Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Medicinal Power of Kekiri & Karavila

Medicinal Power of Kekiri:
Kekiri (Cucumis melo) is a cooling diuretic. It is nutritious and edible. It is used in painful and frequent passing of urine and retention of urine. There are many decoctions prepared with Kekiri seed. One of them is Kekiri seed, sahindalunu, cardamoms and tippili taken in equal quantities and powdered finely. It is to be taken in fermented toddy in the morning. The dosage is 2 tablespoonful of powder in a glass of toddy or fermented rice water (halpana watura) in cases where there is difficulty in passing urine or retention of urine.

Medicinal Power of Karavila (Bitter Gourd)
In the Karavila or bitter gourd family there are two varieties ­the cultivated kind and the wild growing thumba karavila. It is a wholesome vegetable usually given to convalescents. It is a domestic remedy for sores caused by urine infection. An effective remedy for weeping eczema and irritation is to first prepare a mixture of roasted karavila leaves well powdered and ground together with dried arecanut (karunka puwak) in equal quantities. Sprinkle gingelly oil over the affected parts and dust over with the powder. Karavila leaves roasted and powdered are applied on the scalp with pepper, coconut milk and sandalwood powder in cases of ring-worm on the head (undugowwakema).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Medicinal Power of Pumpkin or Wattakka

Pumpkin or Wattakka is found in plenty and is cheap too. Jaundice and fever patients, who are given a cup of pumpkin juice with an equal quantity of cow's milk and honey or sugar to sweeten it, feel greatly relieved. It is good for cases where there is flatulence with constipation as it acts as a purgative. The same is given to hemorrhoid patients too. The late Dr. White who practiced in Colombo many years ago used pumpkin as an external application in cases of pneumonia and it is said that the Chinese doctors also use it for the same purpose.

Sri Lankan Herbal Plants - Lunuwila

Lunuwila, another useful herb, may not be found in the home gardens of all urban dwellings, but it is readily available in the vegetable market. For high fever resulting from chickenpox and measles, Lunuvila, aralu and kottamallie boiled as for a decoction is given with sugar to taste. If fever is accompanied by cough valmee and pathpadagam (from the Beheth Kaday) may be included.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Home Remedies for Whooping Cough

Kapparavelliya is a plant worth mentioning. It is very much like Iriveriya and is of the same family. It is effective in catarrhal afflictions of children. A very useful prescription for whooping cough is Kapparavelliya, Kalandurua ala heerassa and red onions taken in equal quantities, pounded and its juice extracted. To this extract, an equal quantity of water is added together with sugar candy (sukiri) and brought to the boil till it becomes like a thick syrup. The dose is a teaspoonful or two as required. It has a marked effect in shortening the duration of the disease from about three months to as many weeks. If kept too long it is liable to ferment. Care should, therefore, be taken to see that it is prepared afresh every two or three days. It is also used as a medicine for treating cattle diseases.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Advantages and Future of Sri Lankan Home Remedies

One of the advantages of the home remedies is that they have been practiced for many hundreds of years in Sri Lanka and in India. Another advantage is that there are no adverse after effects or side effects or danger of drug poisoning.

It is a matter for regret that Sri Lankan practitioners of Western medicine have paid so little attention, if at all, to the many useful and simple medicines of our native medical men. In India on the other hand the interest of Western medical practitioners was drawn to ayurveda as far back as the early 19th century.

However, the Sri Lankan research workers of the early 20th century are worthy of mention. They are Dr. Emmanuel Roberts and Dr. John Attygalle. Emmanuel Roberts was born in 1864, became a doctor at 23 years of age and entered Government service. He left Ceylon in 1902 to study in London and Glasgow. On his return to Ceylon he gave up his career in Government service and settled down to do General Practice and Research. The outcome of his research was "The Vegetable Materia Medica of India and Ceylon" which he produced in 1917. This book brought ayurveda to the home by giving several simple prescrip­tions within the reach of any Ceylonese home.

