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Ayurveda For Anxiety disorder

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Ayurveda For Anxiety disorder

Anxiety overview:

Anxiety is a normal response to stress. People who experience anxiety are uncomfortable, worried, nervous, or fearful of the future.

Anxiety can range from being mild to severe. It may become a disorder when feelings of anxiety are constant. It can affect daily life or cause distress and affect work or interpersonal relationships. If left untreated, it will most likely get worse.

Some symptoms of anxiety may include feeling nervous or worried, having an increased heart rate, breathing rapidly, feeling restless, feeling tired, sweating, having stomach problems, and having trouble concentrating because you are feeling worried.

Anxiety triggers the “fight or flight” stress response, which prepared our ancestors to either fight or flee from threats they faced in their environment.

Some people with anxiety might experience panic attacks. Panic attacks occur when a person is suddenly overwhelmed by an intense feeling of fear. They might also sense danger, even though the situation they are in might not be life-threatening. These feelings are usually accompanied by a series of symptoms like increased heart rate, trembling, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, or rapid breathing.

Although anxiety and panic attacks are related, being anxious and having a panic attack are two different things. Panic attacks occur suddenly and are accompanied by intense feelings of anxiety, whereas anxiety symptoms build up slowly over time.

There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), selective mutism, and different phobias.

Ayurveda's perspective: what causes Anxiety

According to Ayurveda, a person, just like the universe, is made of five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth.
These elements combine in the body to create three energies or doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha.

- Vata dosha consists of the elements of space and air. It is the energy of movement.

- Pitta dosha consists of the elements of fire and water. It is the energy of digestion and metabolism.

- Kapha dosha consists of the elements of water and earth. It is the energy that forms  diffferent structures in the body, including the bones, muscles, and tendons. Kapha also provides the glue that holds all the cells together and helps the body move smoothly. 

The doshas regulate every single process in the body. They control and maintain the body’s tissues (dhatu), waste products (mala), and digestion (agni).

If the doshas become imbalanced, the body’s functions get disrupted, causing illness.

According to Ayurveda, anxiety (chittodvega) occurs when there is an imbalance in the vata dosha that affects the nervous system and the mind.

The vata dosha is the energy that moves everything in the body. It is responsible for movement in the nervous system. This includes the movement of neurotransmitters in the brain as well as neuron signaling.

When a person has anxiety, there is excess vata dosha or excess motion in his or her mind. A vata imbalance causes a mental response in the body. Excess vata increases feelings of worry or fear, which may lead to anxiety.

It also causes a physical response in the body. Because of excess vata, neurons fire signals rapidly, putting the nervous system on high alert. This can cause a person to have trouble sleeping and difficulty feeling grounded, which can cause anxiety.

Published: March 2021

Why Ayurveda helps treat Anxiety:

Ayurveda helps treat anxiety because it seeks to restore balance to the excess vata dosha (the energy of movement) in the mind. It also works to unblock the energy channels in the mind so vata can flow smoothly throughout the rest of the body. This helps a person feel more grounded and stable.

Published: March 2021

How Ayurveda works to treat Anxiety:

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How Ayurvedic Medicine is applied to treat Anxiety:

Ayurvedic treatment for anxiety is specifically tailored to each individual’s case and looks at the dominant dosha in their constitution. However, Ayurvedic treatment for anxiety generally involves the following aspects:

A. Purvakarma treatments:

Purvakarma is Sanskrit for “foremost action.” It comprises herbal and oil treatments that loosen the accumulated toxins in the gut and brain. Ayurvedic medicine believes these toxins cause anxiety.

Accordingly, purvakarma practices direct the toxins to specific waste and elimination centers in the body.

Purvakarma practices help prepare people for Panchakarma (detoxification therapies).

They consist of three treatments:

1. Pachana (digestion therapy)

2. Snehana (oleation therapy)

3. Swedana (sudation therapy)

The purvakarma treatments that help anxiety are:

1- Pachana (digestion therapy): Patients should take herbal formulations that reduce anxiety and restore balance to the vata dosha.

2- Snehana (oleation therapy): Patients should receive oil massages (abhyanga) regularly. Oil massages help soothe the nervous system and calm the mind.

B. Panchakarma treatments:

Panchakarma, which is Sanskrit for “five treatments,” is a five-step detox program in Ayurveda. These treatments help detoxify the body and restore balance to the vata, pitta, and kapha doshas. The five treatments are:

1. Vamana (medicated emesis)

2. Virechana (medicated purgation)

3. Vasti (medicated enema)

4. Nasya (nasal medication)

5. Raktamokshan (bloodletting)

An Ayurvedic practitioner would manage anxiety using the following Panchakarma treatments:

1- Nasya (nasal medication): a practice where oils are administered through the nose. It helps restore balance to the vata dosha. It soothes the mind and helps prana (life force energy) flow through the body properly, keeping the body balanced and healthy.

