Amrit Frees up the Intelligence of the Body
An insightful interview with Dr. Paul Dugliss
In this special newsletter, Dr. Paul Dugliss, who has been practicing internal medicine in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Westland, Michigan, for several years, discusses his experiences with ayurveda and Amrit. Dr. Dugliss has received training in Maharishi Ayurveda and has incorporated it into his practice since the late 90s.
Q: Today we welcome Dr. Paul Dugliss of Ann Arbor, Michigan, to our special series of newsletters on ayurveda and Amrit. Welcome, Dr. Dugliss. Could you start by telling us a little about your background?
Dr. Dugliss: I am an Internist. I'm board certified in internal medicine. I have been in practice for several years now, but had a few careers before going into medical school. Eventually I decided that my interest really lay in health and promoting health. I went into medical school with the idea that there was a lot of wisdom in ancient medical systems such as ayurveda, and I thought it would be useful to integrate that wisdom into modern day medicine. I'd begun to explore different paths to healing out of my own personal experience, having had several minor illnesses in a row and feeling frustrated with the response that I got from allopathic medicine. I started to look into herbal medicine, and as part of that I first came across traditional Chinese medicine. As I explored further, I became aware that there was also a traditional medicine of India that was introduced to me through several people who practice the Transcendental Meditation® technique, and it was through that path that I came to know about ayurveda. As soon as I found it, it seemed to hold something really meaningful for me, something that really rang true for me. So I started to pursue learning as much as I could about it. When I came out of medical school I had the great opportunity to create the Oakwood Alternative Medical Center in Westland, Michigan, where I was able to integrate the practice of ayurvedic medicine with my internal medicine practice.
Q: Could you tell us how you were received by the community in Westland, as someone practicing integrative medicine — the best of Western medicine with the best of ayurvedic medicine?
Dr. Dugliss: Initially there was some skepticism within the medical community itself. But the response from the patients was fantastic. As the conventional medical community saw that we were serious physicians and we weren't abandoning everything that we had learned in medical school, and with the positive results our patients were getting, they soon started supporting us 100%.
Q: I wonder if you could comment first on your view of healing and the practice of integrative medicine.
Dr. Dugliss: Most physicians who have been practicing for a long time realize that the purely scientific approach hasn't yet fulfilled all the potential there is in terms of understanding what makes for health and what makes for healing. From my perspective, it is something that we didn't learn a lot about in medical school; the focus was more on disease processes, and disease management. I think the key to healing is just putting the individual in contact with the wholeness within. To heal means to make whole again. And that wholeness is deep within that individual, so part of the emphasis that I place in my practice is having the individual reconnect with the wholeness within himself or herself.
Q: What was it about ayurveda that attracted you?
Dr. Dugliss: The thing that really attracted me was this concept of balance and being able to detect an imbalance and correct it long before it ever manifested as a disease. So first, it was the emphasis on prevention. The other aspect was the recognition that the mind and the body are intimately connected — the knowledge that our consciousness and mind impact the body, and the importance of having a holistic approach towards health and healing. It's something that I think is missing in the allopathic approach, and it's for that reason that I became very enthralled with ayurveda.
Q: Now as a Western doctor you are trained to read the pulse. Can you tell us the difference between reading the pulse in modern medicine and reading the pulse ayurvedically?
Dr. Dugliss: The difference is almost night and day. When we take the pulse in Western medicine we are using the Western mind, which is very analytical. We are almost always focused on quantifying and counting things, such as counting the number of beats and only rarely do we pay attention to the quality of the pulse. In ayurvedic medicine, when we take the pulse, the quality is almost everything. And it's through this refinement of the ability to perceive qualities that we're able to learn so much about the physiology of an individual, and able to tell so much about the state of his or her balance, just by taking the pulse.
Q: How do you introduce new patients to ayurveda?
Dr. Dugliss: I think that it's experience that convinces people. I help them to do things the ayurvedic way in a step-by-step fashion, where they can start out with small steps if this is very foreign to them. As they start out with small steps and experience some of what we're talking about in terms of the impact of the mind or the impact of consciousness on the body and on health, then they're ready for more. They begin to see that they can take more control of their health and don't always have to be dependent on a medicine or on a pill in order to have good health. And for that reason I think that convincing is not what the role of the doctor should be. It really should be teaching and helping to guide the experience.
