Dhanvantari Ayurveda Center Michael Dick, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Leesburg, Florida e-mail:
Inside This Issue
Health and Science in the News
Disease Modeling & Cancer
Pharmacognosy and Ayurveda
The Book Corner
Examination of Cause & Effect--Vastu
Cooking with Turmeric
Did you know that the rate of incidence of Alzheimer’s in India is the lowest in the world? Did you know that scientists for a UCLA-Veterans Affairs study say it’s so and here’s why. Their research data suggest that curcumin, inhibits the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and also breaks up existing plaques. The findings were reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and also showed that curcumin ins more effective in inhibiting formation of the protein fragments than many other drugs being tested as Alzheimer’s treatments. Curcumin has been shown to have antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties, which actions help relieve symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. By the way, curcumin is a principle ingredient of turmeric, which is in curry.
Source: Carolyn Susman writing in the Palm Beach Post.
Interested in anti-Aging? There’s good news for those who want to reduce (or avoid?) aging. It’s been reported in the media lately that the effects of aging cease when one reaches the age of 95. That means that once you are 95 years old you get an exemption from further biological deterioration. Not excited yet? Well, David Sinclair, Harvard U., and others have done gene research and have found several genes that control the timing and pace of aging—SIR2, and others. While the research is limited to yeast, worms, fruit flies and the like there is reason to believe that genes account for at least some of the aging process. Earlier studies done in the 60’s with rats indicated that calorie-restricted diets, not nutrition-restricted, could extend the lifespan (and health) of rats by 40% or more. New research may have found the key to the longevity & calorie restriction— Calorie restriction alters the ratio in cells of two enzymes: NAD and NADH. NADH inhibits the product of a gene called “silenced information regulator” (SIR) which otherwise slows down aging. Calorie restriction lowers NADH levels and so SIR is activated.
Source: News Hour February, 2005, Health and Age web-site article dated: 3-11-05
Susan Aldridge, PhD writes in an AP release, Feb., 2005 researchers found low-calorie diets may help protect from Parkinson’s. The research was done with Rhesus monkeys fed with a diet 30% less in calories than normal. Researchers believe there is a certain toxin that is connected to the Parkinson’s morbidity and calorie restriction reduces the susceptibility to its effects. Some speculate that sugar relates to cancer proliferation and this new research may be offering some insight as to why they might be connected.
Disease Modeling and Some Implications for Nosology (Nosology deals with classification or taxonomy of disease.)
In a prior issue of The Ayurvedist we presented a rationale for affirming that Ayurveda has at least 6 distinct types of pathological agents and because of their unique structure and function, according to authentic Ayurvedic texts, they are treated differently—i.e., treatment protocols are different for each causal agent. When one considers this view in the context of cancer we believe that some new and useful treatment insights emerge.
It is, after all, important to know the cause of a disease, so that the cause may be dealt with directly. The first therapeutic action must be removal of cause. In most cases this will involve avoidance of the causal entity and, according to Ayurveda, this will mostly mean that one will have to change diet and lifestyle. Next, one must decide whether to clean up the mess in the body or attack the cancer itself, directly. As for the former action, cleansing the body environment could involve panchakarma (PK) and for the latter action chemicals or surgery may be employed. The clinician should not just get a lab report that finds cancer and proceed with a set treatment. “Mess,” as everyone knows is a technical term meaning clutter, debris, confusion, and so on. There would seem to be considerable disagreement among experts as to the whether there is general mess or a local mess. General means that the whole body is affected and local means that the site of the tumor is the place of the mess.
Allopathy categorizes cancer into two, according to Taber’s (p. 277): carcinoma and sarcoma. Carcinomas originate in epithelia tissue and sarcomas develop from connective tissue and those structures that had their origin in mesodermal tissues. There is a standardized procedure for expressing cancer cell differentiation—called grading and for expressing the extent of dissemination—called staging. Grading, relating to differentiation and the number of mitoses present, is an index of the cancer’s ability to grow and to spread. Usually, they are graded I to IV with the latter being the most anaplastic and least resembling normal tissue. Staging is done with respect to size, amount of local spread (metastases), and whether blood-borne metastasis has occurred. There are two prominent systems for staging. Also, cancers are labeled according to the tissue or organ involved—e.g. bone cancer, lung cancer, etc.
