Dhanvantari Ayurveda Center  Michael Dick, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Leesburg, Florida    e-mail:

The Ayurvedist®


Volume IV Issue 3                                                                                                                  November 2007

Science and Health in the News




Inside This Issue


Health and Science in the News


The Book Corner


Cupping -- A Description


Science and Health in the News


Many readers may be on guard for soy and soy-products consumption from all the controversial literature that has taken both sides of its use. Torres, et al writing in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (JBS)(17--2006, 365-373) found a mechanism of regulating lipid metabolism, which finding bodes well for diabetics, those at risk of heart disease, liver lipotoxicity, and renal disease. Some of the findings were with soy protein isoflavones and by-pass the digestibility issue associated with soy.


Hulbert writing in JBS 234 (2005), 277-288, wrote on the importance of fatty acid composition of membranes in aging. This theory, an extension of the free-radical theory, maintains that cell membrane health is a function of peroxidation (free-radical damage) and of availability of fatty acids. He writes that calorie restriction seems to make membranes more resistant to peroxidation, as well. There are two prominent theories of aging: an evolutionary one (why) and a mechanistic one (how). The fatty acid concept falls into the latter type (how).


Muskiet, et al. writes in the JBS 17 (2006), 717-727, that folate (folic acid) levels and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids correlate inversely in incidence of psychiatric disease--schizophrenia, autism and depression, esp.. Epigenetic factors, birth conditions and diet may lead to conditions favorable for psychiatric conditions. Food supplementation with fish oil and folate mitigate symptoms.


Green tea has been studied often and from diverse angles. Betty Klein (Tribune Media Services--Feb 1, 2007) writes a complementary article for green tea consumption. Use dating back to perhaps 2737 BC it has been used recently for its antioxidant activity, cancer protection, heart health, antibacterial action, and so on. Its antioxidant action is greater than vitamins C and E, she writes.  Koo and Noh, writing for Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 18 (2007), 179-183, researched its effects on absorption of lipids. They found that its action is a potential mechanism for lowering serum lipid levels. Other research on black tea and milk shows adding milk negates positive benefits of black tea (European Heart Journal, 1/9/2007).


Erlanson-Albertsson and Mei, writing in the International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 526-530, compared effectiveness for weight loss of low fat and low carbohydrate diets. The former takes longer to brings the same results as the carbohydrate diet but lowered carbs leads to lowered tri-glyceride levels. Both showed similar results for lowering other risk factors of coronary heart disease.


Ramos writes (JBS, 18 (2007), 427-442, that research already conducted supports the notion that dietary flavonoids appear to have a curative and preventative effect on cancer by acting on apoptotic pathways. Wines, green tea, apples, fruits and vegetables generally, have been associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cancer.  Eat your veggies!


McGrane (JBS, 18 (2007) 497-508) describes the importance of nutrient--vitamin A--in regulating gene expression. This research boosts the orthomolecular position on micronutrients and indirectly supports the Ayurvedic maxim that food is your medicine.


Seifried, et al. writing in the JBS, 18 (2007) 567-579, reviews literature and findings on role of antioxidants in health. Studies continue to support the idea that diets rich in antioxidants are an important basis of cure and prevention for a wide variety of disease entities. One important observation is that a class of cell by-products called reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a dual role in physiology. They may initiate or promote pathology by their excess and in small amounts they signal an appropriate immune response up-regulation, apoptosis, and beneficial growth responses. Some have called ROS as a representative of the ama of Ayurvedic literature. More on this topic in this Newsletter. Again, the science for thinking in terms of antioxidants continues to mount as we better understand the biochemistry.


Here are some favorite home remedies of the Graedon's (People's Pharmacy):

blood sugar and cholesterol: 1/4 - 1/2 t OID  cinnamon pwd. (appears to raise insulin sensitivity)

diarrhea: 2 - 3 T shredded coconut

nosebleeds: dropping keys down the back (of your shirt) (mechanism unknown but appears to work)

burns, heartburn, leg cramps: yellow mustard for minor skin burns; swallowing 1t gf heartburn; 1T for leg cramps; soy sauce for minor skin burns

bleeding of minor cuts: black pepper pwd. topically

snoring: wearing Sea-Bands on wrist at night reduced snoring. (Acupressure point, inner gate, when activated promotes sleep)

psoriasis: turmeric internally in capsule or on food (curcumin is antiinflammatory)

muscle pain from statin drugs: try CoQ10 supplementation

leg cramps and restless leg syndrome:  magnesium supplementation may relieve or white raisins soaked in gin (takes couple weeks)

dry, cracking hands and fingers: white vinegar and water in equal proportions-dip into mixture, rinse after one minute elapses

looking for antiperspirant without aluminum:  milk of magnesia to underarm--no stain or odor or side effects noted

dandruff: apple cider in water -- 20% solution-- rinse after shampooing with this solution

gout or arthritis pains: concentrated cherry juice or juice or fruit (sour or black) or capsules



Some notes on Dental Health-Related Issues:

DAMS publication--Dental Truth, Spring/Summer 2007--report that there is continuing anecdotal data for linkages between disease and dental mercury amalgam. One case involved dystonia with severe deformity and pain was dramatically reversed upon removing dental amalgams. Editors cite growing evidence of significantly elevated cancer risk from the dental procedure--dental varnish. There are other responses including endocrine disruption, indicating that fluoride, itself, is an endocrine disruptor. In other studies there is evidence that fluoridation of water is responsible for retardation/lower IQ development in children. Fluoride has been linked, anecdotally, to various neck pain expressions. Clients ask about the advisability of testing for heavy metals and, as you know from our perspective, this is a very problematic area of health risk. Hair analysis has been suggested by some but others feel it's too unreliable and use challenge tests involving urine testing.