It is heartening to see that the Government is promoting research in this vast field due to the interest shown in the revival of the ancient Sinhala Medical system. This is specially due to the fact that the treatment is much cheaper than Western Medicine and effective as well.

It is interesting to read what Robert Knox had to say on this subject. He says "Here are professed Physicians but all in general have some skill that way and are Physicians to themselves. The woods are the Apothecaries shops, where with herbs, leaves and rind of trees they make all their Physic and plasters with which they do notable cures." That is history. Now let us try to go back to those herbs at our door steps which will certainly keep us healthy and wealthier too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Indigenous Medicine or Desiya Vedakama in Sri Lanka

Ayurveda is a common name for the science of medicine that prolongs or guards one's life. Whatever the method it employs the main target is to save life. Sri Lanka had its own system of medicine.

It is known as Indigenous medicine or Desiya Vedakama. It was a very rich science, though in recent years it has been declining. Indigenous treatment depends totally on herbs or plants.

The Indigenous physician need not have many varieties of herbs for his practice. One kind of herbal plant is used in many diseases. The different parts of the plant possess different curative properties. The efficiency of the herb depends on the total effect of the plant content rather than on the one or more chemical fractions separated from the herb. Moreover the time of collection, stage of growth of plant, locality, natural occurrence or place of cultivation, all influence the properties of the herb.

History proves that we had a valuable system of medicine. Sri Lanka is a granary of herbal plants. The more we peep into our gardens or neighboring groves the more can we collect enough herbs for any emergency such as for cuts, bleeding, aches and pains. We need not borrow any medicine from other sources.

All we need to do is open the old manuscripts and identify the herbal plants and learn their uses. These herbs have been tested and experimented with a thousand and one times. The traditional physicians have with them the secrets of this valuable medicine, but they fear to part with them. The reason for this is that when medicine is commercialized, the tendency is for it to be adulterated. The most essential thing for the upliftment of the Indigenous practice is to enrich the knowledge of students in the use of herbs with the aid of the traditional. physicians. They have much valuable knowledge which cannot be proved scientifically.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What is Kanjika?

This is a sour liquid produced from acetous fermen­tation of powdered rice and dried habala pethi and not the canjee water which is common. This is prepared in a different way. Two seers (cups) of habala pethi are steeped in 7 seers (cups) of water and laid aside in an earthenware pot for 15 days and upwards. When the mixture undergoes acetous fermentation, the fluid is called Kanjee or Dhanyamala. Kanjee is a clear transparent fluid with an acid taste and vinous smell. It is cooling, refreshing and useful as a drink in fever, burning of the body etc.

This medicine is at times used as an external application for the relief of high fever. A wet sheet can be used as a wrapping cloth. This is steeped in fluid and wrapped round the body for the relief of high fever and to reduce the heat of the body. This is not unlike the wet pack treatment adopted by Western practitioners for pyrexia. It must also be noted that this mode of treating cases of continued fevers with high temperature was one that came into vogue among western practitioners not more than 20 to 40 years ago: but strange to say, it is seldom or never practised by their successors of the present day.

Type of Sri Lankan Ayurveda Medicines

Ayurveda is the name given to the science of medicine which prolongs or guards one's life. Whatever the method it uses the main target is to save life.

Ayurveda has a separate system which lays down the forms and the special modes on which medicine is administered to patients. Chuma, Svarasa ,Kalka, Kasaya , Phanta, Sitakasaya, Paniya, Kshirapaka, Yavagu, Avaleha , Modaka, Vatika, Khandapaka, Bhavana, Putapaka, Sandanavarga, Kanjika, Dravaka, Asava, Arishta, medicated oils, Ghritas and many more. Each of these medicines are prepared in different ways.

Churna - or powder is prepared by pounding dry substances in a mortar with a pestle and passing the powder through a cloth.

Svarasa - or expressed juice is prepared by pounding fresh herbs in a mortar, extracting the juice and straining it through a cloth.

