Meditation and Yoga Change How Our DNA Is Expressed

Meditation, Yoga and other “mind-body interventions” (MBIs) can reverse the damaging effects of stress and anxiety on the level of our DNA, according to a new study.

When our body becomes stressed, our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) goes into survival mode and tells our body to increase the production of a molecule called Nuclear Factor kappa B, or NF-kB. This molecule regulates how our genes are expressed.

NFkB tells our genes to produce proteins called cytokines, which cause inflammation at a cellular level. This reaction is useful for a short-lived “fight or flight” response, but if triggered continuously, can lead to serious health concerns such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, accelerated aging, and even psychiatric disorders such as depression.

According to the new study, those who practice MBIs, actually exhibit the opposite effect: a decrease in the production of NFkB and cytokines. This means a reduction in the pattern of pro-inflammation gene expression — and thus a reduction in the link of inflammation-related diseases and disorders.

Lead researcher, Iyana Buric, noted, “”These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, the MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”

The researchers looked at 18 studies featuring a total of 846 participants over 11 years. They were able to chart a distinct pattern in the molecular changes that happened within the participants’ physiologies as a result of regular practice of MBIs.

Ayurveda, which literally means “the science of life”, has long understood that the mind/body system must be considered as a whole. Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of medicine that places equal emphasis on the body, mind and spirit, and strives to restore the innate harmony of the individual.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique, was instrumental in restoring Ayurveda to its comprehensive and integrated form in a system known as Maharishi Ayurveda. He emphasized the inseparable, very intimate relationship between the unmanifest field of consciousness and all the manifest levels of the physiology. According to this view, the primary approach to health must be from the most basic foundation: the field of consciousness.

The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa offers an integrated approach of purification treatments (Panchakarma), the Transcendental Meditation program, Yoga, diet, life-style and herbs, emphasizing a unique, individualized, and holistic approach to health that has seen remarkable results in the lessening and abatement of a wide range of disorders.

For more information on The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa programs, visit:

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Ayurveda Summer Skin Tips

During the heat of the summer, most people can benefit from a skin care approach that pacifies Pitta dosha. The exception is for those who find themselves with excessively oily skin all year: they may benefit from a Kapha pacifying approach, even in the summer months.

KNOWING YOUR SKIN TYPE

Vata

Vata skin is generally dry, thin, is easily dehydrated and is vulnerable to the influence of dry, cold, windy weather.

Pitta

Pitta skin is generally ruddy and can be warm to the touch. It is prone to breakouts and rashes. Pitta types tend to have more moles and freckles than other skin types.

Kapha

Kapha skin is generally more oily, smooth and thick. Kapha skin is the more tolerant of the sun than Pitta or Vata skin.

SUMMER SKIN CARE

For most people, skin care in the summer should be cooling and nurturing. Try spritzing the face with rosewater throughout the day for a cooling and refreshing treat. Avoid being out in the sun during the harsh hours of 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Avoid hot and spicy food, which can immediately inflame Pitta dosha. If you are doing a daily oil massage (which is much recommended by Ayurveda) you may want to switch to a cooling oil, such as sweet almond oil, olive oil or coconut oil.

Swimming is a wonderful, cooling form of summertime exercise, but chlorine and chemicals used in pools can be hard on the skin. Be sure to rinse off after your swim and consider getting a filter for your home showerhead. Swimming in chlorinated water can strip off the protective layer of oil that naturally protects your skin from bacteria and viruses. A massage with coconut after your shower can help replace this. Otherwise, be sure to use a natural body moisturizer after your shower.

DIET

A diet for healthier skin should include plenty of fluids—lots of plain, warm water (not iced) and also fresh (not canned or bottled) fruit juices. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables with a bitter taste, like kale, spinach and Chinese cabbage. Soups with fresh green vegetables are also recommended for the summer months. Remember that during the summer, as the external temperature rises, our internal “fire” decreases. Thus, our ability to digest foods can diminish in the summer. For this reason is it best not to eat an abundance of raw foods (or cold or iced foods). Ripe fruits are considered “cooked by the sun” and are fine to eat raw. In the summer it is best to favor sweet, juicy fruits as opposed to sour fruits. (Many fruits such as apples, berries and cherries can be either sweet or sour, so be sure to pick your fruits carefully.)

Avoid hot and spicy food, which can immediately inflame Pitta dosha.

Fennel and licorice are cooling spices that can be enjoyed during the hot months.

Caffeine and alcohol are heating and may increase Pitta.

