Amrit: An Intelligent Compound that Helps Cells Function Normally
by Removing Free Radicals
Dr. John Zamarra, who has been practicing medicine, with a specialty in cardiology, in Orange County, California, for almost a quarter of a century, discusses his experience with ayurveda in general and Amrit in particular. Dr. Zamarra has received training in Maharishi Ayurveda and has incorporated it into his practice since the 1980s.
Q: Welcome once again to our very special series on Amrit. and welcome to our program, Dr. Zamarra.
Dr. Zamarra: Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Dr. Zamarra: I was born and raised in New Jersey. I went to medical school at the State University of New York at Buffalo in the 1970s. I came out to California right after that; I have been in California for twenty-one years, since 1979. I went straight from college to medical school, and have been practicing since I left medical school.
Q: Tell us a little bit about why you chose to specialize in cardiology.
Dr. Zamarra: Well, I was good at it, and it appealed to me because it's a field in which you can help people directly. Directly intervene and make a difference in their life. There are many other specialties, but most of them I feel are more about maintenance. In cardiac medicine, you can do something directly to help the patient. That was my perception of it at the time I chose the field, and after so many years, I still like cardiology for the same reason.
Q: When did you start looking at ayurveda?
Dr. Zamarra: About 1986. Many of my patients at that time were interested in looking at alternative approaches. They were coming to me saying that they wanted a doctor who knew about natural medicine. Right around that time, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was starting to popularize ayurveda. As I have been a long time meditator and teacher of Transcendental Meditation®, it was natural for me to choose ayurveda to study.
Q: As a doctor who has studied both modern medicine and ayurveda, how would you satisfy another doctor's questions about whether ayurveda works?
Dr. Zamarra: I think there has been some good research that has been published on Transcendental Meditation, and on Maharishi Ayurveda herbal supplements. I am involved in a research program right now with Cholesterol Protection from Maharishi Ayurveda. We are studying its effect on cholesterol and risk factors. We got a grant from the University of California at Irvine -- the Department of Preventative Cardiology at the School of Medicine, and we are doing a study on Cholesterol Protection. I think those of us in the medical profession who are open to alternatives find ayurveda fascinating. The fact that the intelligence of nature contained in herbal plants can be utilized to help the intelligence of the body is a fascinating concept. So if a physician is open to something new, I think he or she would be a supporter of ayurveda.
Q: You practice both modern medicine and ayurveda -- how does ayurveda differ from modern medicine, would you say?
Dr. Zamarra: Well, ayurveda differs in the approach that it gives us to treatment and the means of diagnosis. In ayurveda, a diagnosis is made just as it is in modern medicine, but it is made through special pulse reading. The treatments are still treatments, but they are principally natural medicines. Therefore, the format is essentially the same, you have to evaluate a patient and make a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment in either case. The difference is that ayurveda is more natural. Take the approach to an infection: the Western model uses an antibiotic, whereas in the ayurvedic approach you make the ground less fertile for the bacteria to grow in, so that the body's natural defense mechanisms can overcome the bacteria. It is not to say antibiotics don't do any good, they do do good. But most specialists now recognize that the only thing we have done with the use of antibiotics has been to increase resistance to infections. The bacteria are smarter than the pharmaceutical companies and they are producing resistant strains at a greater rate than we can come up with antibiotics. So something more is needed than just trying to kill the bacteria. There is obviously a breech in homeostasis in the physiology, which caused the infection to start with, so if you can reestablish balance within the physiology the invader can be thrown off.
Q: Tell us about western pulse diagnosis and ayurvedic pulse reading -- are they different?
Dr. Zamarra: Ayurvedic pulse reading is remarkably different! When we "take the pulse" in allopathy, we look for volume, rate and rhythm -- the physical aspects of the pulse. We want to know what the heart rate is. Whether it is going too fast or too slow, and whether there is volume in the pulse, whether there is dehydration or volume depletion. And whether there is a regularity of the rhythm or whether it is irregular. That is about all, and it can tell us some basic things about the physiology, although it is not very sophisticated. The pulse is not a major diagnostic tool in modern medicine. You have to take the pulse of the patient, but there is so much other testing that is done that provides similar information, such as an EKG or monitor strip.
