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Skin Diseases & Treatment in Ayurveda

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The months of July and August represent the varsha ritu or the rainy season. According to Ayurveda, this is the time for pitta aggravation. All the heat that accumulates in the body in the greesham ritu (summer season) is aggravated in the rainy season. There are a number of skin diseases prevalent in the rainy season. Especially in India, this is the time when one can see big crowds in skin clinics. A simple knowledge of Ayurveda can help us prevent and even treat painful skin disorders.

According to Ayurveda, the skin has six layers, located not only superficially but extending to the deeper levels of the body. A skin disease is, mostly, rooted deeply into various dhatus or tissues like fat, muscles, blood etc. Most skin treatments are generally external applications like creams orOils. These, however, never reach the deeper layers of the skin. As a result, the symptoms disappear temporarily, and the disease is not rooted out permanently. Ayurveda always tries to root out the disease by treating it specifically according to its cause. As the disease is deepseated it is difficult to fix the problem quickly. Ayurvedic skin treatments may take a few weeks to remove the symptoms but the diseases are treated permanently.

Large community prevalence studies in United States of America and United Kingdom have demonstrated that between 20 and 30 % of the population have a skin disease requiring attention but only 1 out of 5 seeks medical help. Skin cancers are the most common tumours world-wide and at present in the UK their annual incidence is incresing at a rate of around 7 % per annum. Skin complaints affects all ages from the neonate to the elderly and cause harm in anumber of ways.

The Four Ds
DISCOMFORT - Most often itching or pain (e.g. eczema, post-herpetic neuralgia)
DISFIGUREMENT - Leading to embarrassment and withdrawal from society (e.g. birth marks, acne vulgaris and psoriasis)
DISABILITY - Leading to loss of work and wages (e.g. dermatitis of the hands and feet)
DEATH - rare but still seen (e.g. angioedema, metastatic skin cancer and widespread blistering) 

The skin of an average adult covers an area of just under 2m square. It consists of four identifiable layers. The epidermis an avascular stratified squamous epithelium, is firmly attached by a complex basement membrane to the dermis. The dermis contains and supports blood vessels, nerves and adnexal structures such as hair follicles and sweat glands. Below the dermis is the subcutis or hypodermis, which consists predominantly fat. 

The most important abnormalities related to skin are pallor, yellowness, pigmentation, cyanosis and cutaneous eruptions. In dehydration, the skin is dry and inelastic so that it can be pinched up into a ridge. The skin is atrophied by age and sometimes after treatment with glucocorticoids. It is thickened, greasy and lose in acromegaly.

Two of the main causes of diseases in Ayurveda are a wrong diet and lifestyle, which an individual follows either knowingly or unknowingly. Following a diet or life style that is against the season or the prakriti (nature) of a person, creates an imbalance in bodily energies, thus contaminating the body tissues to produce a skin disease. In Ayurvedic terms, although skin diseases are caused due to imbalances in all the three doshas, the prime dosha involved is pittaPitta symbolizes heat or fire. Therefore all those foods or activities that increase the fire element in the body should be eliminated. This includes hot, spicy, fried,Oily and greasy foods. Acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, yogurt and vinegar should be avoided. Exposure to heat and sun, drinking too much tea, coffee, and alcohol, and smoking also aggravate the pitta.

Home Remedies in Ayurveda for various Skin Problems 
Removing the root cause is the main line of treatment in Ayurveda. Therefore eliminating all the foods and activities that increase pitta is the main treatment. 
Here are some general home remedies for all kinds of skin diseases.

  • Prepare a powder by mixing equal quantities of turmeric, Amla, and Neem leaves. One teaspoonful of this powder can be taken twice a day with water. In case Amla and Neem are not available, only turmeric powder can be used in the dosage of half a teaspoonful twice a day with water.
  • If Neem leaves are available, boil them in water everyday and wash the affected area. Soaps and shampoos should not be used on the affected area.
  • Take 50 grams of powdered yellow sulphur and mix it with 250 ml. of mustardOil or coconutOil. Apply this mixtureto the affected area everyday in the morning and wash after half an hour. It is better to sit in the sun or in a hot place after applying thisOil.
  • If purified sulphur (certified good for internal use) is available, it can be taken in the doses of 1-2 grams twice a day with water.
  • Take 100 ml. of coconutOil and add 5 grams of powdered camphor to it. Put this mixture in a glass bottle and screw the cap on tightly. Put the bottle in sunlight for two hours. Applying this mixture on the affected area is helpful.
  • Taking soft or mild laxatives to clear the bowels is also beneficial in the treatment of skin diseases. A teaspoonful of Triphala powder can be taken at bed time every night, with warm water or milk. Any other natural laxative such as prunes, figs and raisins can also be taken.
  • Fresh juice of apricot leaves may be applied on affected parts of the body. It gives relief in eczema and scabies.
  • Wheat grass juice is also beneficial in skin diseases as it boosts the immune system, which helps to fight the disease.
  • The patient should get as much fresh air as possible. Restrictive and tight clothing should not be worn. The patient should drink 3-4 litres of water everyday.
  • Aloe vera is also beneficial for skin diseases as it purifies the blood. Fresh aloe vera gel can be taken in the dose of two or three tablespoonfuls on an empty stomach everyday.