Put “staying hydrated” high on your list of priorities in the summer.

SKIN CLEANSER

It is especially important to use gentle, natural skin care products in the summer. For an extremely effective, natural skin cleanser you can make at home, grind masala dahl (a red lental found in health food stores or Indian grocery stores) into a powder and soak overnight in natural whole milk. Make a thin mixture to wash with in the morning, or make a thicker paste to use as a facial mask or scrub. Rinse off with warm water. Do not use hot water, as hot water is harmful to the skin. As with anything you use on your skin, test on a small patch of skin first to be sure you are not sensitive to it.

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Eliminating Mental and Physical Fatigue with Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, there are two types of fatigue: mental fatigue and physical fatigue. Either one can cause the other: thus when the mind is out of balance, the body becomes out of balance. And vice versa.

When digestion is weak and our food is not being property assimilated, physical fatigue can result. When our digestion is disturbed, the food we are eating does not properly fuel the body. In addition, many people suffer from health problems from simply not choosing the right fuel. Or as one Ayurvedic expert from India put it, “Westerns eat too many “P”s: pizza, peanut butter, pancakes, pastries, potatoes, preservatives and packaged foods.” Too often we are inspired by taste and ignore nutrition and wholesomeness. The ideal way to approach diet is to go for nourishment, purity, variety and freshness in foods that covers all six tastes. (The six tastes, according to Ayurveda, are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent.) Keeping this in mind will contribute to a strong digestion and immunity and help eliminate imbalances. The best way to approach physical fatigue is through proper diet and strengthening one’s digestion.

The traditional Ayurveda treatments for detoxification and purification offered at The Raj (known as Panchakarma) also help to strengthen the digestion and eliminate blockages and imbalances in the body, allowing the doshas to return to a healthy balance.

The root cause of most mental fatigue is stress. To cure mental fatigue you need to look for a means to eliminate stress.

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The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa offers instruction in the Transcendental Meditation technique as a means to address stress. Numerous peer-reviewed studies and scientific reviews have shown that during practice of the TM technique, the mind and body gain a unique state of deep rest—much deeper than ordinary relaxation, as indicated by reduced cortisol and plasma lactate (major indicators of stress). The healing rest gained through the practice of the TM technique allows for the release of emotional, mental and physical stress—improving overall health, well-being and behavior.

Using an integrated approach of balancing both the mind and the body, Ayurveda offers a means to eliminate fatigue and allow the mind and body to enjoy continued health and vitality.

For more information on Ayurveda treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

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Strengthening the Immune System with Ayurveda

The specialty of Ayurveda is determining what brings balance to each individual. The term Ayurveveda means “knowledge of life”. Ayurveda helps create balance by looking at every aspect of your life and how it affects you. Balance means balance in the biological factors of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It means balance in the agni (digestive fire), balance in the tissues, balance in the functioning of elimination, and balance in one’s vitality and emotions.

Ayurveda was the first health science to recognize that different things can create balance or imbalance for different people. It also identifies an underlying framework that supports the ideal functioning of the basic human physiology. For instance, recommendations such as going to bed before 10 P.M. eating one’s main meal at noon and waking up early in the morning are recommendations that will enhance the health of everyone.Immunity_Green_Road_Sign_5038491.jpg

Having a balanced physiology results in a balanced immune system. You probably know people who have been healthy all their lives. These people probably had a strong immune system to begin with. According to Ayurveda there are three types of immunity:

Natural or inherited

Seasonal

Acquired

Natural immunity comes from birth. When both parents are healthy and in good balance and if the “family tree: has had a long line of healthy people, it is often the good fortune of the children to inherit that strong immune system. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends that parents-to-be undergo a three month period of purification prior to conception.

Seasonal immunity means immunity according to the seasons or time of life. For example, in winter, immunity can be affected by an aggravation of Vata dosha and in the spring, by an aggravation of Kapha dosha. During childhood, the body is more susceptible to certain types of imbalances such as coughs and earaches because this is a Kapha time of life.

In the middle years of life, people tend to be more active and more susceptible to Pitta types of imbalances, such as digestive problems. In old age, the body is more susceptible to Vata imbalances, such as stiffness in muscles and joints or memory problems.

Acquired immunity results from the choices you make every day. Examples are organic, fresh foods, enjoying exercise that does not deplete the body’s strength, following a regular daily routine, going to bed on time, eating at the right times and enjoying regular purification (Panchakarma) to eliminate impurities from the cells and tissues of the body.