Q: When you do pulse reading according to ayurveda, what do you do? How does it differ from the allopathic concept of pulse diagnosis?
Dr. Zamarra: In ayurvedic pulse diagnosis, we look at the quality of the pulse -- whether is it hot or cold, weak or strong, soft or hard, light or heavy. That is probably the biggest difference.
Q: Do you get to somehow connect with the patient more deeply than if you were doing just the allopathic pulse read?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes, I feel that you get an intuitive feel for the patient's health. The overall character of the patient comes through. And you are connecting on a very subtle level. It helps in diagnosis and establishing a rapport with the patient. I can get some clues as to the patient's personality traits and their character or the nature of any illness they may have by the qualities that are in the pulse. Then you get the waveforms or the impulses, which tells you about the status of the three doshas in the physiology, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and also the sub-doshas and dhatus. This information is worth a lot prognostically. You can tell a lot about what is likely to happen in the future with a patient's health and you can tell the overall state of strength of that patient's physiology. If a patient is vata vitiated then we know we have to attend to vata; if pitta vitiated, to pitta; if kapha vitiated, to kapha. So the pulse tells us the main thrust of our treatment, tells us where the major imbalances are. It gives us an assessment of the state of balance or imbalance of the physiology.
Q: Why does modern medicine have so many side effects, have we changed or has medicine changed or both?
Dr. Zamarra: I think it is a little bit of both. Medicine has changed because the level of interaction with which the manipulation of disease is being undertaken is greater than it has ever been. But the problem is there is no holistic viewpoint in allopathic medicine. So the net result is manipulation of the subtle levels of the physiology without really knowing what one is doing. And research is often colored by hastiness to get the drug out onto the market. There have been so many recalled medicines that have gone through initial stages of treatment that it is frightening to think that so many medicines have made it through the FDA and have turned out to be worse than the treatment they were intended to cure.
Q: On the other hand, ayurveda is holistic as well as personalized.
Dr. Zamarra: Most of my ayurvedic patients say that I relate to them in a different way than any other doctor has related. That I seem more interested in the holistic state of their health and the questions that I ask and information that I receive and the relationship is one that is on a deeper level than a traditional physician/patient relationship. So often my patients will say things like we have become a team in trying to overcome this imbalance they are facing.
Q: You have been practicing medicine for so long, what kinds of conditions do you find very difficult to treat with allopathy, and how and why do you think ayurveda helps them?
Dr. Zamarra: I think that arthritis is one, it is not very hard to treat with allopathic medicine, but it is really hard to make any impact on the disease -- it is just really symptomatic treatment. I think that the treatment of cardiac disease in the west has made a lot of progress, but we still see many cases that are resistant and the psychosocial factors are not given enough attention in the Western model. Ayurveda takes into account the psychosocial problems, and can help in many resistant cases.
Q: Now let's come to your specialty, heart disease. How big of a killer is heart disease today? Can you give us a true picture?
Dr. Zamarra: Oh sure, it causes 500,000 to 600,000 deaths a year in the United States. It is the number one killer and it is estimated that 110 billion dollars a year are spent on healthcare for heart patients (heart and stroke).
Q: Of all the risk factors related to heart disease like hypertension, smoking, drinking, high cholesterol, obesity, stress etc., which one do you think matters most, at the top of the list?
Dr. Zamarra: Genetic predisposition, I think the most overlooked risk factor is psychosocial stress.
Q: Like marriage, work, and interpersonal relationships.
Dr. Zamarra: Exactly. I think that is the most overlooked risk factor. It would explain why patients do not get better when they should.
Q: How does modern medicine deal with this? Or does it deal with it at all?
Dr. Zamarra: Well it deals with it in a rather crude way. Most doctors do not want to get involved with their patients. If they do find a big problem they will send them to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Most doctors do not have enough time or the disposition or the necessary training to deal with psychosocial stress. Depression, loneliness, and sleep disturbances are definitely related to worsening the cardiac condition. As a matter of fact, it has been studied that patients that do not have a social network, like if they are divorced or alone, do not live as long as those who are married and have a network of support.
