Immunity is one of the main benefits of swarna prashana. Many parents ask us or assume a lot about immunity; so, we decided to give a detailed version of Immunity from an ayurvedic point of view.
Immunity, as everyone knows, is the capacity of the body to fight against the disease, the concept of which is well explained in Ayurveda.
The 2 main principles of Ayurveda are,
“Swasthasya swasthya rakshanam;
Which means, to protect health of the healthy and relieve the suffering of the sufferer.
Theory of Immunity
Immunity in ayurveda is called vyadhi kshamathwam. Vyadhi means disease and Kshamatwa means tolerance.
“व्याधिक्षमत्वं नाम व्याधिबल-विरोधित्वम् व्याध्युत्पादकप्रतिबन्धकत्वमिति यावत् I”
Vyadhikshmatvam nama vyadhi bala virodhitwan vyadhiutpadhaka prathibhadakatwamll -Chakrapani
Immunity or Vyadhikshamatva means the capacity of body to act against diseases. Vyadhibala virodhitwam as well as capability of preventing diseases Vyadhiutpadhaka prathibhadakatwam
These both sub-types of vyadhikshamatva can be related to the non-specific and specific immunity of the present day.
Whenever we talk about immunity, we mean the prevention against all disease. The preventive medicine was given equal importance along with treatment of diseases.
Western medicine, which focuses on specific infections or diseases (like polio rubella), depends highly on immunizations and boosters to prevent diseases, whereas Ayurveda deals in just balancing the state of body and mind.
The modern medicines define immunity as the state of having sufficient biological defences to avoid infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion where as Ayurveda mentions about stopping the manifestation of disease along with fighting the disease. It includes the preventive and curative aspect too.
When there is a balance state of tridoshas, five senses working normally, mind body and consciousness functioning in blissful harmony, with proper function of digestive fire, and few other factors, he is considered to be a healthy and with good immunity.
How does the immune system work according to Ayurveda
The concept of immunity in Ayurveda is explained through many factors like the vital strength Bala and the vital energy of life Ojus that are responsible for the normal functioning of body and mind.
What is Bala and ojus?
These are the complementary forces and power in the body which are responsible for the prevention of disease and maintaining condition of good health and mind. Stamina or vital strength is Bala. Ojus is the vital essence of all the seven tissues in our body.
Bala or the vital strength is that which can be called as the outcome of the equilibrium of tridoshas and this is achieved through the ojus the vital essence of all the tissues. To make it simpler the Bala depends on the Ojus for its maintenance. Or the function of Ojas is to generate Bala. From the treatment point of view both Bala and ojus are the same. In short the immunity is the external manifestation of the Bala and this bala is responsible for the healthy functioning of mind and body of the individual.
Many a times though people have good knowledge about immunity and health when it comes to their children some of their doubts are left unanswered always.. Here are few of them and answers to them from Ayurveda
Why people fall sick even after taking healthy food?
Though some people follow healthy routine including good sleep, exercise, balanced food, suffer ill health whereas some people who do not follow any of these manage to live healthy. The reason is the bala and ojus. If the body is having a depleted amount of ojus and sareerabala, it is not capable of withstanding the strength of disease-causing factors.
The conditions when Bala or Ojus are depleted is explained in the following questions
What factors affect the Immunity or influence the condition of Bala and Ojas?
Various factors contribute towards immunity. They are normal doshas, equilibrium state of dhatus (bodily tissues), normal agni (digestive fire), patency of srotas (microchannels) etc.