Kalka - or paste is prepared by grinding dry or fresh herbs on a stone with a mallet and then making a thin paste with the addition of water when necessary. These are also mixed sometimes with honey and sugar and cooked or boiled in ghee until they are reduced to a certain consistency. These medicines can be kept for a long time.

Phanta - or infusions are prepared by steeping one part of powdered herbs in 8 parts of hot water for 12 hours during the night. They are administered in the same way as decoctions (Kasaya).

Sitakasaya - or Cold infusions are prepared by steeping one part of a herb in 6 of water for a night and straining out the fluid in the morning.

Paniya - is a weak form of decoction, prepared by boiling one part of medicinal substances in 32 parts of water till the latter is reduced to one half. This preparation is usually taken for appeasing, thirst or some such thing.

Kshirapaka - or milk decoction. The proportion for this is one part of herbs, 8 cups of milk and 22 cups of water. The ingredients are boiled together till the water is evaporated and the milk alone remains. The decoction is then strained.

Yavagu - sometimes medicines are. added to powdered rice or powdered rice added to the decoction and made into a gruel.

A veleha - or extract. The decoction after being strained is again boiled down to the consistency of a thick extract.

Modaka - for this preparation no boiling is required. It is prepared by adding powders to cold syrup and stirring them together till they are uniformly mixed.

Vathika - or pills. These are usually prepared by reducing a decoction of herbs to a thick consistency and then adding some powders for making a pill mass. Sometimes powdered medicines with the addition of treacle or honey are used.

Khandapaka – or confections. These are made adding to a syrup, medicines in fine powder form and stirring it over the fire till it is well mixed and reduced to the proper consistency.

Bhavana - or maceration of powders in fluids. This is specially done with mineral substances. These are often soaked in various fluids, such as expressed juice of herbs, decoctions etc. and then dried. For this process the quantity of fluid added to the powder should be sufficient to cover it. The mixture is then allowed to dry in the sun. A single operation of this sort is completed in 24 hours, but the process is
generally repeated from 3 to 7 times and afterwards with a variety of fluids. This ensures that the resulting mass combines within it the active properties of various herbs.

Putapaka – or roasting. In this form raw herbs are reduced to a paste; they are wrapped up in jambu or plantain leaves firmly tied with fibres of some sort, covered with a layer of clay and roasted in a cowdung fire. When the layer of clay assumes a brick red colour on the surface the roasting is complete. The medicine is taken out and the juice is squeezed and administered with honey or medicinal pills.

Sandhanavarga - or products of acetones fermenting like vin­egar.

Asava - This has a special method of preparation. Asava is not boiled. Dry herbs are steeped in 22 seers of water, adding 12 seers of honey and is then laid aside in an earthenware jar for fermentation. This jar is covered and made air .tight. It is then covered with clay and kept in a dark corner.

Arishta - To every pound of medicine one bottle of water is added. It is then boiled down to one forth of the quantity. Then it is strained and to every bottle of infusion 3/4 pound of sugar and powdered medicine is added and buried underground and covered with clay for one month. It is taken out later and strained through a cloth. It is almost like wine when correctly done. It is administered as a stimulant in exhausting diseases.

Gritas - are mostly prepared with powdered medicine cooked in ghee and sugar. It is a prominent feature of native practice. They are prepared in great variety and are extensively used in all sorts of diseases.

Medicinal Oils - These are always prepared with green herbs. In preparing these sesamum oil, castor oil and mustard oil are added.

How to Prepare Kasaya or Decoctions?