Q: Studies have shown that the Transcendental Meditation technique, practiced regularly, can help combat stress.
Dr. Zamarra: Indeed. TM plays a central role, because what it does is eliminate stress without the necessity of analyzing the stress. It takes away the need for psychoanalysis in many cases, because the stress is released without particular reference to its source. In other words, the process of meditation is so natural that it relieves stress without having to dive into the details of it. Meditation facilitates the opening up of the heart and general emotions by reducing the stress and tension so it allows the patient to have interaction again. I think most emotionally distressed patients who start TM notice this opening up as the initial step to them really getting healthy.
Q: You must have many patients of this kind.
Dr. Zamarra: Sure. I had an interesting patient who had high blood pressure and was always very anxious. He couldn't even take his blood pressure nor have me measure it, he would get so worried about it. It would cause his blood pressure to shoot up higher so he wouldn't let me take it sometimes. And he actually looked for meditation; but he tried to learn how to meditate from a book, and it didn't work for him. I finally convinced him to learn Transcendental Meditation, which he did, and he noticed the rather immediate response -- that he wasn't worried about his blood pressure as much as he was beforehand. And that this worked much better than the meditation he had learned from the book. And he since went on to improve his relationship with his wife, a relationship that was very strained before, and overall his cardiac status has remained stable. He has done quite well since learning to meditate.
Dr. Zamarra: The answer to most health problems is to stop violating natural law. The answer is getting re-established your connection with the inner intelligence within the body so that you live a life in tune with natural law, and that will help prevent these problems.
Q: Could you explain inner intelligence?
Dr. Zamarra: It is called the wisdom of the body. Every good doctor knows that the physiology has wisdom about it. It will respond to certain things, it will heal itself if given the chance, it will try to correct imbalances if given the chance, and there is a certain wisdom that is playing with the way the body, the intricate mechanism of the body, is operating. It is this expression that is called inner intelligence, and it is the basis of physiological functioning.
Q: And what does this inner intelligence have to do with herbs?
Dr. Zamarra: Herbs are living organisms, they have their own inner intelligence. What we try to do in ayurveda is try to match the intelligence of the body with the intelligence of the herbs, to help magnify the healing response.
Q: How do we have this knowledge to identify the intelligence of the herbs?
Dr. Zamarra: In ayurveda it is stated that whenever there is a problem, nature provides the cure in the local area. So this is a way of nature balancing the physiology of the race.
Q: So that means that intelligence meets with intelligence and they are both able to interact and healing happens?
Dr. Zamarra: Exactly.
Q: How about just staying healthy?
Dr. Zamarra: Well, that is just a similar situation, but just on a different level. Staying healthy and not feeling sick is the ideal and "prevention is worth a pound of cure" is the common understanding. The whole idea is to use the intelligence of the body so that you do not fall sick; you avert the danger that has yet not come. And for that you have to be prepared to take remedial measures that counteract the tendencies that lead to illness and the imbalances that are yet subtle and yet not fixed. I rely on my training and the input from the great vaidyas, who have helped us put together the modern Maharishi Ayurveda, to identify and apply the correct combination of herbs to restore balance. These ayurvedic experts have worked in putting together certain herbal programs so that they are very balanced applications.
Q: Did they bring out anything very remarkable, one preparation that you can really say "wow," this is it?
Dr. Zamarra:That would probably be Amrit.
Q: What is Amrit?
Dr. Zamarra: It is probably the premier rasayana in all of ayurveda. In other words, it is a compound that helps promote longevity and resistance to disease. If you are well, you will remain well and if you are not, it will help to heal yourself.
Q: What is in it that works so well?
Dr. Zamarra: There is a lot in it. It is a very complex compound, and what it seems to do is to magnify the healing response generally. It promotes wellness and well being, it is a very potent anti-oxidant -- that is one of its main features. By being an anti-oxidant it helps cells from being attacked by free radicals. On the cellular level there is immunity built up and there is enhanced longevity of the cells. And it even probably positively affects the DNA, and the expression of the DNA.