Following are the factors that determine the condition of Bala and Ojas, which affects the immune status:
- Birth place – Being born in a region where people are naturally healthy or strong has a direct impact on the बल of a person. For instance, birth in Jangala desha or dry arid areas considered to be most beneficial than humid and marshy areas
- Healthy pedigree – birth in a family without any family history of immunodeficient disorders
- Time of birth – birth at a time when strength of people is naturally in the highest, the visarga kala. This is when the sun moves towards the southward direction, the moon is powerful and producing cold and pleasant atmosphere
- Favourable time – Favourable time in ones’ life brings happiness and enhancement of Bala
- Excellence in qualilty of sperm and ovum – The quality of the Beeja (the sperm and ovum) and Kshetra (the place where the foetus grows) have direct impact on the health of the offspring. This plays a very important role in building up the innate immunity with which the baby is born
- Excellence of diet – Wholesome food increases the bala. Ayurveda also explains eight factors to achieve wholesomeness of food
- Excellence of physique (sharirasampat) – Strong and compact built body type, the body parts in proper proportion and compactness of body parts are the factors indicating good Bala
- Excellence of suitability or adapted food and other habits – Wholesome food and other habits adapted in daily give good health. In fact, these proper habits can enhance the immunity and can be called as acquired immunity
- Excellence of mind – A Satvic (calm and balanced) mind promotes good health. When the individual is confronted with different negative emotions and stress, it affects his health too
- Strength of the individual – Refers to the characteristic Bala of an individual
- Youth – When one is young, naturally all the tissues are in the fully nurtured state and there will increase of Bala and hence immunity
- Activities – The physical activities the person is involved with like exercises, yoga, etc.
- Joyous atmosphere – When a person lives in a happy atmosphere keeping himself away from worries, anxiety, etc., there is increase of Bala or the vital strength
Who fall sick?
Those not having good bala, good defense mechanism, when the tissues are not properly nourished, and people having weak satwabala (because mind and body are interdependent), the person is prone to fall sick.
Persons obese, emaciated, weak, whose muscles and blood are diminished, debilitated, overconsumption of food and underconsumption of food with weak mental faculty are also prone to fall sick.
How to know if a person has enough Bala or Ojas
Generally the person who having good ojus looks satisfied has good complexion and strong body. Ojus provides strength, nutrition and satisfaction to the body and mind.
Susruta says a person with medium body will have the maximum strength.He is able to perform any activities,able to tolerate hunger, thirst,cold,hot,sun, rain,wind.
Charaka indicates that the bala is considered as the physical and mental strength of the individual and bala can be assessed by the ten attributes dasa vidha athura bala pareeksha as mentioned by Acharya Charaka
- Ahara shakti
- Vyayama shakti
- Vaya shakthi
If the person is of vata prakruti then he has less strength, Pitta prakrit medium and Kapha prakruti good strength
This factor is for assessing the diseases through different parameters like dosha dushya kala, etc.
To Know the bala of purusha, ashta saras are explained ..If the person is having Rakta sara then he is weak,If the person is of Mamasa ,Majja and shukra sarat hen he is strong and if the person having all the saras are then he is very strong
If a person’s compactness of the body is good then he is strong, if not,less strength and if his compactness is moderate then he has medium
The person with proper measurement of the body are endowed with longevity, strength, immunity, happiness, supremacy,wealth and other desired qualities.The body with less or more measurement has qualities contrary to this.
If the person is accustomed taking all six tastes then he is balavan, if the person is accustomed to only one then he is of less strength and if using the tastes moderately then he’ll have moderate strength a
Satwa is the mental strength.A person with good mental strenght possess good learning capacity ,retention or knowledge and memory.He will be able to bear stronger therapies,can tolerate disease,adopts same sort of feelings towards happiness or sorrow, will have good self control.and have satwa guna predominantly.One who has moderate mental strength will have all the above in medium level and rajo guna in predominance and those with less mental strength cannot sustain mental stress .In spite of having good physique they are susceptible to fear ,grief greed and delusion.and have predominant tamo guna
This is the power of ingestion as well as digestion.
If the person can perform more physical work then he is of good strength,if moderately then medium bala and if less then avara bala.
Children (upto 16 yrs) and old (above 60) have less strength and middle aged 16 to 60 years have the maximum strength.
Vagbhatta explains that physician should examine all above ten factors to understand the strength of his patients and treat them accordingly.
How to Boost Immunity
Immunity is achieved naturally by birth and acquired by other means. Ayurveda focuses on three major areas to increase the immunity.
