The immune response in Ayurveda has now become a subject of scientific investigation. The concept in modern scientific understanding means the enhancement of immune responsiveness of an organism against a pathogen by non-specifically activating the immune system using immunomodulatory agents.
In Ayurveda, immunology is termed as Vyadhi-kshamatava for the term ‘immunity’ used in modern medicine. Master Charak has described Bala as the factor, that destroys the disease- causing factors.
Bala is used as synonym for Prana and Ojas. The action of ojas relates to its capacity of providing the substances, the presence of which in the Rakta and Rasa dhatus confers adequate protection to the dhatus against decay and degeneration.
Another important function of ojas is the neutralization and destruction of the virulent factors of the disease. These obviously relate to immunological factors such as cellular and humoral immunity.
Factors that determine the strength of immune system are:
- It is pertinent to emphasize that the role of emotional and psychological factors over the proper functioning of immune system which has been very clearly appreciated by Ayurveda.
- Vyadhi-kshamatava (natural resistance) varies with individuals. It depends on the nutritional and environmental factors as well. Vyadhi-kshamatava is stated to be of three types:
- Sahaja Bala: It is a genetic and inborn resistance to the disease, which exists since birth.
- Kalaja Bala: It is influenced by environmental factors and age of the person.
- Yuktikrit Bala: This type of bala refers to the modulation of body’s resistance against diseases by the intake of nutritious food, physical exercise, rest, rasayana therapies according to the seasonal needs.
How to enhance immunity according to Ayurveda:
Rasayana tantra, one of the eight clinical specialities of Ayurveda. It includes the concept of nutrition, natural resistance and geriatrics. The word Rasayana means an improved state of nourishment, which in turn upholds increased immunity and youthfulness. Therefore, these are useful in strengthening Ojas and Bala i.e., vitality and bodily strength against diseases and aging.
Rasayana Chikitsa also helps in contributing the integrity of body tissues and increases longevity as well.
How Rasayana Chikitsa works?
Rasayana Chikitsa acts by the following three ways:
- Acts at the level of Rasa (body fluids): By acting at the level of Rasa, it directly improves the quality of nutrition.
- Acts at the level of srotas (body channels): By acting at the level of srotas (body channels), it improves micro-circulation and ensures proper perfusion and nourishment of the tissues as proper integration of the channels is equally important for the distribution of ojas to the dhatus which provides immunity against degeneration and diseases.
- Acts at the level of Agni (digestive fire): By acting on the level of digestive fire, it improves digestion and metabolism and thereby better nutrition.
Ayurveda describes a number of herbs as Rasayana and Ojas vardhak (immune promoting) remedies, which are known to possess immunomodulatory effect. Some of the herbs that act as Rasayana are:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Ashwagandha holds the most prominent place in Ayurveda as it is known as Sattvic Kapha Rasayana herb.
- It improves the body’s defence against disease by improving cell-mediated immunity.
- Ashwagandha also helps in the protection against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
- Amalki (Emblica officinalis): Amla is commonly used in Ayurveda for rejuvenation.
- Ayurvedic literature mentions amalki has immuno-modulatory, antitussive, gastroprotective etc.
- Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia): Guduchi has been widely used in the traditional medicine as an immunomodulator.
- The active principles in giloy, an important Rasayana herb has been found to possess immune stimulating activities.
- Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum): Tulsi has a special place in Ayurveda. It is considered as a sacred herb.
- Being rich in Vitamin C and zinc, it acts as a natural immunity booster and keeps infections at bay.
- Tulsi leaves extract helps in increasing T helper cells and natural killer cells activity.
- Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra): It is an important herb which has been found to be immune stimulative. It accelerates lymphocytic transformation activation of macrophage and increases the leucocyte count.
Thus, it can be concluded that Ayurveda’s emphasis on the role of doshas and their imbalance as the main causative factor of the diseases. The mere presence of causative organisms in the environment does not necessarily result in the manifestation of disease.
This article is not a substitute to the standard Medical Diagnosis or personalized Ayurvedic Treatment! It is intended only for Information!
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