Taber’s declares (1989 16th Ed.): “The exact cause of cancer in human beings is unknown. ....Certain agents, carcinogens have been discovered to cause cancer. Some forms of cancer in animals are apparently caused by viruses, and there is little reason to believe that this will eventually be shown to be true in humans (p.276).” These final two statements are the most challenging to accept.
For Ayurvedic practitioners, there is no such possibility: “no known cause.” As a teacher and clinician my contacts with other practitioners and teachers have consistently had the same answer to the nature of cancer: it’s tri-doshic (all three doÃas are involved—vata, pitta, and kapha). The question that must be raised, however, is: What caused the operators—vata, pitta, and kapha—to go out of balance? The beauty of the Ayurvedic system of nomenclature for diseases is that one category is about cause. Our discussion of 5 types of causal agents now has critical importance. Caraka, one ancient authority, declares that causes may be internal or external; within which the doÃas, toxicity, infection, mental, and spiritual agents are said to exist. It will not be enough to know that the tumor is a carcinoma of 4th degree, with no metastasis, etc. This terminology will not guide the patient or practitioner away from the causal agent. Surgical excision will not remove the causal diathesis. Chemicals may destroy the tumor tissue but it does not destroy the causative agent because they are not aimed at a causative agent. These statements are supported by the fact of recurrence of tumors in the original site or elsewhere in the body.
Such recurrence leads us to appreciate the Ayurvedic system of naming diseases with respect to cause. When one knows the cause the authoritative texts identify the type of remedy that is apt. There is almost infinite latitude for the practitioner to carry out the treatment, once the cause is known, and the treatment category is determined.
Now we can get back to the issue of general or local mess. For those cancers that are caused by an excess of the doÃas themselves—the mess is indeed everywhere. The risk factor for cancer in obesity is 47x greater because fat cells store toxins. Thus toxic agents must be throughout even though the toxins only manifest in a particular tissue or organ. Infectious agents probably circulate in the same manner. Thus the local manifestation of a tumor is just the evidence of a more general pathology. The system of treatments in Ayurveda can aim at the body as a whole and at organs and tissues, in particular. As a system it can cleanse the body, as with panchakarma, and it can rejuvenate cells in organs and tissues that are slacking, as with rasayanas. Moreover, the system of treatments can attack the disease process and symptoms directly, as with antitumorals, analgesics, antiinflammatories, and so on. Thus the system of treatments of Ayurveda constitutes a complete paradigm of care. Anecdotally, we find that incurable cancer patients—liver, pancreatic, blood, brain, etc.--have lived much longer than expected and some even have been cured of their cancer altogether, after undergoing panchakarma and medication. While these anecdotes do not prove the validity of our science they do give comfort to our confidence in our science. It is with this light that science should test Ayurveda—our protocols and drugs--not just our drugs.
Pharmacognosy and Ayurveda
For those receiving the general mailings on health and science from The Ayurvedist, you will note the frequency of reports touting the benefits of certain foods. Researchers have found that cholesterol may be lowered with daily dietary supplementation of cinnamon, for example. And typically, the researcher has found the agent responsible for the hypocholesterolemic effect to be one or more drugs within a plant or plant part. The study of these drugs within the plant is known as pharmacognosy.
It is not within the purview of this column to explain this science but we do want to look at why it may be useful to do this kind of research and while using this knowledge still be able to practice authentic Ayurvedic medicine.
In the lead article of this month’s The Ayurvedist we see that there is an active ingredient of turmeric that when ingested in food may have favorable implications for preventing or treating Alzheimer’s disease. It has shown itself to be antiinflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, a sugar-metabolism regulator, and more. Usually, research of this type starts with animal models—mice, rats, monkeys, and so on and may proceed to human studies. We don’t have to debate the merits or demerits of animal testing here, but we should just note that for conclusions about a drug to be valid for humans, humans have to be studied while using the drug.
In the research cited we do not know if epidemiological findings prompted researchers to investigate dietary factors or not. But the fact that Asian Indians have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world has to be an interesting observation. Indians have been using spices as medicine before recorded history—at least 3500 yrs. Food as medicine is an eternal truth for them.
The question arises then: Why should we analyze these drugs in light of their health benefits? If we (the people) already “know” that turmeric is good for us why do we (scientists) need to understand what part of it is particularly good? The scientist would argue after all, this has been a line of thinking since the Renaissance physician, Paracelsus, and continued by modern drug companies and supported by allopathic physicians ever since that has shown itself to be the stuff of real medicine—the real source of powerful drug action. This approach allegedly has led to the eradication of many infectious diseases and the control of many symptoms of otherwise incurable diseases. So the chemist-physician would argue that we are better off—living longer and healthier for this approach. Not so fast says the JAMA article that indicted the entire modern medical community with reports of 10% iatrogenicity and of these a 10% rate of mortality. Modern medical agents are seen as an obstacle to real health according to some of our medical experts.