According to Ayurveda, perfect health is not just the absence of disease, but rather, life in balance, life in wholeness, life in complete happiness. The goal of an Ayurvedic expert is to identify which factors in your life are causing your mind/body system to be out of balance and to help design a routine, diet and lifestyle that will support your continued health and vitality.

For more information on Panchakarma and programs to enhance immunity, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

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Spinach and Chicory Salad to Balance Kapha

 

The bitter, astringent and pungent tastes of spinach and chicory and the light, hot and dry properties of this salad are especially beneficial during the cool, wet Kapha season.

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For the Salad

2 cups spinach, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

1 small head chicory—radicchio type—torn into pieces

1/2 cup red cabbage, thinly shredded

3 or 4 radishes, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds

 

For Kapha Vinaigrette

1/4 cup oil

1 tablespoon warm water

1 tablespoon vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Kapha churna, or turmeric, pepper, coriander, and ginger to taste

 

Mix all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar. Cover and shake vigorously. Place the spinach in a serving bowl and pour the vinaigrette over it. Toss well. Add remaining vegetables, toss again, cover. Sprinkle with almonds before serving

 

Cooling Alternative Vinaigrette

Salads also pacify Pitta. When the weather is hot, this is a more cooling salad dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons warm water

2 teaspoons Pitta Churna, or coriander, cardamom and turmeric to taste

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Remember that raw foods can be hard to digest, especially in the summer when our internal digestive fire is diminished (in response to the high external heat.) Enjoy salads at noon when your digestive fire is at its peak. Favor warm, cooked food in the evening. Do not have cold or iced drinks with your meal. Make sure your salad is at room temperature.

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Keeping Limber as We Age

As we age it is common to find that we are not as limber as we once were. Elbows and knees become prone to soreness and other problems. According to Ayurveda, this reflects the natural increase in Vata dosha in the later stage of life. As Vata increases, Vata disorders can make the joints drier and stiffer. If we have a build up of ama (toxins that result from poor digestion) in the body, the combination of Vata and ama can lead to condition such as arthritis, stiffness and pain.

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Daily Oil Massage

To counteract the increasing accumulation of Vata in the body, Ayurveda recommends daily sesame oil massage. Before you bathe in the morning, massage the joints with warm sesame oil using a circular motion. Follow this by applying three to five minutes of moist heat to the joints.

Sesame oil is inherently heating and is the most penetrating of all the oils. If you have sensitive skin or are Pitta in nature, it may be that a more cooling oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil, is better for you. Try the sesame oil on a small patch of skin first, to see if you have any reaction.

In addition to daily oil massage, regular stretching of the joints through yoga helps keep the joints limber. Avoid straining when you exercise.

AMA

If you have significant join problems, be sure to get medical attention. Joint problems commonly reflect a build up of “ama” in the system. Ama is a sticky substance that results from poor digestion. Essentially, it is a form of un-metabolized waste that cannot be utilized by the body. Over time, ama tends to accumulate throughout the body and block the channels circulation, causing a variety of conditions and often leading to chronic disorders. Ayurveda considers ama to be the main underlying cause of many health issues.

Lowering Ama

The first stage in eliminating ama is to address what is causing ama to build up in the first place. Common causes are:

Overeating

Eating food that is not fresh and organic,

Eating too many raw foods

Eating before the previous meal is digested

Eating large meals in the evening

Eating without full attention on one’s meal

Not sitting down to a relaxed meal

A lack of exercise

Consulation with an Ayurvedic Expert

Specific recommendations regarding herbs, topical preparations, diet and seasonal and daily routines can be given by an Ayurvedic expert who is experienced in Ayurveda Pulse Assessment.

Panchakarma

The traditional purification and detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma, is designed to loosen ama, toxins, and excess Vata, Pitta, and Kapha from the deep tissues, moving them to the digestive tract, and from there, eliminating them from the body.

More more information on consultations and on Panchakarma programs, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Special Foods For Kapha Season

Fruit

Desserts for springtime Kapha season should be fruits, fruit tarts, or pies made without sugar. Apple juice or dried fruits such as raisins can be added to many recipes as a sweetener. Dried fruits also make excellent desserts.

Kapha Spices

During Kapha season you’ll want to season your food with the spices that reduce Kapha. These include all spices except salt. Remember, avoiding does not mean going without. Just don’t add extra salt or eat salty foods.

