Ayurveda and Allergy

Prof. Em. Subhash Ranade
Chairman
International Academy of Ayurved, Pune, India
(www.ayurved-int.com)

Dr. Sunanda Ranade
Vice-Chairman
International Academy of Ayurved, Pune, India
(www.ayurved-int.com)

What is Allergy –

According to Ayurveda substances which are suitable to the body are known as Satmya while non suitable substances are known as Asatmya. These Asatmya substances cause allergies.

Causes of Allergy –

Ayurveda considers ama (toxins) which is produced due to low digestive fire- and low immunity as the primary causes of most allergies. Ama can settle at the digestive level or in the various tissues, with different symptoms at each level. Ama toxicity aggravates Pitta and vitiates blood, or it can aggravate Kapha, with different symptoms. Allergies are caused by overreaction of body’s immune system to certain substances (allergens) that it identifies as harmful. Genetic predisposition, age, sex and race can influence allergic reaction. It can be acute or chronic.

Allergies occur when a hypersensitive immune system reacts to a common or unusual substance. In some people it is hereditary, but one can also develop an allergy at any time in his or her life. Any substance, whatever its origin, is a possible allergen. Foods, preservatives in foods, medicines, and environmental factors, including pollen, parasites, dust, animal hair, color for dying hair, and chemical toxins can all cause allergic reactions almost anywhere in the body. There are four major ways by which allergen can come into contact and produce allergy – skin contact, injection, ingestion and inhalation.

For treating chronic allergies it is best to detox the body or remove ama by using proper purification procedures.

Seasonal allergies –

There are many types like spring allergy, summer allergy, winter allergy, fall allergy etc. Because in every season some types of pollens spread in the weather and produce allergies. However Spring Allergy is most common.

Spring Allergy –

It is caused by various pollens in the air. Person who is prone to this allergy suddenly starts sneezing, cough, nasal congestion, watering of the nose and itchy eyes.
According to Ayurveda this disease is caused by aggravation of Kapha. Accumulated Kapha in late winter gets aggravated (by way of melting) and produces this disease.

Dos and Don’ts –

Avoid all Kapha aggravating foods and drinks like cold dairy –milk, yogurt, cold drinks. Avoid also fruits having cold potency like banana. Increase agni (digestive fire) by taking spices that will invigorate this energy like trikatu (combination of Black pepper, Long pepper and Ginger).
Practice daily Pranayama to give strength to the Respiratory system and also do Jala Neti. For this mix 16 ounces of lukewarm water with 1 tsf of salt. Fill it in Neti pot. Then slightly tilt your head and put the nozzle in one nostril and allow the water to flow from the other nose. By this procedure the entire nasal passage is cleaned and becomes resistant to the pollens floating in the air.

Treatment-

It is best to do the specific Purification procedure called as Vamana or medicated emesis, before the spring season. These people should also practice Pranayama to give boost to the respiratory system.
Charaka has given excellent rasayana therapy to overcome this specific allergy; this can also be used for treating this condition. Persons should start taking ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) powder in dose of 250 mg. with 1 tea spoon of cow’s ghee early in the morning on empty stomach at least one month before spring season. During the season if the allergy symptoms occur, the dose of ashwagandha should be doubled e.g. 500 mg. with ghee till the season is over. This is very effective remedy for Vata and Kapha constitution persons. For Pitta persons if they cannot tolerate ashwagandha, they can take bala powder (Sida cordifolia) in the same method.

Bee pollen is the pollen ball that has been packed by worker honeybees into pellets. It is good remedy for treating spring allergy. Give 1 tea spoon of bee pollens in water every day for at least three weeks.

Hay Fever –

Ayurveda considers hay fever as a Pitta disorder. However, people with a Vata constitution suffer most from it, because it is also due to immune disorder and hypersensitivity of the nervous system. Some texts have mentioned this under the title of trunapushpaka jwara.

