Book Review: Ayurveda Revisited

Ayurveda Revisited
by Sharadini Rahanukar & Urmilla Thatte
Popular Prakashan Publishers Ltd. (1993)

Indians have always been rightfully proud of their rich heritage, a vast legacy of medical knowledge in Ayurveda, our traditional medicinal system. Today, however, Ayurveda in India does not enjoy the same status in the scientific world as it did during the years of Sushruta and Charaka. There are several reasons for this: the canonical language in which it was written (Sanskrit), the fact that certain claims made and teachings enunciated by Ayurveda are not backed by experimental proofs which are essential in today’s science, and the fact that Ayurvedic therapies are considered by many if not most Allopathic Physicians to be alternative medicine to which the conditions that modern medicine has failed to treat are relegated.

Paradoxically, one finds that Ayurvedic drugs and treatments are widely prescribed in India and her neighboring countries today, indicating that Ayurveda has never been uprooted and still enjoys wide popularity. It has been very difficult to get a contemporary view of Ayurveda because Indian doctors, most of whom are trained in Allopathy, are so westernized in their approach to medicine that they have lost touch with the deeper meaning of Ayurveda. At the same time, most contemporary commentaries on ancient Ayurvedic texts have been written by Ayurvedic physician-scholars who, with a few notable exceptions, have little training outside of their discipline and whose works have the disadvantage of being written by people closely involved in the subject, thus lacking a degree of “arms-length” detachment and objectivity.
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Herb of the Season: Sahijan (Moringa olifeira)

Ayurvedic energetics:
Rasa (taste) – Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), Madhura (slightly sweet)
Vipaka – Katu
Veerya – Ushna (hot)
Doshic signature – KV=P+
Gunas – Laghu (light, easy to digest), Rooksha (dryness), Teekshna (strong, piercing)
Other qualities: Kshara – Has alkaline properties; Shobhanjana – Very auspicious tree; Teekshnagandha – Strong and pungent odor

Other Names: Munaga (Hindi), Munagai (Tamil), Nugge Mara (Kannada), Nugge kayi (Kannada), Sahijan (Hindi), Sahjna, Saijan, Saijhan, Sajna

Sahijan (Moringa) is a plant that is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan but currently is also grown throughout the tropics. The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and root are used to make medicine. Traditionally, Moringa is used for “tired blood” (anemia); arthritis and other joint pain (rheumatism); asthma; cancer; constipation; diabetes; diarrhea; epilepsy; stomach pain; stomach and intestinal ulcers; intestinal spasms; headache; heart problems; high blood pressure; kidney stones; fluid retention; thyroid disorders; and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections.

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Using Ayurveda to Tame Gastric Reflux

Acidity is related to heartburn (also known as ‘Reflux’ or GERD) and gas formation in the stomach. In acidity, acid reflux or gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or as it is known in Ayurveda urdhva gata amalpitta, there is a movement of gastric juices from the stomach into the lower esophagus. This is a condition which is caused when the highly acidic contents of the stomach (mostly hydrochloric acid) move upward into the esophagus through an improperly closing valve.

In Ayurveda this condition is considered to be caused by the aggravation of pitta dosha which is responsible for the burning sensation felt in the chest region.

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Ayurvedic Treatment of Varicosis (Varicose Veins)

Ayurvedic Treatment of Varicosis (Varicose Veins)

Varicosis, or varicose veins, caused by weakened valves in the veins of the legs, refers to a condition in which the veins of the legs become varicose, i.e. they appear swollen and bulging and can be discerned beneath the surface of the skin. Varicose veins may be dark in color or may retain their original color, ranging from a light purplish-red to an almost navy blue. They are nearly always painful. In case of prolonged varicose veins, they could be accompanied by skin peeling and skin ulcers may be seen to develop.

Varicose veins are caused due to excessive pressure brought to bear on the legs or the abdomen. These are brought on by advancing age, obesity, pregnancy, hormonal changes and a host of other factors, which may include genetic or epigenetic factors as varicose veins often run in families. Standing for long periods of time increases pressure on leg veins and promote varicose veins.

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Book Review: American Veda - From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

American Veda - From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West
by Philip Goldberg
Three Rivers Press/Random House (New York 2010)

“…In February 1968 the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their new guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those forty days in the wilderness …”

With these words, Philip Goldberg begins his monumental work, American Veda, a fascinating look at India’s remarkable impact on Western culture. This eye-opening popular history shows how the ancient philosophy of Vedanta and the mind-body methods of Yoga have profoundly affected the worldview of millions of Americans and radically altered the religious landscape.

What exploded in the 1960’s actually began more than two hundred years earlier, when the United States started importing knowledge as well as tangy spices and colorful fabrics from Asia. The first translations of Hindu texts found their way into the libraries of John Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson. From there the ideas spread to Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and succeeding generations of receptive Americans, who absorbed India’s “science of consciousness” and wove it into the fabric of their lives.