C. Rasayana (Rejuvenation treatments):

In Ayurveda, rasayana, which is Sanskrit for “path of essence,” consists of practices that help rejuvenate and nourish the mind and body. Rasayana practices include consuming herbal treatments or decoctions and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. They also incorporate exercise, yoga, and a regular self-care routine (dinacharya) to maintain balance in all aspects of life.

The rasayana practices that help treat anxiety are explained in more detail below:

Dietary modifications:

The Ayurvedic diet aims to balance all three life energies or doshas in the mind and body. Patients should maintain a diet that restores balance to the vata (movement) dosha in the mind and nervous system to treat or prevent anxiety disorders.

To balance the vata dosha, an Ayurvedic diet will often include foods that contain less oil to increase the kapha and pitta doshas in your body. It will also exclude sweet foods and sour fruits that aggravate or increase the vata dosha.

An Ayurvedic diet also prescribes eating specific foods as part of Purvakarma (preparatory treatments) before Panchakarma (detoxification therapies) to help loosen the accumulated toxins in the mind that cause anxiety.

Patients should maintain the Ayurvedic diet even after they complete Purvakarma and Panchakarma therapies. 

Herbal Treatments:

Ayurveda prescribes herbs or herbal treatments to treat anxiety. The treatments are specifically tailored to the person’s symptoms. Practitioners prescribe different herbs depending on the person’s symptoms.

Some of these herbs include:

- Tulsi (Holy Basil): it helps the body react better to stress and lowers anxiety levels.

- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): it helps balance the mind’s vata dosha. It is the energy responsible for the movement of thoughts and feelings in the mind. By restoring balance to the vata dosha, Ashwagandha helps lower anxiety levels.

- Shankapushpi (Convolvulus prostratus): it has anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties.

- Jatamansi (Spikenard): it has anti-stress properties and helps the body eliminate toxins. It also helps get rid of the mind’s prana (energy) blockages.

- Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): it reduces the body’s cortisol levels and helps the nervous system calm down.

- Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica): it helps reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.

Dinacharya (Routine):

Dinacharya, or establishing a routine, is one aspect of rasayana that helps treat disorders like anxiety and restores balance to the body and the mind.

Dinacharya includes:

- Adjusting dietary habits: Patients should eat foods at regular times. They should also eat healthy foods that help restore balance to the vata dosha (energy of movement).

- Regulating sleeping habits: Patients need to adjust their sleeping habits and begin sleeping at regular times every night. Routine helps stabilize vata energy.

- Exercising regularly: Patients should engage in physical activity every day to stabilize all the doshas. Exercise helps decrease stress, which decreases anxiety.

- Practice yoga: Patients should practice at least 10 minutes of yoga every day to stabilize the vata dosha and reduce anxiety.

Practice pranayama: Patients should practice breathing techniques or pranayama every day. Pranayama helps decrease anxiety and improves mood because patients focus on their breathing instead of the things that are bothering them. 

- Massaging yourself: Patients should massage themselves with oil every day to help vata (the energy of movement) move throughout the body.

Published: March 2021

Ayurveda’s recommendations for Anxiety:

- Eat at regular times: Eat at regular times to help establish a routine. Having a schedule decreases chaotic vata energy, which decreases anxiety.

- Exercise regularly: Engage in physical activity every day at regular times to stabilize the vata dosha and reduce anxiety.

- Sleep well: Maintain a regular sleep schedule and get at least 7 hours of sleep to reduce anxiety.

- Practice yoga: Practice at least 10 minutes of yoga every day, including breathing exercises or pranayama. Try to go through the postures slowly and focus on sitting still to cultivate inner peace.

- Practice activities that increase mindfulness: Practice meditation for at least 20 minutes every day. Meditation helps relieve stress and lowers anxiety.

- Give yourself an oil massage: Give yourself a massage using a warm oil every day to cultivate self-love. Massages also help soothe the nervous system. Use a warm oil like sesame oil to help excess vata (the energy of movement) move throughout the body.

Foods to eat:

According to Ayurveda, all foods possess certain gunas (qualities). The gunas in the foods are transferred into energies that influence the balance of the doshas in the body.

People with anxiety should consume foods that possess heavy, warm, and sweet gunas (qualities) that increase the kapha (structure and lubrication) and pitta (digestion and metabolism) doshas (energies) to balance out the vata (movement) dosha (energy).