Most of us are familiar with the symptoms of Hay Fever. These are itchy, running, sneezing or stuffy nose, itching eyes, scratchy throat, and itching, swelling, or hives on the skin. Often, people seem to have a cold. With more severe reactions, one might suffer from asthma and other breathing difficulties, aches and pain, gastrointestinal reactions (for example, diarrhea), or rapid or irregular heartbeats.

Allergic rhinitis –

This is a common illness affecting an estimated 20-40 million Americans and resulting in 10 million lost days of school or work each year. Worldwide, allergic rhinitis affects between 10 to 30 % of the population. Hay fever subsides with the onset of cold weather. Seasonal allergies are also fairly common in the fall - many people are sensitive to the molds produced by decaying leaves and other plants. Perennial Allergic Rhinitis, however, occurs year around and is caused by indoor allergens such as dust, mite, mold spores, animal dander, animal feathers and hair cause similar symptoms.

What causes Allergic Rhinitis?

Chemical substances, such as histamine, are normally stored in mast cells in tissues of the body, including nose and eyes. The allergic person forms antibodies against pollens and other allergens. These antibodies attach themselves to the mast cells, and when combined with allergen they release histamine and other chemical substances from the mast cells. These chemical substances cause allergic responses in the form of itching, sneezing, congestion, and dripping. According to Ayurveda Due to ama there is aggravation of Pitta which vitiates the rakta (Blood).

Symptoms -

Vata aggravation often produces headache, insomnia, and anxiety. Pitta aggravation produces yellow nasal discharge, feverish feeling, burning eyes, and skin rashes
Kapha aggravation produces whitish sputum and heaviness and dullness in the body. If the sinuses are congested, there may be a dull headache around the region of sinuses.

Treatment -

Herbs- Triphala (mixture of three myrobalan fruits viz. haritaki, bibhitaki and amalaki in equal parts), trikatu, basil, cloves, camphor, coriander and dandelion are the best herbs.

Home Therapies –

1. Take glass of warm water with 1 tsp. old honey and pinch of turmeric every morning or
2. Take glass of warm water with honey and few drops of lemon juice.
3. Nasya - (nasal medication) - It is useful for controlling and preventing seasonal allergies. Use medicated sesame oil made with liquorice, agaru (Aquilaria agallocha), bilva (Aegle marmalos), kantakari (Solanum xanthocarpum), lotus, and nutgrass. Put this medicated oil one drop in each nostril at bedtime. Use this for 4 weeks.
Preparation of Medicated oil -
Ingredients--1 part of herbs + 4 parts of oil +16 parts of water.
Method of preparation –
Make the decoction of herb and water on low fire. Cook it till it becomes 1/8. Heat the oil on low fire. Add slowly filtered decoction in it. Cook it till water gets evaporated.

Vata treatment -

Herbs- Trikatu, triphala, ashwagandha are herbs of choice.
Home Therapies- Nasya – This is the special method of putting medicines in nose. Put 2 drops of medicated sesame oil of ashwagandha or bala in each nostril at bed time.

Vardhamana Rasayana - Unit increase/unit decrease method-

This is specific rasayana method which uses pippali fruits (Piper longum) first in increasing, then in decreasing amount. Pippali strengthens the respiratory tract and prevents severity of attacks.
Put one fruit of pippali in 50 cc. of milk and 50 cc. of water. Then boil it for 5 minutes. Take out pippali fruit and drink the mixture in the morning.
From next day onwards go on increasing one pippali fruit every day till seven days and then start reducing the fruits back to one fruit.
Follow this cycle of unit increasing and unit decreasing, regularly for 3 months. Those who are allergic to milk can take powder of pippali 50 mg. on 1st day with water and increase the amount by 50 mg. every day till 5 days. Then reduce the dose by 50 mg. every day.
Many patients of spring allergy, hay fever and allergic rhinitis have been benefited by this rasayana.
Prepared medicine-
1. Take tab. trikatu 125 mg. and Tab. triphala 250 mg 3 times day.
2. Take tulsi tea twice day. >br/>Diet - avoid cold drinks, dry, and fried food.

