Ayurveda – Ancient Remedies for Modern Life
Ancient and timeless, Ayurveda offers us the secrets to attaining and maintaining optimal health and wellbeing. Its benefits have been proven over thousands of years and its methodologies continue to help millions of people across the world live a balanced and vital life in the 21st century.
Ayurveda recognises that each person is unique and offers a highly customised approach to health and wellbeing. This article outlines the basics of Ayurveda and explains how you can begin using the secrets of this science to heal skin disorders.
Skin disorders can range from mild irritation and inflammation to chronic and long term conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dermatitis, acne and other inflammatory skin disorders. Perhaps you have always had sensitive skin that burns easily in the sun or breaks out in hives when it has contact with “foreign” objects.
What is Ayurveda?
Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, Ayurveda was developed in the Indian subcontinent. It is the world’s oldest and most sophisticated health system. More than merely a means of treating physical illness, Ayurveda literally means ‘the science of life’ (“Ayu” in Sanskrit meaning life and “Veda” meaning science or knowledge). It is an ancient and dynamic body of wisdom which can help people live at their optimum best, vibrant and happy.
Effective skin treatment – Inside Out & Outside In
Ayurveda offers the perspective that while all skin conditions can seem superficial in nature, our skin, the largest organ of the body, is a reflection of the hidden realities within our bodies. Skin conditions are rarely caused exclusively by an external factor; they are far more likely to be the result of a deeper imbalance.
A disorder is like a weed. What we see on the surface of the skin are just the leaves. Treating the leaves alone doesn’t eliminate the weed. We also have to go to the root and treat the disorder from there. Skin care from an Ayurvedic approach aims to identify and treat the underlying causes of skin imbalances as well as alleviating the discomfort of the superficial symptoms – both from the inside out and from the outside in.
The benefits of this deeper and more conscious approach are real and sustained results which increase your overall wellbeing in the process. The best part of Ayurveda is that the improvements you will notice on the surface of your skin are usually the result of a more significant transformation which improves your life and overall wellbeing in ways you may never have imagined skin care could.
What causes skin disease?
According to this ancient knowledge the cause of all skin disorders is impaired digestive fire (known as “Vishama Agni” in Sanskrit), which in turn is caused by incorrect diet and lifestyle. When the digestive fire is imbalanced, either too high or too low, it causes some food to convert to toxins (known as “Ama” in Sanskrit). These toxins or Ama then circulate throughout the body, and are deposited on the superficial fascia, which can leave the skin feeling and looking dry, causing irritation, scaling or inflammation and infection. Like a blocked and overflowing drain, the
body finds the point of least resistance to deposit toxins.
Even though skin disorders are influenced by genetics, according to Ayurveda, they can be eliminated or significantly reduced by using the right combination of topical preparations to help heal and repair the skin, diet and lifestyle choices, in accordance with your constitution (known as “Dosha”).
Eat What You Are
Today we are bombarded with information about nutrition and what to eat. Researchers, doctors and nutritionists are providing us with rules about how many portions of fruit and vegetables to eat; what the latest super-food can do for us; how much water to drink; which foods are now deemed to be harmful; what to cut out of our diets … and the lists go on. We are often left in a state of confusion. According to Ayurveda, even if you followed all this advice to the letter (which would be impossible anyway as so much is contradictory), you may still be eating the wrong foods to attain your optimal health and wellbeing. This is not because these foods are bad or good. Breaking down our diets in this way is oversimplified. In Ayurveda, each of us is recognised to be as unique as our DNA codes and so any principle that suggests everyone should eat in the same way is bound to fail.
We are unique in our physical build, our metabolism, our energy levels, our genetics, our ethnicity, our environment, our work, our feelings, our relationships, our tastes… ever wondered why some people have acne and others don’t? We are individuals with unique needs that must be satisfied in order to enjoy optimal health and wellbeing.