Q: How does it apply to your specialty, heart disease? Does it apply to the way heart disease happens and accelerates through atherosclerosis?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes, I think it does. Dr. Sharma has done some studies to show that it retards the atherosclerotic plaquing that occurs in heart disease. It is also a free radical scavenger, which is probably very important in retarding the development of atherosclerotic plaque. So it can help a great deal.
Q: When you recommend Amrit to your patients, what do you say to them? How do you introduce it to them?
Dr. Zamarra: I tell my patients two things: they need a practical way to relax, to counteract the stress in society today. They need to protect themselves from the environment, because the environment is hostile. Water, air and food are not pure, so without a natural anti-oxidant to protect you, you are at risk.
Q: And Amrit is the natural anti-oxidant.
Dr. Zamarra: It is the best, the premier anti-oxidant that anyone could use.
Q: After using Amrit for some time, what do your patients come back and say to you?
Dr. Zamarra: Many of them say they notice right away that they feel better. More energy, clearer mind, minor aches and pains are better, and they feel more flexible in their physiology. And they notice they do not get sick, as much, if a cold comes through the community, they do not fall prey to it as they used to. There is more resilience and resistance to disease.
Q: Do you take Amrit yourself?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes, since about 1987 or 1988.
Q: What are the effects you feel on your own physiology?
Dr. Zamarra: I feel much younger, more resilient, more resistant to disease, in a way it helps me feel happy and content. I don't get sick anymore. I don't get the flu, or colds. It has improved my sense of well-being. I just wouldn't go without it.
Q: Does this inspire your patients?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes, many of them ask me what I take personally and I tell them that I take Amrit. I have recommended Amrit to hundreds of people over the years.
Q: So you recommend Amrit to patients of heart disease as well as healthy people seeking to maintain cardiac health?
Dr. Zamarra: Oh both, both. I recommend it to patients with heart disease definitely. And I also recommend it for healthy people seeking to maintain cardiac health. What I tell my patients with heart problems is that it can protect them from dangerous chemicals in their bodies. And it can protect them from the environmental pollution that produces free radicals, and it can help reverse the plaque built up in their arteries. Free radicals are the biggest contributor for the progression of atherosclerosis, and the antioxidant effect of Amrit can help counteract this. And I tell people who are healthy and would like to stay healthy that they need a means of protection from the environment because the air is not clear, the water is not clean, and they need to have something to counteract the free radical attack that is building up in their systems daily.
Q: We would like you to tell us about atherosclerosis and Amrit in more detail, since so many Americans are at risk for this type of health problem.
Dr. Zamarra: Well, the process of atherosclerosis occurs when low-density lipoproteins that are oxidized infiltrate the arterial wall and set up an inflammatory response. Fatty deposits, called plaque, are progressively deposited along the inner walls of arteries, blocking the free flow of blood. This can eventually lead to such conditions as angina or chest pain, heart attacks and strokes. Amrit helps prevent the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque by blocking the initial condition that causes the plaque buildup. For somebody who has had a heart attack already and is a heart patient or has had a by-pass surgery or an angioplasty secondary prevention is very important. In other words, we want to prevent the progression of the disease and even reverse it. And Amrit can help, by blocking the oxidation of the LDL particles, which is the stimulus to the plaque formation and growth. Amrit has also been shown in research to help retard platelet aggregation. Platelet adhesion and aggregation can lead to the formation of thrombi in the arterial wall, and if the blood vessels are already constricted by atherosclerotic plaque, blood flow is severely reduced or completely blocked, and a heart attack or stroke may result. Substances that retard platelet aggregation help prevent the thrombi from forming and causing serious heart diseases.
Q: Wonderful. Can you tell us about a specific case where you feel Amrit helped in maintaining the overall health of a patient?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes. One of my patients, an 81-year-old male, is an individual who had a heart attack and had to undergo by-pass surgery. And a few years after his by-pass he developed some chest pain while walking up the hill by his house. He was interested in doing something to prevent the need for another by-pass surgery, so I put him on Amrit. And his response was excellent. He was a retired individual but he was still under a lot of self-imposed stress. He used to work in the aerospace industry. His dietary habits were not exactly the best, but they were okay. And he would walk for exercise. The diagnosis was that he was having angina pectoris after his by-pass surgery -- chest pain caused by a restricted artery. And I recommended Amrit. And he noted after a while that his exercise tolerance improved. That he could actually walk up the hill without feeling the discomfort that he felt before.