So there must be a silver lining in this situation, and for Ayurveda there is. This kind of research can help identify the physical plant: brahm². If we know its actions from the classical literature, the Nighantu’s, etc. then we are better able to make a transition from the ancient Sanskrit name to a real, living plant. The problem is that the binomial classification scheme (ICBN) does not know a Sanskrit name. The Sanskrit name is not a positive way to identify a plant. At times the Sanskrit name relates to a plant characteristic—smell of horse urine (ashvagandha)—and sometimes to an effect—vaca--good voice. The objective system of classifying by structure and evolutionary factors provides a stable backdrop for judging it to be a particular plant, known by the ancients in Sanskrit and vernacular languages. This objective system can tell us which name is more likely to apply, when the additional information of drug effect is known.
For those readers who have not formally studied the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia you should know that, according to one researcher, there are over 150 herbs that have multiple identities—more than one plant goes by the same Sanskrit name. For example is ashvagandha: Withania somnifera^ (Solanaceae), or Withania ashvagandha, [Convolvulus asgandha] as found in the marketplace? A chemical analysis will lead to a chemical fingerprint that could be employed to positively identify a plant, especially if the plant is already ground into powder. If plants are drugs and have action this is no small matter. Thus the study of drug constituents—pharmacognosy —may be the only thing that makes our science correct and our drug use appropriate.
There is one more detail to this issue that must be explained. As mentioned above, in the piece on cancer and taxonomy, Ayurveda has a strategy to deal with the positive theme—health promotion—as well as with the negative theme—opposing disease. Our therapeutic protocols, when properly applied, always have this multifaceted effect. When the vaidya uses a particular drug, say mahasudashana, in a case of viral infection there are antiviral agents within this compound. Also, its bitter constituents help stimulate stomach, liver, pancreas, and small intestine activity which helps with both digestion and cleansing of the system. Thus we can see the value in opposing a disease with a particular medicine but we must never forget that the whole body/mind must be addressed and our drugs/protocols do this well by also promoting health directly. The pharmacognosy confirms our approach is indeed multifaceted.
THE BOOK CORNER
BOOK SELLERS OF INTEREST
The following listing may be of interest to those trying to get Ayurvedic texts. I have used the Chaukhambha location several times and find it professional and honest. South Asia Books and
21st Century Books have good selections and will try to obtain books from India upon request.
The Indian Books Center listing is provided un-tested, so to speak.
21st Century Books
401 N 4 th St.
Fairfield, Ia. 52556
South Asia Books
P.O. Box 502
Columbia, MO 65205
Indian Books Centre 40/5,
Shakti Nagar, Delhi-110007.
Contact: Varun Gupta
Ph No. 091-11-27126497
Chaukhambha Sanskrit Series Office
K. 37/99, Gopal Mandir Lane, Near Golghar
Maidagin, Post Box No. 1008, Varanasi-221001 (India)
Contact: Amit Gupta
Books for the Study of Dravya Guna (Theory of Drug Action):
Rasamritam by Dr. Damodar Joshi **
Rasa Panchaka. (Ayurvedic Principles of Drug Action) by Dr. S.C. Dhyani. 1994. Rs. 100/- ****
Bhaishajya Kalpana-Vijnanam..Dr. K.Ramchandra Reddy Rs. 400/- ***
Rasa-Jal-Nidhi or Ocean of Indian Chemistry. Text Eng. Trans. By Bhudeb Mookerjee 5 Vols. Rs. 1500/- ***
Dravyagu¦a Vijnana by Dr. JLN Sastry ***1/2
Introduction to Dravyagu¦a by PV Sharma Rx. 250/- **
Ayurvedic Pharmacology and Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants by VM Gogte Rs. 2500/- ****1/2
Examination of Cause & Effect -- Vastu or Sthapatyaveda
If the reader has already read the foregoing one will certainly conclude that the theme of cause and effect is central to our understanding of health and disease. Perhaps only a few of will know that Ayurveda is part of a much larger tradition of knowledge—the Vedic tradition. Also, Ayurveda is grouped into a small sub-set of the tradition, called the Upavedas. Her sisters in this grouping include Gandharvaveda, Dhanurveda, and Sthapatyaveda. Gandharvaveda embraces that body of knowledge that identifies, describes, and elaborates harmonizing effects on Nature of sound / music. Dhanurveda deals with preservation of harmony through the martial arts. And finally, Sthapatyaveda describes the causal relationship established by space and form. We’d like to expand on this field of Vedic knowledge.
