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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Turmeric: The Spice of Life

When guests are given their going-home recommendations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, we encourage them to use spice mixtures, called “churnas”, when cooking. One reason is that these spice mixtures contain all six tastes and that they help keep the doshas in balance. Another reason is that churnas contain herbs and spices that promote health.

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Today we are going to focus on turmeric, the yellow-pigmented spice that is an important ingredient in all of the churnas. Turmeric has traditionally been used in Indian cuisine and in Ayurveda herbal medicine. Ayurveda practitioners prescribed the spice to reduce inflammation and joint problems, to treat digestive disorders, and to address skin disorders. Due to turmeric’s heating quality, it helps to balance Kapha and Vata doshas and due to its bitter taste, it helps to balance Pitta dosha.

In recent years, turmeric has become well known in main-stream America for its medicinal benefits. Nearly 7000 studies and scientific articles have been published on the medical effectiveness of compounds in turmeric in areas such as chronic inflammation and pain, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and brain health and memory.

How To Use Turmeric

Before I get into the wonderful details of how turmeric supports health and longevity, I wanted to highlight how best to use turmeric. Over-cooking turmeric can easily destroy the fragile molecules of the important medical compounds contained in the spice. To retain the best of both taste and health, add turmeric after you have cooked your soup, grains or vegetables.

Start with melting ghee in a frying pan until it becomes clear. Then add turmeric powder and mix it into the oil. Remove the frying pan from direct heat and allow the spice to simmer in the hot oil for 5 minutes, or until it turns a slightly darker color and releases its aroma. Pour this over your already-cooked food or add it to your pot of already-cooked soup, and serve.

When storing turmeric, it is good to protect the spice from the light and heat. Store turmeric in a dark, cool place.

Now let’s look at the wealth of benefits offered by turmeric.

Curcumin

Curcumin is the most well-studied bioactive ingredient in turmeric, exhibiting over 150 potentially therapeutic effects. Curcumin is also capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. This is why is it is good to add turmeric to healthy fats used in cooking, such as ghee and olive oil. The addition of turmeric allows the fats to be utilized by the brain. Our brains are composed of 60 percent fat and the brain needs fat in order to work properly.

Curcumin has been investigated for its potential role in improving Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, and stroke damage. It can also promote brain health in general, courtesy of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as discussed more below.

Amazingly, Curcumin has the ability to modulate as many as 700 of our genes. It can also insert itself into our cells’ membranes, changing the physical properties of the membrane itself by making them more orderly. Curucmin also has the ability to affect signaling molecules. For example, curcumin has been shown to directly interact with inflammatory molecules, various carrier proteins, cell survival proteins and DNA and RNA.

Turmeric May Regenerate Brain Cells

Curcumin is not the only important ingredient in turmeric. Aromatic-turmerone is a compound that can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent. Neural stem cells differentiate into neurons and play an important role in the brain’s self-repair mechanisms. This suggests that turmeric could aid in the recovery of brain function diseases such as Alzheimer’s and stroke

Curcumin has been shown to help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques. In addition, people with Alzheimer’s tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains, and curcumin is perhaps most known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Given the astounding health benefits of adding turmeric to soup, grains and vegetables, we recommend making the use of this wonderful spice a daily practice.

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Oil Up! Enjoying the Benefits of Ayurveda Oil Massage

One of our top recommendations to guests at The Raj as they head home is to continue with daily oil massage (abhyanga). 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 and you are well on your way to side-stepping 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 another oil and may react to sesame oil with rashes or redness. If you are in this catagory, you will want to opt for a more cooling oil.)

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, they are able to 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:

www.theraj.com/rajresults/index.php

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Balancing Kapha, Vata and Pitta Doshas: Understanding Their Dynamic Interactions

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The cool, moist spring weather heralds the arrival of Kapha season. The qualities of Kapha dosha are cold, heavy, oily and smooth. These qualities tend to dominate in the environment and in the physiology from late February to the end of May.

The role of Kapha dosha is to maintain structural integrity—to resist any environmental influence from breaking down the physiology. This is why individuals who are Kapha-types have more highly developed physical structures (such as the musculature system) When Kapha becomes aggravated, however, the qualities of heaviness and dullness increase the Kapha’s protective value becomes obscured.

Interactions of the Doshas

We should keep in mind that every point of the physiology involves the interaction between Vata, Pitta and Kapha. So when we discuss an imbalance in one dosha, there will always be interactions with the other doshas. This point is especially true with Kapah dosha, the most physically inert of the three. Usually its stability becomes disturbed through a dynamic interaction with Vata or Pitta.

Kapha Follows the Leader

Because Kapha represents the material value of the physiology, it is less likely to become disturbed than Vata or Pitta. And because it is more material and slow and steady, Kapha tends to stay stable in its own location. Therefore, it is much more difficult to move Kapha out of its proper place.

This is why the original text of Ayurveda, Charaka Samhita, indicated that there are twice as many disorders and diseases caused by Vata as Pitta and twice as many disorders and diseases caused by Pitta as Kapha. This is also the reason why Kapha disorders are most commonly found associated with disturbances of Vata and Pitta. Usually, Vata is the first dosha disturbed, since it is most delicate and quick in its nature. And in its dynamic interaction with the other doshas, it can lead Pitta and Kapha to get disturbed as well.

Treatment of Kapha Imbalances

If a person has a condition involving all three doshas, an Ayurvedic expert can take into account all the imbalances and try to treat them simultaneously. At the same time, the expert can often try to treat the most fundamental, causal level first, and usually—even with a Kapha disorder—that will be Vata. As the Vata imbalance is corrected, the Pitta and Kapha often get corrected simultaneously because of the dynamic interplay between the three streams of intelligence.

One of the best things you can do for your body during the spring season is to undergo traditional Ayurveda purification, detoxification and rejuvenation treatments, called Panchakarma. These treatments are designed to balance all three doshas and rid the body of accumulated impurities, including excess Kapha dosha, resulting in a fresh, settled, balance mind and body.

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

www.theraj.com