Q: And how long ago was this?
Dr. Zamarra: This was about 5 years ago.
Q: And do you still see the patient?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes, he's doing fine. He hasn't had any more need for by-pass surgery or angioplasty.
Q: That's remarkable. And has he continued taking Amrit?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes. I encourage my patients to continue to take Amrit regularly, because maintaining heart health is an ongoing battle. The depositing of the atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries is a unique process that doesn't stop by itself. It has to be reversed or inhibited and the only way to do that is to continually block the oxidation of the LDL particles with a potent antioxidant like Amrit. Amrit is the best maintenance anti-oxidant you can take; once the situation is controlled then you want to prevent it from coming back. And so you have to continue taking it.
Q: Are there any other cases that come to mind?
Dr. Zamarra: Yes, another of my patients, a younger individual -- he is in his 50s. And he is actually a physician who noted that he would get chest pain when he climbed the stairs in the hospital when he was making his rounds. And he did not want to have anything done invasively and he wanted to try to get better naturally. He had an exercise treadmill test, which was mildly abnormal. I put him on Amrit and he systematically got better. He could walk the flight of stairs without getting chest pains.
Q: Physicians these days can truly be under a great deal of ongoing stress. Can you tell us a little bit about this patient's lifestyle? What kind of a schedule he has, stress levels and things like that?
Dr. Zamarra: Well, it was a very chaotic lifestyle. He was on call every third night and every third weekend. And he would be very busy in the office, with patients calling all hours of the night and day. And he was under a great deal of stress and tension. When he started having these chest pains, he came to me because he knew I was interested in natural medicine and ayurveda, and he wanted to have a natural approach to this problem and didn't want to have an invasive workup. He had an exercise treadmill test, which was weakly positive -- that means that it showed some straining of the heart muscle upon exercise. That occurs when the arteries are plugged up with cholesterol plaque. I recommended that he try Amrit to see if it could help, and indeed it did. Over time, he had less chest discomfort when he walked up the stairs.
Q: And did he then have to go for a procedure or he is okay?
Dr. Zamarra: He's still doing without any procedure. He's adamant that he doesn't want anything done invasively. So we're managing him medically. He has been taking Amrit for about two years now.
Q: Let's discuss free radicals -- more and more people are coming to understand that free radicals in excess are the cause of 80% of degenerative diseases. Can you start by explaining what exactly free radicals are?
Dr. Zamarra: Free radicals are dangerous chemicals that the body is subject to that cause damage to the arterial wall and cause damage to normal healthy cells. Free radicals are oxygen compounds that have unpaired electrons, unpaired electrons that makes them really killer cells -- killer molecules that destroy normal healthy cells, break down the cellular membrane and cause the cells to rupture. So they're very noxious chemicals.
Q: And what then helps take care of free radicals?
Dr. Zamarra: The body has its own antioxidant system that helps the breakdown of these free radicals. But what happens is that the battle surmounts and it's a matter of how many of each you have -- whether you have too many free radicals or you have enough antioxidants. So it's a matter of the balance between the good and the bad particles.
Q: So you mean the body can take care of free radicals if they are produced in normal numbers?
Dr. Zamarra: Exactly.
Q: What factors push up the population of free radicals and the production of free radicals to unmanageable numbers?
Dr. Zamarra: Well, it's not known completely but many factors such as high stress levels, improper diet, air pollution, water pollution, pesticides and chemicals in foods -- all of these things contribute to the free radical burden. Take diet, for example. If you inject oils that are already oxidized into your physiology, this increases the free radical burden -- you do that by eating too many deep-fried foods, rancid food, etc.
Q: How about food that has been preserved using preservatives? Ayurveda is very emphatic about eating foods that are fresh and natural.
