Vicharchika Kushta.
These eleven types of Kshudra Kushta can be classified based on the dominance of the three doshas.
- Skin diseases, due to a dominant Vata dosha, cause the skin to dry up, become rough and develop black or grey discolouration with pinpricking pain.
- In case of Pitta dominance, individuals experience skin problems with a burning sensation, foul smell, pustular discharge and red discolouration.
- Kapha dominant skin diseases manifest as white discolouration, itching sensation, cold and infected wounds.
Common Skin Problems and Their Treatment in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, most skin diseases are rooted in the dhatus or tissues in the body like blood, fat, etc. Therefore, the Ayurvedic treatments of skin diseases are penetrative that go deep into the layers of the skin and eliminate the problem from its roots. Although it may take a few weeks to show signs of cure, you can be sure that the results will be permanent.
Some of the common skin diseases that are seen in individuals are acne vulgaris, psoriasis, eczema and leucoderma. Here are their causes and treatment methods as described by Ayurveda for skin diseases:
This condition is common in teenagers caused by overactive sebaceous or oil glands. During the onset of puberty, these glands secrete excess sebum causing the blockage of skin pores and inflammation of hair follicles leading to a series of skin problems. The pores may congest due to build-up of dry skin, dirt and bacteria and worsen the acne. Chronic acne vulgaris can lead to severe scarring.
Acne vulgaris can have several symptoms caused due to vitiated blood or Rakta Dushti and subtle channels of the body. The treatment methods for acne are designed keeping this in mind.
Some of them include:
Steaming: This is beneficial in clearing up the blockage in subtle channels or Srothas. However, it is not recommended in case of inflammations.
Vamana: Vamana therapy involves the oral administration of herbs or medicines to induce vomiting. This removes blockages of Srothas in the facial skin as well as the entire body.
Virechana: Also called medicated purgation, the Virechana therapy is performed by giving bitter, astringent and sweet herbal purgatives to reduce the vitiated Pitta and Rakta (blood dhatu) in the body. Virechana can be performed during the inflammatory stages.
Nasya: Suitable herbs and Ayurvedic medicine for skin diseases are administered through the nose for the treatment of chronic conditions of acne.
Raktamokshana: It is a highly beneficial treatment for vitiated Rakta dhatu. Raktamokshana removes the stagnated blood responsible for causing pathological changes in the body. The para-surgical procedures forming a part of Raktamokshana therapy are letting blood through the application of leeches, Prachanna Karma and Siravyadha. These therapies improve microcirculation to tissues by removing vitiated and stagnated blood.
It is an inflammatory skin disease characterised by the presence of bumpy red patches with large white scales. Psoriasis is caused when the cells in the basal layers of the skin multiply much faster than the normal rate. The disease is noninfectious and is triggered when the Vata and Pitta dosha are aggravated leading to the accumulation of toxins in the Rakta (blood), Mansa (Muscles), Lasika (Lymphatic) and Rasa (Plasma) dhatus.
The Ayurvedic treatment for psoriasis aims at eliminating toxins from the blood and tissues and balancing the digestive system.
Here are some of the treatment methods for psoriasis treatment:
Snehana: Usually performed for Vata dominated psoriasis, Snehana involves the oral administration of medicated ghee for a period of five to seven days.
Basti: Basti or medicated enemas with herbal concoctions are given for around eight days after which medicated ghee has to be consumed for ninety days.
Detox therapies: Detox therapies like Virechana and Vamana work well for the treatment of psoriasis. Therapies like Thakradhara where medicated buttermilk or decoction is dripped over the forehead may be used especially for Pitta dominated psoriasis.
Eczema is an inflammatory skin disease characterised by red and itchy skin and sometimes may be present with papules and vesicles. Although the exact cause of eczema is not yet known, it is considered that the symptoms of eczema arise due to overreaction of the immune system to irritants. Moreover, hereditary and environmental factors have also been associated with the cause of the disease.
In the initial phases of the treatment, oral medicines have to be administered for purification. Then, medicines for external application are given. Finally, for the rejuvenation and nourishment of the skin, Rasayanas are provided.
The following are some of the therapies effective in the treatment of eczema:
Snehana: Medicated ghee or sesame oil is used for the therapy which may continue for seven days.
Sweating: Following Snehana, procedures that induce mild sweating can be done.
Vamana: Vamana is recommended if eczema shows symptoms like swelling, oozing and itching.
Mridu Virechana: This procedure involves the use of medicated laxatives to prevent symptoms like a burning sensation, irritability, pus formation, etc.
Rakta Sodhana: Bloodletting by tools or leeches may be performed if the above procedures don’t bring down the signs and symptoms.
Procedures that involve the application of external medicines are:
Lepa: A paste made of suitable herbs is applied on the affected area.
Parisheka: Warm oils and herbal decoctions are poured onto the body to eliminate toxins and relax the body.
Udvarthana: It involves rubbing the body with herbal powders and is quite effective for rough and thick skin.
Avagaha: To treat large affected areas of the body, in Avagaha therapy, the individual is made to sit in neck-deep warm water with medicated herbs.
Dhupana: Especially in Vata and Kapha dominant conditions, fumigation with certain herbs is carried out called Dhupana.
Leucoderma or vitiligo is a skin disorder in which pigment cells or melanocytes die or stop functioning causing white patches on different parts of the body. It is an autoimmune condition and generally affects the hands, wrists, knees, neck and the back. In some cases, the retina, mucous membrane, and the hair of the scalp may also be affected.
Ayurveda predicates that leucoderma is caused due to the imbalance of all the three doshas that vitiate the Rakta, Mansa and Medha dhatus. It can be treated or managed by the following:
Nidana Parithyaga: The factors that could lead to the condition have to be determined and avoided.
Shodhana Chikitsa: Ayurvedic cleansing of the body through Panchakarma treatments like Vamana, Virechana, etc.
Shamana Chikitsa: Following the Shodhana Chikitsa, Shamana procedures are performed which involve administering oral medications and external applications of herbal paste or powders.
Patya: Making the right lifestyle changes and dietary choices along with yoga and meditation.
Why Choose Govardhan Ecovillage for the Ayurvedic Treatment of Skin Diseases?
Healing is much faster when the mind and body work in proper sync and support the treatment procedure followed for skin diseases. Therefore, at Govardhan Ecovillage, we aim at cleaning and strengthening the mind-body energy channels that may have weakened due to the disease through our therapies and treatments. Besides, our treatment procedures and medicines are formulated according to the authentic classical texts on Ayurveda that make recovery more effective.