Pitta Treatment –

Herbs –For Pitta pacification, bitter herbs & blood cleansing herbs like dandelion, barberry, sariva (Indian sarsaparilla) or echinacea should be taken. Take any of these herbs in dose of 1 to 3 gm. a day for 2 weeks.
Diet - avoid spicy, oily, and fried food.
Home Therapies-
1. During an attack with Pitta aggravation, take a tea made with liquorice, cardamom, and chandan (Santalum album).Take mint tea. For making tea - take equal proportion of dried herbs + 4 times water. Boil it. Reduce till 1/4th.
2. Inhale medicated vapor made with water, tulsi or basil leaves, and eucalyptus oil or inhale only the vapor of cabbage.
3. Do nasya with coconut oil or ghee 2 times a day. Put 2 –3 drops of oil in the nose at bedtime.
Purification therapy-
Give purgation by any suitable herb like triphala or rhubarb.

Kapha Treatment –

Herbs- Camphor, cloves, trikatu, tulsi are herbs of choice.
Take 25 mg. of camphor and cloves and 1 gm. of basil leaves powder twice daily with warm water for 2 months.
Home Therapies –
Nasya- Put 2 drops of anu tail (medicated nasya oil) in each nostril at bed time.
Prepared Medicines –
1. To ease Kapha aggravation, take 2 tab. of sookshma triphala, three times daily with a tea made from basil, cloves, and camphor for 2 weeks.
Ayurvedic Physician may recommend medicated therapeutic vomiting to balance Kapha and prevent the recurrence of seasonal allergies.
Diet- Avoid heavy foods, cold drinks, and dairy products (including cheese and yogurt), that increase Kapha and decrease digestive fire. Also, follow diets that rebalance your own pattern of doshic imbalance.

Skin allergy –

There are several varieties like prickly heat, contact dermatitis, rash or urticaria. Most of these are due to high Pitta.
Dos and Don’ts –
Avoid using cosmetic products and coloring products for the hair. Avoid all tight clothing containing nylon. Use simple loose cotton clothing. Avoid too much fried and spicy foods. Eat simple rice, wheat with coconut, coriander and lemon.
Herbs-
Use herbs like sandalwood, neem, sariva, manjishtha, curcuma and licorice.
Externally application of sandalwood powder mixed with rose water is the best solution.

Food Allergies -

The nervous system and sensitivity to allergens from foods and other substances can create conditions that range from food sensitivities to full blown allergies. Preservatives, processed foods such as junk foods, stale food and food that are cooked or stored improperly can cause these conditions. Even some natural foods can produce reactions. Citrus, Sea foods, peanuts, cashew nuts, cashew nut fruit, wheat, milk and soya are examples of some common food allergies. Different eatable colors and additives also produce allergy.

Many people are allergic to dairy products, especially milk. These people lack the enzyme necessary for digestion of dairy products. Some of them are allergic to substances created by modern methods of dairy production. Cows are given vaccines, hormones, pre-digested food, antibiotics and large quantities of minerals and vitamins. They are kept in restricted areas and are not allowed free movements. They also eat unnatural food. As they remain at one place, their digestive fire decreases, they produce ama. The dairy products from these animals may contain ama, which because humans cannot digest it properly, produces symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, gas headaches, and skin rashes.

Ayurveda distinguishes food allergies according to dosha constitution-

Food allergies and sensitivities, mostly to beans and corn, are very common in people with Vata constitutions.

People with Pitta constitutions are often allergic to peanuts, cashew nuts, sea foods and tobacco.

People with Kapha constitutions are often allergic to dairy products.

Food allergy is a potentially deadly response of the immune system to a particular type of food or food component. When a susceptible person ingests a problem food, his/her immune system reacts with the release of histamines and other chemicals that trigger symptoms that range from mild to life–threatening. Those individuals who have severe allergic reactions to a particular food need to be especially cautious because a food allergy can trigger potentially life–threatening anaphylactic shock. This condition is characterized by difficulty in breathing and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

Mild symptoms like itching, hives and swelling may also be experienced. However, there is no way of knowing whether a person with food allergy is likely to have a mild or severe reaction after eating the allergic food. Symptoms that begin as mild to moderate can quickly intensify and become much more severe. Therefore, the only effective treatment option for a food allergy is avoidance of such foods.