Some labs in the US:

MetaMetrix 800-221-4640;

Great Plains Lab 888-347-2781,

Lavoratory Corporation of America ,

Doctors Data .

Genova is formerly Great Smokies Diagnotic Lab .



Concept of Ama in Ayurveda by Dr. M Srinvasulu, Chaukhambha Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi, India, 2005


From time to time I try to locate new titles of Ayurvedic themes written in English. One offering has held this writer's interest for years--ama. The classical texts mention ama in several contexts but do not give a thorough treatment of the topic. This work is the first of its kind, that I have been able to find. It is thorough but not complete as I shall explain below. The book has about 120 pages and is divided into nine chapters: 1) Introduction 2) Agni Swaroopa (Physiological aspects) 3) Ama Swaroopa (An Outlook) 4) Ama at different levels 5) Sama and Nirama Aspects of Disease (ama or non-ama disease) 6) Indicators of Sama condition (Diagnostics) 7) Samanya Chikitsa (General Treatment) 8) Dravya Yojana (Choosing a Drug) 9) Vishista Roga Chikitsa (Treatment of Specific Diseases).


On a personal level I find comments by Ayurvedic Practitioners on the topic of ama and disease a bit confusing. On the first hand, one at times hears that ama is the root cause of every disease. This statement perplexes me, since almost all of Caraka's dialogue on etiology of disease uses the word "dosha." At times Caraka refers to some condition as amadosha (ama and dosha mixed) but this term rarely appears in discussions of etiology (and treatment). Further, the diseases are categorized by Caraka as sama (with ama) and nirama (without ama). Now why bother with this typing of disease if one is always treating ama?  Further, the qualities of ama generally are in line with those of kapha and we know that we must make doshic evaluation before treatment can proceed.


Another thing that bothers me is the Vagbhata gives the 7 types of palliative treatment as including dipana and pacana (digestive enhancers and ama burning agents, respectively. Whereas, Caraka mentions these terms in the context of applying heat without using fire directly. And in discussions of ama condition he specifically states that lightening, digesting, and burning agents are to be employed for cases of ama. So we have this confusing dialog from the classical authorities to boot.


Back to the book at hand, the author extensively reviews the literature on this topic. In the introduction he explains that from the point of view of physiology our discussion begins with agni but from a pathological perspective the discussion begins with ama. In other words agni accounts for good physiology and ama accounts for bad health. We have a causative agent in the name of ama.


The second chapter discusses agni (physiology) and grahani, etc. (anatomical considerations) with all qualitative analysis of pitta vs. agni, etc. He shows the difference in pitta and agni gunas and elaborates on this significance. He makes the insightful point that the ancients were careful not to be too specific about the location of certain functions. This means that the location or organ is known by its functions and not otherwise. For example, jatharagni is not located on in the stomach nor only in the small intestines but in both--according to function. In order to integrate modern terminology based upon structure with the Ayurvedic, based upon function, sometimes things get a little complicated. Another example of this is the controversy among scholars whether bhuta agni are present in the foods only or are stored somewhere in the body. The ancients are silent on this point and we have to make some definitive judgments on these kinds of issues.


The third chapter is about the definition of ama with examples , and its causes--direct and indirect, etc. But for this writer this chapter is the most vexing--not for its treatment of the classical position but for its interpretive declaration of the forms of ama, to wit: "an undigested food particle, bacteria, virus (infection), intermediary metabolic end products, accumulated substances in metabolic rearrangements and synthesis, exogenous of tissues (auto immune), free radical or an antigen (foreign) substances comes under panorama of ama." The classical definition of ama is "uncooked." What is uncooked--food particles. The literature gives many more examples but none of them is included in our author's citation above. What is totally missing is the connective tissue--the arguments that make the case for everything listed other than undigested food particles. For example, are environmental toxins ama or poison? Are heavy metals ama or poison? Are the metabolic wastes of bacteria ama or poison? The argument that is missing is the description of why the examples above are ama. If we look at bacteria, one has to ask why they aren't krimi (unseen or seen) described by Caraka and others? There is no doubt that krimi cause the doshas to misfire and thereby lead to disease or patho-physiology at minimum. The fundamental problem with ama is that it's heavy and sticky. It slows or entirely blocks physiology. It dulls agni, tissue secretions or other functions. For this ¨yurvedist one of the modern issues for theorists and clinicians is what is our definition of ama. When we look at mercury accumulation we find that this degrades physiology. Mercury acts sticky by binding to the cell membrane and thereby blocking function. In chronic (slow) accumulation there is no classical fulfillment of the definition of poisoning given by Caraka: that which produces pain immediately and then disturbs doshas, is poison (visha). Doshas and ama disturb doshas and then cause pain.