- Rasayana and Vajeekaranas
Food is said to be one of the three pillars supporting life.Its the foremost of those supporting life. Strength and life depend on the food.
Food which is easily digestible, wholesome, sweet, unctuous, cold in temperament increases ojas People who are used to take ghee, gingelly oil, milk, meat soups and food with all the six tastes always have good strength and capable of doing heavy tasks and live long life Ayurveda recommends milk, curd, ghee, meat soups, rice, red rice, fruits, wine and other herbs that increase the natural vital strength to be used. It also mentioned that for management of immune deficiency these herbs processed, milk, meat soups should be used along with food.
There are many specific code of conducts or practices in Ayurveda for all age group like things to be followed in different seasons etc.Food and activities have to followed accordingly to prevent disease and maintain good physical and mental health.These activities describes how to lead your life from to death for in healthy and peaceful way. Some of them are:
- For the welfare of pregnant women and desired offspring – follow garbhini masanumasic paricharya and punshavana karma
- To promote health of infant- Lehana Karma, various medhya rasayana (memory enhancing drugs)
- To perform the daily activities in a healthy way -Dinacharya
- Taking care of health in different seasons-Rtucharya
- Understanding the three important aspects of our life- The three pillar of our life-Tryoupastambhas- Food ,Sleep and Healthy sexlife
- Adopting sodhana (Panchkarma) according to ritu in healthy person
- Meditation for spritual growth
- Exercises- Daily exercise of up to 50% of one’s exertion capacity enhances digestion, strengthens tissue metabolism and promotes immunity
- Wholesome Diet-Regular meals with all the six tasteshelp to prepare the body for a time of nourishment by inceasing appetite and enhancing digestion
- The sixteen samskaras esp the jatakarma,karnavedana,annaprashana induce immunity
Rasayana and Vajeekarana
Acharyas promotes Rasayana and vajikarana for enhancing ojas and boosting immunity.
The various herbs diet regimen that increase longevity by delaying aging and preventing diseases can be called as Rasayan. The Ojas promoting herbs or rasayana and vajikarana yogas fulfills the deficiencies and improve the condition of the seven dhatus.
Use of rasayanas results in disease-free long life (dirghamaayu), smiriti (recapitulating power), medha, aarogyam (healthy well being), tarun vaya (youthfulness), prabha, varna (complexion), voice, strength etc.
Rasayana and vajikarana are immensely helpful in treating immunodeficient disorders.
Some of the popular rasayanas that are commonly used are Chyavanprash, Brahmarasayan, Kushmandarasayan, Triphala, etc. Some food items if taken daily are the best rasayana for eg: Ghee, millk, gingelly oil.
How can we enhance immunity in children?
In Ayurvedic mentions countless formulations for adults and children. A special formulation by the name of Lehana was mentioned in all the major texts to enhance immunity mainly for children. Lehana means intake of medicine by licking. Powders of herbs, gold bhasma, were mixed with honey and ghee were given to children. They were also processed into medicated ghee and given. Lehana is the easiest method to give medicine to children from newborn baby to elder children.
Some of the lehanas given with gold to infants are
- Svaran bhasm with kustha (Saussurea lappa), vacha (Acorus calamus), madhu (honey) & ghrita
- Svaran bhasm with paste of brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), sankhpuspi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), with honey & ghrita
- Svaran bhasm, arkpushpi, vacha, honey & ghrita
- Svaran bhasm, khaidarya, sweta durva, etc.
Swarnaprashana -The first immunization
The first lehana was given immediately after birth even before umbilical cord was cut and breast fed by mother. This was followed as a ritual and one among the sixteen samskaras. Gold was rubbed with honey and ghee and given to the baby by the father. This is known Swarnaprashana-the first immunisation. The antioxidative properties of swarnabhasma helps to cope with the oxidation stress the baby went through during the labour. It provide general immunity, prevents infections, helpful in growth & development & enhancing the intelligence.