Decoctions are as a general rule prepared by boiling one part of green herbal substances with sixteen parts of water, till the latter is reduced to one fourth. The medicine should be first pounded into small pieces, then boiled over a slow fire, and the decoction strained through a cloth. When decoctions are prepared with dry herbs, eight parts of water are-recommended. Decoctions are administered with the. addition of honey , sugar, treacle, clarified butter, oil or some medicinal powders. A general rule to be observed for a decoction of one pata (about a pint), no matter what the number of herbs are, is that the herbs should not, in the aggregate, be more than 12 kalans. If there are 3 herbs each should be 4 kalans and so on. If the herbs are too many, the quantity of water should be increased proportionately. As a rule it should be 8 parts of water added to the herbs, and reduced to one part of water by boiling over a slow fire.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Significant Concepts of Ayurveda

One of the most significant concepts of Ayurveda is giving first preference to maintenance of sound health and achievement of a long and useful life. Evidently the ancients also believed in the motto of prevention being better than cure. In the section on health and hygiene, the Ayurvedic Acharyas have clearly described the rules and regulations for keeping diseases away, under the following heads. This is active immunology and hygienology.

(1) Din-charya : or the daily routine

(2) Ratu-charya : or the seasonal adaptations

(3) Sad-vritta : or mental culture

(4) Attending duly to "Nature's Calls".

Din-charya is found in the Third Chapter of Astanga Sangraha. Wake up early and attend to nature's calls. Brush teeth with fresh green twigs, which are astringent, bitter and pungent in taste, like the twigs of Neem or Pilla (Tephrossla Purpurea, and Bombi Lisea Sebifera). Clean the tongue, eyes, ears, nose. Put drops of oil in both nostrils and ears (Better done at bed time). Take an oil massage and bath. Rub the oil particularly well on the hands and soles of the feet and also on the head and specially on the crown. Take regular exercise and eat lunch in a happy frame of mind. Have a light evening meal and go to bed in a comfortable cot at an early hour. This Din-charya has a scientific background and basis.

The Tridosha theory is the being and very soul of Ayurveda. All other theories and principles are built around it and based upon it. The early morning hours are what are known as the Wata-Kala. The year is divided into six seasons. The food, clothing and mode of living during these seasons are clearly shown.

The Ayurveda Acharya insists on psychic health and mental purification. Practical guidance is given for using daily life to make every human being an ideal citizen with the attributes of good behaviour and conduct.

Ayurveda also shows us how important it is to attend to nature's calls at the proper time. The timely attention to nature's calls-hunger, thirst, defaecation, sleep etc., keep disease away and maintains health. No other medical "pathy" seems to have paid any attention whatever to this aspect of physiology, thus ignoring the very base and foundation of sound health and long life.

Ayurveda - The Science of Health and Healing

Ayurveda is the science of health and healing, practised by the ancient Aryans. This science is based on Atharva- Veda, one of the oldest scriptures of the Hindus which is about 3000 years old. It is an encyclopaedia of ancient medical wisdom. In spite of its antiquity it is practised even today by at least one fIfth of the human race, Ayurveda is not considered to be merely a summary of therapeutics based on herbal, animal and mineral resources of the world. It is a philosophy of life and living; its object is to counteract the imbalance of the three essential forces Wata, Pita and Kapha. These three forces constitute the Thridosha, from which the human body originates. This Thridosha regulates the normal working of the human body.

The ancient "triple method" or the Wata, Pita and Kapha theory cannot be translated as wind, bile and phlegm, for the simple reason that a part cannot be equal to the whole. The Thridoshas are organic, material entities in control of all organic creation and are responsible for birth, existence and death (Utpatthi, Sthiti, Bhanga). Just as the potent, celestial triad of moon, sun and air is responsible for the smooth working .of the universe, similarly the Wata, Pita and Kapha are responsible for the smooth working of organic creation. The genealogy of the Thridosha theory can be traced to ancient Vedic times. It is vast in its teaching.