When one considers the treatment side of the issue there is a continuation of the problem. Caraka describes disease types in the context of the term vidhi. Vidhi is one of the terms of nidana pancakam (the list of 5 beginning with etiology) that guide the clinician in diagnosing and treating the disease. Vidhi is that catch-all category that brings disease causes to our awareness, but haven't been mentioned in other taxonomies. Those included in this category are especially those listed in a traditional category of external causes of disease. While the doshas are listed as the internal causes the factors of environmental debris--dust, smoke, contactable or inspirable matter in the air, epidemics, lightning strikes, spirit possession and so on. The listing of these factors is important because the first line of any treatment plan is avoidance of the cause. One needs to know that the specific line of treatment for ama, infection, spiritual disorders, mental disorders, and doshic disorders are different. We don't give PK for spirit possession or for mental disorders (some exceptions are listed) or for ama. Therefore, if we are to treat the case of mercury or heavy metal toxicity, under which treatment protocol do we proceed? The definition, and remember in ¨yurveda, we define things along functional lines, we must consider the way mercury behaves in order to treat it, for example.


The rest of the book is a real treat to read and will be useful for every novice ¨yurvedic clinician. There are a couple drawbacks to this work, other than my argument above: The author's English does not reflect American English diction. The second point is that the author uses many Sanskrit terms, without defining them. For novice ¨yurvedists this will pose a significant challenge to understanding the discussion. Nonetheless every student of ¨yurvedic pathology should read this book and master its content.




There is one technique not mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts that is finding its way into the Ayurvedic therapeutic arsenal--cupping. It's been a favorite with TCM practitioners for millennia. It's entirely consistent with Ayurvedic principles when used as an adjunct to blood letting and it has the appearance of working as a counter-irritant in other applications. The following account of cupping is re-printed to give a better view of this practice.

"CUPPING:" Journal of Chinese Medicine Number 7 May 1981 by S. Chowkwanyun


"Cupping is a simple and effective therapeutic technique which can be used alone, or in combination with needling or moxibustion to enhance the treatment of certain conditions. Cupping has been practised at different times in most parts of the world, and is still used in the Far East and many Eastern European countries.

This article describes briefly the method of cupping and its indications. Method

The cups are made of bamboo or glass and are available in sets of large, medium and small sizes. The choice of size is according to the site and location of the affected area as well as the condition of the patient. Smaller cups should be used for older, weaker patients and children; larger ones for patients of robust constitution. Bamboo cups have the advantage of being unbreakable, light and easy to handle.

Heat is introduced into the cup in order to reduce the internal pressure, thereby producing a vacuum.

When the cup is then inverted onto the skin surface, the skin will be drawn up by suction, forming a firm grip around the rim of the cup.

The easiest and most convenient method will be briefly outlined. Use a long (5") pair of forceps. Firmly twist a sizeable wad of cotton wool to bind the tips of the forceps together. Soak the cotton wool portion in 95% alcohol by dipping the forceps into a bottle and then gently squeeze out the excess against the bottle neck. This is to ensure that no alcohol will drip onto the patient.

The cotton wool and alcohol when ignited must produce enough heat to create a vacuum inside the cup.

The forceps are held in the right hand and the cup to be used is picked up and held in the left hand. The cup should be held near the skin surface at a convenient, tilted angle. The cotton wool ( soaked in alcohol ) is ignited and thrust deep into the cup and then withdrawn swiftly, followed immediately by placing the cup onto the skin surface.

The therapeutic result depends on, and is achieved by ensuring the whole procedure is carried out swiftly and deftly so that a strong suction has been produced. One should gently tap or shake the cups to check. The number of cups required will vary according to the size of the area to be treated. There is a general rule to cup from 'distal to medial' and from 'upper to lower' in sequence.

The duration of treatment should be about 10-20 minutes. To remove, release the vacuum by pressing the skin around the rim of the cup and simultaneously tilting the cup in the opposite direction. Areas on the skin showing red or purple colouration indicate that the internal stagnation has been effectively drawn to the surface. Patients should be reassured


that the correct therapeutic effect has been achieved, and that the bruises will disappear within a few days.

If large blisters form after cupping the fluid should be drained. Then, apply either gentian violet or a herbal ointment for burns and cover the skin with a sterile dressing.


(a)        It is not advisable to apply cupping to patients with high fever, with convulsions,
with allergic skin diseases, with ulcerative conditions, with oedema, with tendency to haemorrhage or in emergency conditions (e.g. coma or collapse). Cupping should not be applied to the abdominal area of pregnant women.

(b)       For practical reasons, it is ineffective to apply cupping at articulated or bony areas where the surface is not smooth and on hairy areas or excessively loose skin.


Cupping is applied in certain Shi conditions involving superficial stagnation of qi and blood in muscles channels and collaterals. Examples of these are asthma and cough deriving from wind-cold, Bi syndrome, sciatic pain etc."


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