Avoidance involves complete removal of harmful foods from the diet. It requires careful and constant monitoring packaged foods for their ingredients, cooking procedures and ingredients used in the restaurants. The knowledge of alternate names related to a problem food is also essential.

Many people confuse food allergy with food intolerance, which is much more common but not as severe. Food intolerance means inability of the body to digest a substance, leading to symptoms of discomfort (e.g., stomach cramps) but that pose little danger. Food intolerance can be mitigated by eating small portions of a problem food. However, a food allergy can cause severe allergic reaction even with a very small portion of a food allergen.

True food allergies are found to occur in about 1 to 2 percent of adults and 3 to 8 percent of children, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. About 90 percent of all food allergies have been traced to the following foods - Cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts), wheat, soybeans, fish and shellfish.

A physician can help the patient to determine which food is causing allergic reaction using skin test or double blind oral food challenge. After successfully identifying the culprit food, a person must entirely remove such food from the diet.

Treatment -
For all dosha types, avoid all known allergens.

Herbs –
1.To strengthen and improve digestion, take 25 mg. of trikatu and 10 mg. of asafetida twice daily, for one week.
2. To keep the bowels moving properly take laxative herbs – triphala, in dose of 1 to 3 gm. per day at night, or
3. Take any one of the Western herbs like -cascara bark, senna, rhubarb root, buckthorn bark, butternut bark, walnut bark,
4. Take aloe gel 1-2 teaspoon 3 times a day with warm water.
5. To reduce the milk allergy cook the milk with pinch of dry ginger powder.

Prepared medicine -
1.Take 5 gm. Mahatikta -maha (more than 5) tikta (bitter) - ghee or ghrita [or panchatikta ghrita- pancha (five) tikta (bitter) ghrita (ghee) -medicated with katuka (Picrorhiza kurroa), nimb, daruharidra, aloe and vasa (Adhatoda vasica) twice daily]
2. For making medicated ghee, prepare decoction of the herbs. Take 1 part of the decoction + 4 parts of ghee. Keep it on low fire till all water is evaporated. Put a drop of ghee on fire. When it burns without making sound, medicated ghee is ready.

For food allergies, an Ayurvedic physician might use medicated purgation or bloodletting.

Environmental Allergy -

According to Ayurveda, all seasons affect internal homeostasis of the body. Depending on the quality of each season –whether it is cold and dry like in early winter –Vata aggravates or cold and humid in late winter-Kapha aggravates and in hot summer Pitta aggravates.

During this time the body of the individual becomes susceptible to the pollens in the environment and hence in rainy season, Vata individuals prone to allergic asthma will start suffering from the same. Similarly Pitta constitution persons prone to skin allergy will immediately fell victim to that.

Misuse or overuse of antibiotics and exposure to air pollution and other environmental toxins can lower immunity and trigger an allergic reaction. Being allergic to dust mites puts you at risk of experience environmental allergy.

Prevention of environmental allergies-
1. Proper purification procedures should be done in respective season e. g basti (medicated enema) in rainy season, virechan (medicated purgation) in summer, vaman (medicated emesis) in late winter should be done.
2. Proper use of mask to protect from dust, smoke and pollens should be done. Avoidance of allergic substances is the best treatment for any allergy whenever possible. Keeping doors and windows closed in the home and in your car and avoiding vigorous outside activity will help to lessen your exposure during times when the pollen count is high.
3. Removing pets from the home and dust and mold control measures can significantly relieve symptoms due to perennial allergens. Pharmacological treatment includes anti-histamines, decongestants, steroids etc.
4. Keep the bowels clean. Take blood cleansing herbs or bitter alteratives like dandelion, burdock, sariva (Indian sarsaparilla), manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia), katuka 1 gm. per day, for one month.

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