The Thridosha are once again connected with the Seven Dhatus and the Malas. The Seven Dhatus are Rasa, Raktha, Mansa, Meda, Asthi, Majja and Sukra. The three Malas are excreta, urine and sweat. The base of these are the external five elements. So in all, the body consists of thirteen physical constituents. Their physiological functions are Wata dosha, Pita dosha and Kapha dosha. The functions of the seven Dhatus are

1 Rasa (Blood):
As a forerunner of raktha or blood, it primarily nourishes the body and the mind.

2 Raktha:
Sustains life, nourishes the muscles and flesh and maintains the complexion.

3 Mansa:
Embraces the skeletal structure, nourishes the fatty tissues and helps excretion

4 Meda:
Greases the limbs, eyes, nose, ensures stability by nourishing the bones, large and small.

5 Asthi:
Maintains a sturdy, erect bodily structure and stature nourishing the marrow.

6 Majja:
Forms bulk inside the bone cavities, thus giving strength and nourishment to the semi­nal fluid.

7 Sukra:

Gives strength and joy plus a capacity to procreate.

A unique feature of Ayurveda is that even Malas have been described as having or serving a useful purpose in the body economy.

Faeces: Give temporary support in general to the body besides keeping the body heat and air intact.

Urine: Maintains fluid balance by throwing out the liquid in­gested And consumed trough food and drink.

Sweet: Retains enough moisture in the body and grease in the skin and promotes the growth of hair.

The minute details such as symptoms that arise when Dosha Dhatu, Mala are increased or decreased are taught in Ayurveda.

The most interesting teaching is the subdivision of each Dosha and their particular functions and sites. For example the Watadosha is divided into five; they are Prana, Udana, Vyana, Samana and Apana. The Prana Vayu resides in the cerebral hemisphere extending up to the neck region. Its functions are activation of the intellect, brain activity, psychic activity and integrity of nerves etc.

The Udana Vayu resides in the chest extending up to the navel. Its functions are speech, energy, integrity of various channels., intelli­gence, bravery, memory and psychic alertness etc.

The Vyana Vayu resides in the heart extending to all parts of the body, and its functions are fast motion in various directions, relaxation, contraction, purification of body channels, blood circulation and other fluid circulations, and post-digestion analysis of food consumed.

The Samana Vayu resides in the navel extending along the lower digestive tract. Its functions are fanning of the gastric fire. This includes digestion, assimilation, selective analysis of the food con­sumed and carrying away of waste products further downwards.

The Apana Vayu resides in the pelvic region extending down­wards all along the urinary bladder, genital organs and thighs. Its functions are urination and defaecation, passage of semen, menses and child delivery.

The details of Pita and Kapha are also given in such detail that the physician who masters them could hardly go wrong in his diagnosis and treatment. .

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ayurveda in Sri Lanka

The system of medicine practiced by the Ayurvedic physicians of Sri Lanka is almost identical with that of India. Its history dates back to many thousands of years, and the books said to have been compiled by Rishis. These Ayurveda books are complete works of science including even the teaching of surgery and anatomy and they contain descriptions of surgical instruments used at that time.

Ayurvedic science in Sri Lanka shone at its best during the reigns of Kings Buddhadasa and Parakramabahu the Great. During these days, every Sinhalese of noble birth was expected to know Ayurveda; besides Royalty, they included Buddhist monks and poets. These physicians attained a high degree of efficiency in both medicine and surgery; yet they did not work for pecuniary gain. Even the Sinhalese kings, among whom were famous surgeons and physicians, practised medicine as an act of service to gain merit.

It may be interesting to inquire at this point why the indigenous system of medicine with such a historical background fell into disfavor. This disfavor may not be due to any grave defects in the system or the medical science itself. It could be due to a misconception on the one. hand and utter ignorance on the other. The Ayurvedic theory of causation of diseases is founded on the theory of Vayu, Pita and Kapha; many fail to gather their true meaning.

In Ayurvedic literature, Vayu, Pita and Kapha are mere techni­cal terms used to mean three conditions or forces or doshas. They are supposed to exist in the human body and they can only be recognised by the phenomena they exhibit, as the forces themselves are intangible to the senses.

They should not, therefore, be understood in their literal sense. Pita does not mean bile but signifies heat production and includes the process of digestion, the formation and discoloration of blood and all the secretions and excretions. Vayu does not mean the wind we feel, but functions as respiratory, assimilation, speech, memory, relaxation and contraction pervading the whole body. Kapha does not mean phlegm, but primarily implies the heat regulation and the formation of all preservative fluids and secretions including the circulation of blood which was known to Ayurveda before Sir William Harvey discovered it in the 17th century.