It is also why some people can eat chilli with no side effect while others break out in a rash and feel terrible the next day. It is why some of us cannot tolerate certain foods such dairy products while others have no problem tucking in. One woman’s medicine can be another woman’s poison. Depending on who you are, the same food can either harm you or help you. It comes down to constitution, not nutrition.
What is Your Dosha?
According to Ayurveda’s fundamental principles each person is a combination of the three Doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each Dosha has specific qualities and it is the combination of these qualities, which make us each as unique as our DNA or genetic code. Each of the Doshas is a combination of two of the five elements – space, air, fire, water and earth.
Vata has the light and mobile qualities of air and space; pitta is passionate and energetic like fire; and kapha is steady and reliable like earth.
Once a person understands their own constitution (particularly with the help of an Ayurvedic doctor) and re-orders any imbalance through the use of diet, lifestyle, medicinal herbs, and detox treatments such as Panchakarma, they can expect to live unhindered by skin disorders.
Vata, Pitta, Kapha Common Skin Disorders
Long before the existence of microscopic technology, Ayurveda recognised that the skin was made up of three main layers.
The superficial fascia (known as “Apicharma”) is in constant contact with the outside world and so it constantly repairs itself to adjust to the outside atmosphere. As a result it tends to get dry, flaky and irritable frequently. People who are predominantly Vata (made up of the qualities of air and ether) are more likely to suffer with irritable skin disorders at the most superficial layer of skin. Hence Vata people have a greater tendency to dry skin, dry eczema, irritable skin, and dandruff. Damp weather, dry, cold and raw food and stress tend to aggravate and increase Vata dosha. Reducing exposure to these aggravators can help to eliminate this disorder, as well as applying the right moisturiser and making simple adjustments to life style and diet.
Just like vata people, vata type eczema is ‘easy come, easy go’.
The second layer of skin consists of more connective tissue, blood vessels and plasma. It tends to be more moist and warm. When toxins or Ama circulate in this layer, skin tends to get irritable, hot and red. Hot blooded ‘Pitta’ people (made up of the qualities of fire and water) are more prone to a type of eczema which is inflammatory, hot and red as well as rosacea, dermatitis and other types of inflammatory skin conditions. Stress and anger can further aggravate these types of skin disorders. The application of suitable moisturisers, following a Pitta reducing diet and stress reducing adjustments to lifestyle can help to significantly heal these types of disorder.
Pitta people are characterised by their dominant qualities and so pitta skin disorders take some effort to overcome.
Third layer (known as “addhus charma”) is made up of connective tissue, fat and blood. It tends to be the moistest layer of the skin and has a greater tolerance for toxicity. However, when toxins build up to saturation point, disorders begin to appear slowly. When this third layer gets affected it is much harder to cure. Normally people with Kapha constitutions (made up of the qualities of earth) are more prone to disorders of third layer, such as Psoriasis, the most common disorder in this layer, infected boils and wet eczema. With effort and a longer term approach, through application of the correct moisturisers, herbs, and adjustments to life style and diet as well as deep cleansing programmes like “Panchakarma”, Kapha skin disorders can be cured.
Just like Kapha people, it takes a long time to come, a longer time to eliminate but once gone it may never return.
Supporting the Body to Eliminate Skin Disorders
As we are all as unique as our DNA code, specific diagnosis along with highly individualised advice to identify the cause of the disorder, eliminate toxicity built up in the body and to heal, repair and maintain healthy skin can be provided by a qualified Ayurvedic Physician.
This foundational advice will significantly support the body in eliminating any type of skin disorder:
- Daily moisturisation of the skin with a suitable cream such as Dermaved
- Protecting the skin from extreme weather conditions, whether cold or hot
- Improving circulation by staying properly hydrated and taking regular exercise, especially stretching, yoga or walking
- Gentle regular sweating to excrete toxins from the system
- Following a diet which allows proper, regular bowel movements
- Avoiding acidity, red meat, red fish, tropical fruit, red wine, tomatoes, cold raw salads, nuts and seeds
- Passing urine regularly throughout the day whenever the body requires
- Reducing stress levels through meditation or other leisure activities