Dr. Zamarra: Right, preservatives and chemicals in foods increase the production of free radicals. And then there are certain oils that are particularly prone to produce free radicals, because every time there's a metabolic step in the pathway of the digestion of such an oil it produces some free radicals as a by-product. So trans-fatty acids are particularly prone to produce free radicals when they digested in the body.
Q: What is a trans-fatty acid?
Dr. Zamarra: Trans-fatty acid is what makes up most of margarine. They are long-term fatty acids that have a transposition of molecules in them, and they get digested very slowly and they produce free radicals when the body digests them.
Q: How does stress contribute to free radical production?
Dr. Zamarra: Well, it produces stress hormones, which are believed to increase the free radicals in the body.
Q: So if you're under attack, because of pollution, contaminants, stress, and improper diet, then you have an imbalance in the proportion of free radicals and antioxidants in the body?
Dr. Zamarra: Exactly. The free radical population overwhelms the body's natural responses. There are other antioxidants that fight free radicals. There's vitamin E and vitamin C but they're limited in their capacity. They're not full-spectrum. There are intra-cellular free radicals and extra-cellular free radicals; there are water-soluble free radicals and fat-soluble ones. So you need something that's comprehensive -- that can take care of all the different types of free radicals that are produced. It's a rather complex process. So vitamin C and vitamin E are not complete.
Q: What does Amrit have that these antioxidants don't have?
Dr. Zamarra: Well, research shows that it's a complete antioxidant. It takes care of both the intra-cellular and extra-cellular, the water-soluble and the fat-soluble free radicals -- it's comprehensive in its defense.
Q: And what is it about the make-up of this product that makes it so comprehensive in its positive influence on the physiology?
Dr. Zamarra: Well, that's a good question. It's the synergistic effect of the compounds. There isn't one active ingredient. It's a very complex compound and it's made up of many ingredients. And it's the synergy of all the ingredients working together that has this remarkable effect. It's a very intelligent compound. It has a lot of natural intelligence in it and that's why it's so good for the body. It also directly goes into the cells, to help them function normally. It's a powerful food. Food can be medicine. Food can be medicine and knowing about food is just as important as knowing about chemicals. So this concentrated food product, with nature's intelligence in it, is health promoting and health providing.
Q: How does this food work intelligently in the body?
Dr. Zamarra: It has a biochemical address. There are receptors on cells and the receptors are like a keyhole in a lock. The key is the food and the receptor is the lock. And if you have the right key, it goes into the lock and produces the desired effect.
Q: That's fascinating.
Dr. Zamarra: From the ayurvedic point of view, people who take Amrit regularly have a sense of well-being. It causes them to be relaxed and they feel firstly protected and secondly there's a general settling of Vata in the physiology -- Vata pacification in the ayurveda framework. And this can help the heart. Vata is the principle of motion in the body. When Vata is not in balance, it causes anxiety and stress and tension in the system with chemical build-ups of stress hormones. Amrit helps counteract the Vata imbalance. Most people feel calmer and more relaxed when they take Amrit.
Q: How much time would you say it takes for a person to start feeling the effects of Amrit?
Dr. Zamarra: Oh, it works in a matter of weeks for most people.
Q: You've told us earlier that people who take Amrit regularly do not fall sick as often -- it helps boost their natural immunity. What about energy levels?
Dr. Zamarra: Oh yes, that's another side-benefit that many of my patients talk about. Amrit probably helps enhance energy levels by opening up the channels of the body so that the natural flow of energy isn't blocked. Opening the channels refers to a purification process that allows for the reduction of ama production. Ama is the by-product of improper digestion, and it blocks the channels of body. Amrit allows the body's inner intelligence to express itself freely without being blocked.
Q: Wonderful. Are there any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
Dr. Zamarra: Amrit is good for the body and people do better on it. They're healthier when they take Amrit, for many reasons. We've focused on the heart in this interview, but Amrit produces a general improvement of overall health that's noticeable in the individual. Most people who take Amrit would never stop taking it. They feel that they're protected when they take it.
Q: Thank you so much for sharing with us your thoughts on ayurveda and Amrit.
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