According to the Ayurvedic theory of causation of disease by Vayu, Pita and Kapha health is maintained, so long as three doshas or forces, retain their equilibrium in the body. As soon as one or more of them are disturbed, it causes ill-health. When a condition is brought about by any cause or causes that disturb all three doshas, the condition is called 'Sannipatha' (typhoid state) by the Ayurvedic physicians.

The Sannipatha is not confined to fever alone, but may be met in other diseases, such as cholera and acute diarrhoea as well. It is obvious then that there is nothing irrational in this Ayurvedic theory of the causation of diseases, and it remains a fact that the sick are restored to health, when treatment is applied based on this theory.

This theory does not conflict with the theories of the West in this field. However it must be realised that Ayurveda was practised over the last three or four thousand years, while the Western system has a history of only three or four centuries: but in these same few centuries we have also had the greatest advancements in scientific knowledge. But this has not made the Ayurvedic system seem archaic pr useless in the light of new knowledge.

In many parts of the Island, people still have confidence in indigenous treatment. The main reason is that the indigenous physician is available in their hour of need. Even without state aid and without any facilities they still continue their valuable traditional medicine. This shows the usefulness of indigenous medicine to relieve mankind from suffering.

The indigenous practice of medicine has a vitality that the extensive spread of Western medicine has not been able to oust. Mild refinement of indigenous medicine may not damage the medicative properties. In India we find indigenous medicines in the form of tablets, pills and powders and the Western practitioners there administer the native medicine when the Western medicine fails. But there is no mixing of Western drugs and native medicine.

Having an advanced science of medicine with us, we have still not put it to the best use. The main reason could be the mixing of drugs by Ayurvedic physicians. So in the first place future Ayurvedic physi­cians should be trained to gain absolute confidence in the knowledge of their system of medicine. Only non-confidence in their own system would make them mix or resort to other systems.

The next drawback is that the native physicians rarely compose their prescriptions guided by a knowledge of the curative properties of the different ingredients. They use the prescription found in the old works and neither deviate nor add anything from personal knowledge or experience with Ayurvedic ingredients. They have left the science of Ayurveda at the point where the Rishis have left it. The reason for this is the lack of knowledge of the therapeutical properties of the ingredi­ents. A complete knowledge of the curative values of the ingredients is very essential. This was considered an essential part of the preliminary education under the Gurus.

The esteem in which the profession is held is the other impor­tant thing. The Ayurvedic medical profession was held in the highest esteem. Physicians practiced merely to gain merit and not for worldly benefits. Their motto was "Relieve suffering mankind at all cost". For instance, Charaka tells his pupils. "Not for sale, not the fulfillment of any desire, not for earthly gain, but solely for the good of suffering humanity. Those who sell the cure for diseases as merchandise gather the dust and neglect the gold."

It would indeed not be easy to carry out Charaka's injunction today, but this can be adequately compensated by sincerely feeling for the sick and the diseased. The nobility of the honourable profession is lost when one's treatment is advertised in the mass media. Curing patients alone is sufficient publicity for a medical man. One reason for the downfall of Ayurvedic treatment is the countless sellers of oils and other medicines at various spots where the public gather. Our valuable treatment does not need soap box or curbside orators.

The gap between the Western doctor and the Ayurvedic prac­titioner must be brought much closer. A sound knowledge of the English language is very essential, to enable exchange of views and ideas of the two systems. English can be an easy medium for this purpose. The Ayurvedic books must be translated into English. Books like the Sinhalese "Materia Medica" would certainly give the Western doctors an insight into the Ayurvedic form of treatment.

We are urging the practice of both forms of treatment under one roof. This definitely is a step in the right direction and is bound to bring good results to us all in Sri Lanka.