RECIPE FOR KAPHA SEASON FROM THE KITCHEN OF THE RAJ AYURVEDA HEALTH SPA

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Deep Dish Apple Pie

Makes 6 to 8 servings. (Just spoon the filling into a 1 1/2 quart casserole and top with pastry)

6 or more medium, sweet organic apples

1 cup raisins

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

1 thawed can of grape-apple juice concentrate

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 450°

Rollout your favorite since crust pastry

In a small saucepan, use I tablespoon cornstarch to thicken the thawed grape-apple just concentrate.

Slice apples. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with cinnamon and nutmeg. Carefully pour juice over apples, then fold the apples into the juice mixture. Alternative layer the apples and raisins in the deep dish. The apples will cook down. Cover with crust. Seal and flute edges. Pierce crust. Protect edges of the crust from burning (see below.) Bake at 450° for 10 minutes and remove whatever you are using to protect your crust. Bake for another 35 to 40 minutes at 375°, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.

For years bakers covered the edge of their pie crusts with aluminum foil to keep the edges from burning. However, a growing concern about impact of  aluminum on health has led many cooks to look for alternative solutions. Turning a second pie plate or baking dish over the top of your crust is one easy solution.

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Spring Into Action with Ayurveda: Healthy Tips for Kapha Season

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Springtime brings with it a burst of action as the dry, cold weather gives way to the moist, milder climate that supports new growth and creativity. According to Ayurveda, cool and moist weather aggravates Kapha dosha, the biological principle that is cold, heavy, oily, and smooth. Hay fever, runny noses, sinus congestion or sinusitis, and allergies are some of the problems spring weather can cause. Here are a few tips to help you have a sunny and healthy Kapha season.

DIET

Eat More:

Light, dry and warm foods,

Foods that are spicy, bitter and astringent

Fruits which are lighter, such as apples and pears

Raw, uncooked honey (Ayurveda considers heated or cooked honey to be toxic)

Grains such as barley and millet

Eat Less

Heavy, oily and cold foods

Sweet, salty and sour foods

Heavy or sour fruits, such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, avocados, coconuts, and melons

Sugar and sugar products

Nuts

Wheat, rice or oats

Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and zucchini

Salt

LIFESTYLE

DO: Exercise more, but keep your ears and head covered

DON’T: Heat or warm your honey, as this interferes with digestion

For information on consultations with Ayurvedic experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

Early to Bed — for a Healthy Mind and Body

If you struggle to fall asleep at night, you are not alone. As many as 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia — and that number is growing every year.

According to Ayurveda, insomnia is most commonly caused by a disturbance in Vata dosha. Vata dosha is the principle concerned with movement in the body. When Vata is out of balance, your mind can be racing and your body can be so keyed up at bedtime that you are not able to fall asleep.

People with Vata disorders tend to keep irregular habits, including eating at different times of the day and going to bed at all hours — habits that can cause Vata dosha to become even more imbalanced.

Being out of tune with nature’s daily rhythms may actually be causing insomnia in millions around the world. With the invention of the electric light bulb, it suddenly became possible for many activities to take place after sunset. To re-attune yourself with nature’s rhythms, try going to bed at the same time every night, preferably with a bedtime of 10:00 or earlier.

According to Ayurveda, the many rhythms and cycles of the cosmos (such as the circadian rhythm, caused by the earth rotating on its axis every 24 hours, or the seasonal cycle of the earth revolving around the sun) have a counterpart in the human body.

Modern science is beginning to study this phenomenon. Research shows that many neurological and endocrine functions follow the 24-hour cycle. Our sleep-wakefulness cycle is one of those circadian rhythms. Science now knows that many of the hormones your body needs to repair itself are released while you sleep. Science tells us that between 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. the deepest and most regenerative sleep occurs. Remember that time: you’ll hear about it later.

Ayurveda has identified three “master cycles” that occur in your mind/body system — and in nature around us. You experience them in terms of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Kapha cycle in the evening takes place from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., after work is finished and the sun is setting. You naturally feel more relaxed and drowsy at this time, since your body is preparing to sleep. This is the influence of Kapha dosha, which by nature is slow and heavy.

If you go to bed during this Kapha cycle, before 10:00 p.m., sleep will come more easily and will have more of the slow, stable quality of Kapha dosha.

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Modern research concurs that sleep gets lighter and lighter as dawn approaches. Our deepest slumber (called NREM sleep) occurs within 20 minutes of falling asleep and gets interrupted around 90 minutes later by a five-to-ten minute round of REM-type sleep. For the rest of the night, you alternate between the two types of sleep in 90-minute cycles, with your NREM sleep getting shorter and less deep and the lighter REM cycles getting longer.