Sthapati literally means to establish, place, fix, found, etc. Thus this science is the body of knowledge that deals with things created (manifested) and occupying space. It is about the theoretical, philosophical, iconographic, and technical aspects of architecture, art, dance, vehicles or conveyances, sculpture, jewelry and more. A reputed authority of this field, Ganapati Sthapati, describes it as dealing with the grammar of visual forms (in the same way as Gandharvaveda is a grammar of aural forms). More popularly, this science is called vastushastra or vastu shilpa shastra, and technically the difference is that these terms refer to the practical or applied values of Sthapatyaveda. The following quote from Michael Borden’s website presents a nice overview of this subject and expresses why vastu is a powerful influence for health (or disease). Hence the patient and practitioner should be aware of this value of life and examine it for causes of disease and for remedies for health:
Sacred geometry is a fundamental ingredient of Vastu Design. What is "sacred geometry"?
Wise men over the ages have noted patterns in nature from the largest macrocosmic entities in the cosmos to the tiniest microscopic particles, invisible to the naked eye. You could call them laws of nature. These geometrical blueprints structure all of creation. Each pattern is an archetypical foundation for objects in nature and each has unique vibrational resonances. Yet each part is intricately and wondrously tied to the whole of creation - to shape a reality of unity permeating all of diversity.
Buildings are a living organism, like the human nervous system, and can be designed in "harmonic resonance" with the basic underlying energy structure of the universe.
Vastu design uses the fundamentals of sacred geometry to create structures for human beings which, due to their shape, size, orientation, and other factors, create health, wisdom, happiness, successfulness, security, and prosperity for their inhabitants - be they homeowners or business people.
"Space is the fundamental source and energy for all things, for their origination and for their existence. This important scientific concept, the tradition of Vaastu has been holding with it from the Vedic period and, in fact, from the period even prior to Vedic times. It maintains that SPACE itself turns into spatial forms and it has it's own mathematical order or dynamics for changing into aural and visual forms. In Indian civilization, all temples, sculptures, architectural constructions ... are the creations by shilpins of the tradition of Vaastu Science. Being born of this tradition, these creations render not only physical pleasure but also spiritual bliss and well being. This spiritual science ... moulds us and directs us to experience the inexplicable spiritual bliss by effecting a communion between its own artistic creations and spiritual consciousness."
"Space is energy filled or energy stuffed. If this energetic space gets limited or enclosed by four walls then the building becomes a living organism, having rhythmic vibrancy. Like the inner space enclosed with-in our bodies, the house also feels and vibrates. This rhythmic vibration is made to resonate with our inner vibrations and by this resonance the indweller of the house is able to be in harmony and communion with the universal space (Paramatma) and to experience spiritual bliss.
-- Dr. Ganapati Sthapati
Books on Vastu:
Mayamatam 2 Vol. (a traditional treatise) *****
Building Architecture of Sthapatyaveda by Dr. V. Ganapati Sthapati ****1/2
Vaastu – A Path to Harmonious Living by Sashikala Ananth ***1/2
Hidden Treasure of Vastu Shilpa Shastra and Indian Traditions by Derebail Muralidhar Rao ***
The Penguin Guide to Vaastu – The Classical Indian Science of Architecture and Design by Sashikala Ananth ***
Indian Sculpture and Iconography – Forms and Measurements by Ganapati Sthapati (translator Sashikala Ananth) ****1/2
Vaastu Vedic Research
P.O. Box 2197
Fairfield, Iowa 52556 USA
(515) 472-2157 (phone/fax)
Sashikala Ananth: email@example.com (Lives in India but visits US)
Maharishi Global Construction Corporation, Kati-Ram Bldg. 500 N 3rd St. Suite 110, Fairfield, IO 52556 Tel 515-472-9605 FAX 515-472-9083 E-mail -Vastu.com www.mgc-vastu.com
Maharishi Global Construction (Canada) Tel 613-565-8525 FAX 613-565-6546 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Site Map (Table of Contents of Entire Ayurveda Website)
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