Ayurveda, a way to counter COVID-19?

The pandemic has made the world come to a standstill. As the world has found a few ways to tackle it, Prof. Dr. Waheeda Banu and Dr. Kripa D. Rethesh explain how Ayurveda could be the way forward.

Ayurveda and corona

Ayurveda, the age old science of life, has always emphasized to maintain the health and prevent the diseases by following proper diet and lifestyle regimen. The basic principle followed in the Ayurvedic system of medicine is Swasthyashya Swasthya Rakshanam, which means to maintain the health of the healthy, rather than Aturashya Vikara Prashamanancha, means to cure the diseases of the diseased. For this purpose the Dinacharya (daily regimen) and Ritu-charya (seasonal regimen) have been mentioned in the classics of Ayurveda.

With the change in season, the change is very evident in the environment we live in. As human being is also part of the same ecology, the body is greatly influenced by external environment. The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID -19) outbreak is becoming an increasing public event being a rapid epidemic.

Communicable diseases are defined as an illness due to specific infectious agent or its toxic products which under certain condition tends to spread among individuals in the community. Factors responsible for the spread of communicable diseases are referred to as epidemiological triad. Agent, host and environment form the epidemiological triad.

The concepts which are explained in Janapadhodhwamsa in Ayurveda more or less refer to the concepts of Epidemics. Janapada refers to community. Udhwamsa refers to destruction. Due to the vitiation of the factors which are common to the population produces same signs and symptoms result in the manifestation of the same disease causing death  to the community can be termed as Janapadsodhwamsa.

Causes of Epidemics according to Ayurveda:

The causative factors are vayu (air), jala (water), desha (place) and kala (particular time period). Caraka samhita also refers to epidemics in janapadodhwamsa vimana adhyaya. Epidemics have the potential to bring destruction of all people, no matter how different they are from one another. Since, individual differences have no impact on air, water, land or season, which are common factor for every living being.

In Sushruta samhita ,the Communicable  disease(Aupasargika rogas ) transmission is explained as Physical contact (Gaatrasansparshat),expired air (nishvasa),eating with others in same place(saha bhojana),sharing a bed (sahashayyasanaccapi ),using clothes, garlands and paste (vastramalyanulepanat) .There are also examples given of some diseases such as different types of skin diseases (kushta),viral fevers (jvara),Pulmonary Tuberculosis (shosha) and conjunctivitis (Netra abhishyanda).

 The diseases which arise due to the vitiation of vayu are less severe than arising due to vitiation of jala. Diseases arising due to vitiation of desha are more severe than due to water and less severe than that of kala.

The levels of Prevention is Classified as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Prevention.

1. Primary Prevention: Action taken prior to the onset of disease which removes the possibility that a disease will occur.
This is achieved by
a) Health Promotion
b) Specific protection (immunization)

2. Secondary prevention: Action which halts the progress of the disease at its incipient stage and prevents complications. By a) Early diagnosis b) Adequate treatment.

3. Tertiary prevention: All measures available to reduce or limit impairments and disabilities, minimized suffering caused by existing departure from good health and to promote the patients adjustment to irremediable condition. Includes a) Disability limitation b) Rehabilitation of functional, vocational, social and psychological aspects.

Preventive measures through Ayurveda:

Panchakarma, Rasayana chikitsa and sadvritta or good conduct are advised in preventing communicable diseases.

Rasayana: Rasa is the best or finest part of the body elements and ayana means the course or circulation. Rasa nourishes the body and helps to strengthen the immunity. According to charaka, Rasayana is the method to produce the dhathus to optimum quality. As Rasayana is the rejuvenating therapy, it acts the level of the dhathus (tissues) in a swastha (healthy) individual. Administration of Rasayana aushadhis is effective in prevention of any diseases.

The beneficial effect of Rasayana as explained in different classics  are promotes mental health, provides good life span and it also helps to fight against as well as cure diseases. Rasayana enhances the vyadhikshamatva of individual (immunity) and maintains the dosha and dhatu normalcy and enhancing their functional abilities.

Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India has advised to follow a few simple guidelines to prevent the spreading of this pandemic. The steps include:

  1. Consume immune boosters such as Amrutballi, Tulsi, Turmeric, Sugarless chyawanprash ,black pepper, clove, ginger, ghee , honey, amla and most of the holistic ayurvedic formulations which resist the disease and makes stronger which  are easily available in Kitchen can be used as immune boosters.
  2. Drink Glass of milk with turmeric twice a day.
  3. Application of sesame oil or coconut oil in nostrils.
  4. Drinking warm water.
  5. Gargling of Triphala three to four times a day, which prevents transmission from the oral cavity.
  6. Yoga, meditation and Breathing exercises enhance the blood circulation and build immunity. Regular practice of breathing exercise (Pranayama) increases parasympathetic tone, decreases sympathetic activity and simultaneously improves Cardiovascular and Respiratory functions. It also decreases the effect of stress and strain on the body and improves physical and mental health.
  7. Diet forms the important component of life and it is included in the Trayopasthambha (three pillars of life).If the life style and diet pattern followed through Ayurveda one can maintain health.

Balanced Diet: It is the diet consisting of right kinds of foods in right proportions, as to provide the required energy and proximate principles for maintaining the health, vitality and wellbeing and makes small provision to withstand short duration of illness.

Personal Hygiene:

For a healthy body, it is important to observe personal cleanliness and maintain a clean environment in addition to a balanced diet. By keeping our body and surroundings clean, we ensure a disease-free and healthy body. Hygiene means a set of practices performed especially through cleanliness for a healthy life.

Ayurveda defined health as an equal balance of body, mind, social and spiritual well-being. To achieve this, Ayurveda  explains certain  codes  of  conduct  and  this is known  as  Sadvritta  (Code  of  conduct). Sadvritta plays  key  role  in  the  maintenance  of  health  and  prevention  of  disease.  Sadvrittas are applicable to people of all age groups, at all times and at all places and is regarded as one of the measures to prevent various types of diseases.  It also plays important role in personal cleanliness of body and mind. By following these,  the person can achieves Arogya (health) and Indriya Vijaya (control over the sense organs).In Charak samhita,  Acharya Charaka mentioned the  importance of Sadvritta as the person who follows the entire code of good conduct, will get healthy life without suffering from any type of disease.

Maintaining personal and community hygiene:

  • Staying away from people who are known to be suffering from contagious diseases
  • Making sure that there are no open garbage dumps or stagnant water near your house so that insects do not breed in them.
  • Keeping food and drinks covered all the time.
  • Drinking boiled water all the time.
  • Washing hands frequently and keeping your body parts clean.
  • Covering your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing so that you do not spread any infection.
  • Spraying insecticides whenever required to eliminate mosquitoes and flies.

Care of the Eyes:

Eyes are the most delicate part of our body and we need to protect them from dust, bright light and diseases. Washing the eyes two or three times a day with water will remove dust and germs that stick on and around the eyes.

Care of Hands and Feet:

Washing hands and feet with soap ensures removal of dirt. Hands and feet tend to accumulate disease causing germs and by washing them, we can prevent the spread of infections.  We should always wash our hands after using the washrooms, after touching pets and animals and before and after meals.

Care of the skin:

It is essential to have a bath daily to remove all the sweat and dirt from our skin. Bathing ensures that the skin remains clean and free from disease causing germs.

We must try and build healthy habits and a Positive mind set for a healthy living.

Sleeping and waking up on time leads to a relaxed and rejuvenated body and mind.

We should cover our face and mouth while coughing and sneezing to avoid spread of infectious germs.

Dust and germs stick to our body and clothes .Therefore, we should take bath daily and wear clean clothes. Trimming of nails regularly is essential so that they do not accumulate dust and dirt. To maintain good health, it is essential to keep our surroundings clean .Undisposed waste in our surroundings can lead to various health problems.

People are facing a novel, threatening and unpredictable experience, at the same time people should not lose hope at this stressful situation .The immune boosters which is explained, is the need in the present situation .Hopefulness, Positive Mental health is mere necessary to cope this threatening situation. For this purpose the Dinacharya (daily regimen) and Ritucharya (seasonal regimen) mentioned in the classics of Ayurveda to be followed as a preventive aspect.

Column By

Dr. Waheeda Banu, MD, PhD (Ayu)

Dr. Waheeda Banu, MD, PhD (Ayu)

HOD and Professor
Department of PG Studies Kayachikitsa
Karnataka Ayurveda Medical College and Hospital Mangalore

Dr. Kripa D. Rethesh

Dr. Kripa D. Rethesh

Post Graduate Scholar
Department of PG Studies Kayachikitsa
Karnataka Ayurveda Medical College and Hospital Mangalore

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