These foods include:

- Fruits: sweet fruits such as bananas, figs, mangoes, and coconut

- Vegetables: green beans, carrots, and sweet potatoes

- Dairy products: ghee, yogurt, and milk

- Protein: eggs, fish, seafood, and chicken

- Grains: whole wheat products and oats (oatmeal should be warm)

Herbs to use:

The following herbs are beneficial for anxiety because they protect against stress, reduce feelings of anxiety, eliminate toxins in the body, and balance the vata dosha. Herbal teas also help lower anxiety.

- Tulsi (Holy Basil): it helps the body react better to stress and lowers anxiety levels.

- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): it helps balance the mind’s vata dosha. It is the energy responsible for the movement of thoughts and feelings in the mind. By restoring balance to the vata dosha, Ashwagandha helps lower anxiety levels.

- Shankapushpi (Convolvulus prostratus): it has anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties.

- Jatamansi (Spikenard): it has anti-stress properties and helps the body eliminate toxins. It also helps get rid of the mind’s prana (energy) blockages.

- Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): it reduces the body’s cortisol levels and helps the nervous system calm down.

- Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica): it helps reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.

Ayurveda: things to avoid for Anxiety

-Don't skip meals: Skipping meals makes it harder to establish a routine, which aggravates vata energy, causing anxiety. Skipping meals also affects digestion and causes toxins to accumulate in the body.  

- Avoid drinking coffee and tea: these drinks aggravate the vata dosha (the energy of movement) and cause a vata imbalance.

- Avoid or limit alcohol consumption: alcohol has a drying effect on the body and may increase vata (the energy of movement) which also dries out the body. Drinking alcohol can also decrease sattva or purity of mind, which is already low in anxious people and can increase feelings of fear and worry.

- Avoid soft drinks: these drinks contain high amounts of sugar and can overstimulate the nervous system.

- Stop smoking: Nicotine stimulates the nervous system and may lead to increased feelings of anxiety.

Foods to avoid:

According to Ayurveda, all foods possess certain gunas (qualities). The gunas in the foods are transferred into energies that influence the balance of the doshas in the body.

People with anxiety should avoid foods that have cold and light gunas (qualities) that overstimulate and increase vata (the energy of movement) in the body.

These foods include:

- Fruits: sour fruits such as apples, pomegranates, and dried fruits

- Vegetables: Lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, and raw onions

- Grains: Buckwheat, barley, and corn

- Sugary foods and sweets

- Oily and fatty foods

Published: March 2021

Ayurvedic medicine precautions for Anxiety:

Ayurveda uses natural and herbal remedies to treat diseases. However, if you want to use Ayurvedic medicines, herbs, supplements to treat a particular condition, you should consider the following precautions:

- Consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before taking Ayurvedic products on your own. Let them know if you have diabetes or are taking medication that may affect your treatment plan. They should adjust it to avoid any harmful interactions with the medication you are taking.

- Some Ayurvedic products and practices are banned in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve or review Ayurvedic products. Some herbal compounds or preparations may contain lead, mercury, or arsenic in toxic amounts.

They can cause serious illnesses in children and may be life-threatening for pregnant or lactating women and their babies. Other compounds from untrustworthy manufacturers may contain steroids, which may cause further health issues.

WARNING:

- Make sure to disclose to your primary care physician that you are seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner and are taking Ayurvedic formulations. This ensures you stay safe and avoid medication interactions that might cause serious side effects.

- If you are taking medication for diabetes, don’t stop taking them if you begin Ayurvedic treatment unless your doctor approves it.

- Some Ayurvedic practitioners may not be qualified to treat you. Make sure that your Ayurvedic practitioner is well-trained, certified, and has the relevant experience to meet your needs.

- Be careful when buying Ayurvedic herbs or formulas. Don’t buy Ayurvedic products unless they have a GMP (Good Manufacturing Product) stamp on them if you are buying them from India. Be extra careful when purchasing herbs online because online stores may be selling counterfeit products.

Published: March 2021

Ayurvedic medicine side effects for Anxiety:

Since Ayurvedic treatments are derived from natural herbs and plants, most treatments do not cause adverse events. However, if you take some Ayurvedic preparations or herbs, you may experience the following side effects.

- Some Ayurvedic products contain toxic amounts of heavy metals like lead, arsenic, or mercury, and they might cause heavy metal poisoning.

- Some Ayurvedic herbal formulations might cause headaches, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, rashes, or allergic reactions.

Published: March 2021