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Book Review: Ayurveda Unmasked

Ayurveda Unmasked
by Ranganayakulu Venkat Potturu, Ph.D.
Pangea Publishers (India, 2015), Kindle E-Books edition

This is an important book that should be read by anyone concerned with the future of Ayurveda, although when I began reading this book I did so with a pre-existing bias: I disliked its title intensely. If something is to be “unmasked” that more than implies that it is wearing a mask, that it is presenting a false version of itself to the world, and hiding a true face that is unsuitable for public viewing or in some fashion unacceptable.

To be sure, Dr. Putturu, a physiologist on the faculty of the Sri Venkateswara Ayurvedic Medical College of Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh, has many criticisms to make of Ayurveda as it is contemporarily taught and practiced in his homeland. Some of his criticisms are valid and well-taken, particularly as they relate to a system of Ayurvedic education that he sees as corrupt, stagnant and overly-emphasizing Ayurveda’s literary canon and Sanskritic tradition while sorely wanting in scientific substance and methodology. Others are not so well-founded and in a few instances are simply factually incorrect.

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Herb of the Season: Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna)

Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is a huge tree native to India and Sri Lanka whose bark comprises Ayurveda’s pre-eminent cardiotonic and cardioprotective herb (hridaya). Interestingly, Arjuna is also the name of the legendary hero figure of the Mahabharata. He brings strength, fortitude and protection to his family just as Arjuna brings these qualities to the body.

Arjuna means ‘white’ or ‘shining’ named after its bark that literally reflects light wherever this huge tree grows. The pale white bark of the Arjuna tree ‘moults’ off naturally once a year, its new skin bringing new life to the tree. It is harvested when the tree is mature, thus attesting to its ability to prolong life, protect the elderly and strengthen the heart.
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Ayurvedic Management of Tinnitus*

*REFERENCES to herbs used in the following text should not be viewed as recommendations or suggestions for the treatment of any disease or condition. Each individual’s therapeutic needs are unique and what may be of benefit to one individual could be harmful for another. For specific information please consult an Ayurvedic practitioner or other health care provider.

Tinnitus, a persistent, unwelcome sensation of “ringing” in the ears, causes the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head in the absence of any external cause or stimuli. Although often referred to as "ringing in the ears", some affected people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking. The ringing can be intermittent or constant-with single or multiple tones-and its perceived volume can range from subtle to shattering.

It is estimated that in U.S. alone, over 50 million experience tinnitus to some degree. Of these, nearly 25% have severe enough tinnitus and about 5% are so seriously debilitated that they cannot function on a "normal," day-to-day basis. The population of affected appears to contain a larger number of individuals involved in sedentary occupations, as opposed to manual workers.
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Staying Healthy With the Change of Seasons

With the change in season taking us from long, warm days spent outdoors to short and cold ones huddled inside our homes, it is quite ordinary for many individuals to feel a bit "off”, disoriented, out of sorts and low on energy. The hours we sleep, the food we eat, and the activities we engage in can all be affected profoundly by our environment and the climactic conditions that surround us.

Ayurveda, India's ancient system of healing (and the oldest medical tradition in the world) has long recognized the impact of seasonal change on the health of individuals, and for countless centuries has helped individuals manage the change in seasons in a healthful fashion. The change in climate that we all experience tends to place a degree of stress on the human body, and we all tend to respond to it in a fashion consonant with our "metabolic type". Ayurveda postulates three such "types," (known in Sanskrit as the ‘tridosha') roughly analogous to the western concepts of endo-, ecto-, and meso-morphism. Thus, types of individuals are characterized by their predominant energy. This includes Kapha individuals (who tend to be compact, heavy, easygoing, calm and self-indulgent); Pitta individuals(exhibiting high energy, irritability, perfectionism and who are generally "intense" in many respects) and Vata types (who are constantly in a `mental whirl,' fretful, forgetful, disliking organization prone to lack bodily moisture, thin and easily fatigued or depressed).
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Book Review: Autism & Varma Therapy: A Parent’s Guide

Autism & Varma Therapy: A Parent’s Guide
by Sri Pranaji
Persatuan Siddha Varma Kalai Publishers; Kuala Lampur, Malaysia (1st edition, 2014, 71pp.)

This pictorial self-help guide has been written to allow parents, children and the wider community to utilize the therapeutic benefits of Varma (aka Marma) Therapy. This traditional therapy hails from the ancient Indian Siddha Medical System, a close relative of some say the inspiration for Ayurveda.

The author, a siddha yogi from a very ancient tradition, has used his deep knowledge of the human nervous system and brain functioning to develop a unique method to help children with Autism using simple technique based on yogic principles. Sri Pranaji is the Founder and Director of the Siddha Applied Science Institute (SASI), an organization he founded to promote the ancient science of Siddha Vaidyam in a way applicable to the modern world.
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