Because so many people suffer from an aggravation of Vata, it can be difficult to stop activity and head to bed early. If you go to bed after 10:00 p.m., you are going to bed during the Pitta cycle, between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.  Pitta is the principle that governs transformations. At noon, when we are also in a Pitta cycle, the increased principle of transformation helps us to digest our lunch (which Ayurveda recommends should be our biggest meal of the day). In the evening the transformative properties of Pitta are meant be used to help repair the body while we sleep, so that we awake refreshed and renewed. If we are awake during this time, many experience a spurt of intellectual activity and find that this is the “perfect” time to catch up on work or personal projects. This is a misuse of the Pitta cycle and we are robbing our body of its chance to repair and restore itself. Once the mind becomes active during the Pitta cycle, it is difficult to turn off thoughts. Combined with a Vata imbalance, which can “fan the fires” of Pitta, you could easily find yourself up until the wee hours of the morning — and enjoying a midnight snack to boot.

What happens when we rob ourselves of our nightly self-repair? Science is finding a wide range of negative effects, from being more susceptible to colds and infections to increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Deep sleep apparently allows us to deep clean plaque from the brain.

While there are many other aspects of insomnia to consider, the first step anyone who is serious about conquering insomnia should consider is to create a regular schedule which includes being in bed before 10:00 at night.

A visit to an Ayurvedic expert will help you to more precisely pinpoint which imbalances are keeping you from a good night’s sleep.  They can prescribe diet, supplements and lifestyle changes that will support your efforts.

For more information on programs for insomnia, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

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Daily Oil Massage to Pacify Vata and Remove Toxins

Among the top recommendations for guests at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa is to add daily oil massage (abhyanga) to their daily routine when they return home. The effects of daily Ayurveda oil massage (recommended before bathing in the morning) are multifold: Not only will a morning oil massage help pull toxins from the skin (the largest organ in the body and an important organ for the elimination of toxins), it also leaves a protective film that acts as a barrier between your skin and harmful environmental elements.

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While oil massage helps balance all doshas — especially when you use oil infused with herbs that specifically target Vata, Pitta or Kapha — it is especially good for balancing Vata. I know many people who never travel without a small container of sesame oil. After a long plane or car ride, there is nothing more grounding than an oil massage followed by a good soak in a hot bath. (Add in some Vata tea and aroma oil to your travel kit and you are well on your way to sidestepping the jangling effects of travel.)

But the beneficial effects of oil massage don’t stop there. Research also suggests that sesame oil (the oil most often used in abhyanaga) selectively stops malignant skin cancer cells from growing in laboratory tissue culture, and at the same time allows normal skin cells to proliferate.

According to the study, sesame and safflower oils selectively inhibited the grown of malignant melanoma cell cultures, but coconut, olive and mineral oils did not. The traditional Ayurveda texts specifically recommend sesame oil massage to promote health and longevity.

(One note of caution: sesame oil has a naturally heating property. Those with a Pitta body type or with Pitta imbalances may need to opt for more cooling oil. Sesame oil can cause rashes or redness in Pitta-sensitive skin. If you are in this category, you might want to try coconut or olive oil. Although these oils do not inhibit the growth of cancer, they will help to pacify Vata and to remove toxins.)

Researchers have known for years that linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that is present in small quantities in the body, inhibits many kinds of cancer growth. But because pure linoleic acid is highly unstable and can irritate a person’s skin and eyes, it cannot be used or ingested safely. In the above mentioned research study, scientists used the whole vegetable oil, rather than trying to isolate the active ingredient, thus avoiding unnatural side effects.

Research also shows that oil massage is an important component in removing synthetic chemicals from our physiology. In the US there are thousands of these kind of chemicals used in various types of industry or agriculture. These toxins are present everywhere in our environment and can be found in virtually every living organism around the world. Regardless of our lifestyle, profession, eating habits, or geographic location, by the time we are 40 years old, our toxin level is substantial.

A study on clients participating in the traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma) at The Raj showed that blood levels of these chemicals were reduced by 50% after a 5-day course of treatment. Because these harmful chemicals are fat-soluble, the toxins can be “washed” from our fat cells by the deeply penetrating sesame oil (as well as by other components of the treatment program.)

Integrating a 10-minute sesame oil massage into your morning routine can have a significant impact on reducing Vata imbalances, purifying the skin and maintaining balance throughout the body.

To learn more about the research on removing fat-soluble toxins through the detoxification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma), visit The Raj website:

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