    Some of the Diseases of Skin which Ayurveda heals with perfection and upto the roots are listed here - 

    Pruritus is defined as a sensation that provokes the desire to scratch. It is a phenomenon attributed to both central and peripheral neural mechanisms. Nerve endings in the region of the dermo-epidermal junction transmit the sensation of itch via slow conducting C fibres and it is probably modulated centrally. Pruritus (Itch) is a common presenting symptom of both primary skin diseases and underlying medical disorders. 

    A common presenting complaint in general practice is an eruptive scaly rash sometimes associated with itching. The main causes may be Eczema / Psoriasis / Pityriasis Rosea / Lichen Planus / Drug Eruption / Pityriasis versicolor.

    Eczema, Psoriasis, Drug Eruptions and Lichen planus rarely progress to erythroderma, defines as erythema with or without scaling of almost all of the body surface. Such patients may be systemically unwell with shivering, due to loss of temperature control and pyrexia. The pulse rate may be elevated and the blood pressure low due to volume depletion.

    Urticaria is a common reaction pattern charaterized by the presence of itchy or 'burning' oedematous swellings (wheals) occuring anywhere on the body and lasting for less than 24 hours. The symptoms of urticaria and angioedema are due to mast cell degranulation with release of histamine.

    Sunlight is a causative or exacerbating factor in many skin diseases. Photosensitization is limited to exposure from ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and visible light. When a rash is related to sunshine then the sites affected tend to be light-exposed sites; the face, particularly the nose and the cheeks but excluding the eyelids, an area under the chin and an area in the shadow of the nose; the dorsae of the forearms and hands, with sparing of the finger webs and palms.

    The skin can separate at any level in the skin and, together with the accumulation of fluid, this causes the formation of vesicles (<0.5 cm) or bullae (>0.5 cm).

        LEG ULCERS
    Ulceration of the skin is the complete loss of the epidermis and part of the dermis. When present on the lower leg, it is usually due to vascular disease and the vast majority (75 %) of cases are due in part to venous hypertension.

    A patient who complains of too little or too much hair should be treated with sensitivity. The term Alopecia means nothing more than loss of hair. Hair Loss or Alopecia can be Tinea Capitis, Alopecia aerata, Androgenetic alopecia, Traumatic Alopecia, or due to some other metabolic illness.

    The terms eczema and dermatitis are synonymous. They both refer to distinctive reaction patterns in the skin. Symptoms can be redness and swelling, usually with ill defined margin and Papules, vesicles, blisters, exudation, cracking and scaling.

    Psoriasis is a non-infectious, inflammatory disease of the skin, characterised by well defined erythematous plaques with large adherent silvery scales. The main abnormality in Psoriasis is increased epidermal proliferation due to excessive division of cells in the basal layers. This disease can be treated very well in Ayurveda with the help of karanjOil Therapy available with us. 

    Lichen Planus is a condition characterised by intensely itchy papules invloving the flexor surfaces, genitalia and mucous membranes. Lichen planus tends to start on the distal limbs, most commonly the volar aspects of the wrists and the lower back. Intensely itchy, flat top , pink-purplish papules appear and some develop a characetristic fine white network on their surface.

    This affects many teenagers. Its prevalence is similar in both sexes but the peak age of severity in females is 16-17 years and in males 17-19 years. Acne clears by the age of 23-25 years in 90% of patients but 5% of women and 1% of men still need the treatment. Lesions are limited to face, shoulders, upper chest and back. Greasy skin is also present. Open comedones (blackheads) due to plugging by keratin and sebum of the pilosebaceous orifice, or closed comedones (whiteheads) due to accretions of sebum and keratin deeper in the pilosebaceous ducts are always evident.

    Pressure sores are caused by ischaemia due to sustained or repeated pressure on skin overlying bony prominences. The sores starts as a localised area of erythema and progresses to a superficial blister or erosion. 

    Little or no melanin is made in the skin and in the eyes in this disorder. Vitiligo is an acquired condition affecting 1% of all races, in which circumscribed depigmented patches develop. Generally vitiligo is often symmetical and frequently involves the wrists, knees and neck as well as the area around the body orifices. The hair of the scalp and beard may also depigment. 

    One should avoid tea, coffee, alcohol, hot spices, fried foods, acidic and sour foods. White sugar, white flour products and preserved or tinned foods should also be avoided. Consumption of meat, especially red meat, should be minimized. Following these simple remedies and dietary tips can relieve even the most irritating skin problems. Thousands of patients suffering from chronic and irritating skin disorders have received relief through Ayurvedic remedies. Asmi Ayurveda Consultancy & Herbals has also formulated a combination of Ayurvedic tablets, syrups and powder to treat skin disorders.