Q: Does the concept of "quick relief" or the "magic bullet approach" that we are so used to present a hurdle in your practice of ayurveda? Ayurveda, of course, is not normally about quick relief.
Dr. Dugliss: Sometimes. But I often have people come to me who have tried all the quick-relief approaches. They've been from one doctor to another, and they are open now to recognizing that the process may take a little bit longer. Certainly there are those individuals who want something to work overnight; they are looking for a magic pill, and I have to explain to them that that's not what's being offered — that really for lasting health to happen, you have to be patient; changes take place slowly.
Q: Also, in the ayurvedic approach, the patient has to participate in his or her healing rather than be passive, as generally happens in the allopathic system.
Dr. Dugliss: Yes, I think there is a level of participation in the ayurvedic approach that is different. But rather than just viewing it as the patient being passive or active, I think it really speaks more to what is the experience internally of the patient. With ayurvedic medicine, patients experience more and more control over their health, more and more ability to affect their health and to alter their experience to one that's positive, to one that is more energetic, one that is more healthful, as opposed to just being the passive recipients of some treatment. And it's this experience of having more control and more ability to heal themselves that inspires people to do more and more. So it's not a matter of having to find people who are more active in their healthcare. It's really a question of providing that experience that allows them to become more active, and makes it a joy to be more active and follow the recommendations of the physician.
Q: In general, what is the motivational level of people who come to you to seek help?
Dr. Dugliss: In general, the people who are seeking my services are very motivated because they've been suffering quite a bit. They've been trying things within the allopathic system without success. They've often been to multiple doctors. I remember once counting 14 doctors that this one patient of mine had already consulted just to try to get a sense of what was wrong.
Q: How satisfying is it to treat patients using this modality? How does it give you satisfaction?
Dr. Dugliss: It's very fulfilling. It is a joy to watch people grow, to watch them become healthy — to have people come in who've been ill for years and have been suffering, and within a very short period of time having them be able to function again and be able to interact and gain their life back, regain their relationships with their families. This propels me to continue to do more and more with ayurvedic medicine. It's very fulfilling.
Q: Let us talk about herbs. Herbal compounds are one of the means of creating and maintaining health in Maharishi Ayurveda. Do you think herbs have an inner intelligence?
Dr. Dugliss: I think that intelligence is in the way creation is structured. There is intelligence in the way plants are organized, the way herbs and food substances are organized, and the way the human body is organized. In order for the body to continue to regenerate and rejuvenate itself, there has to be some underlying intelligence that drives the process, and I don't think that's something that is isolated to the human being. I think there's intelligence in nature — the way nature creates and maintains itself, and the way order is maintained.
Q: How is this intelligence stored in herbs, and how is it expressed?
Dr. Dugliss: I don't know that we fully understand yet how the intelligence is stored. Certainly the structure tells us a little bit; the structure of the molecules that make up the different components of the herb are often the way it can communicate its message of healing to the human body. We know that within the human body there are types of proteins and neural peptides that are used to communicate within the body, and that often the types of substances that we find in nature and in herbs mimic these types of messengers. So we have some knowledge; I don't think we have the full story yet.
Q: So it's logical to presume that one can harness the intelligence of herbs to heal the human body?
Dr. Dugliss: It depends on what you mean by harness. I think there's a tragic flaw in the pharmaceutical approach to medicine in general and to herbal medicine in particular. When you attempt to harness this intelligence by taking things out of their natural environment, you lose that intelligence. There's a certain sophistication — an interaction that takes place in the natural environment that is lost. I can tell you specifically that even from a scientific viewpoint this is so. There's an ayurvedic herb called Guggul, which is the resin of the Indian Mukul Myrrh tree that was shown to be able to lower cholesterol levels. The industry attempted to isolate the active ingredient, and they found that first of all there wasn't one active ingredient — there were actually at least two. And when they tried to take these out of the natural environment, it was found that they did not work well at all. So these types of experiments show that there's a benefit to keeping things within their natural environment, and to using synergistic herbal formulas. I think that often in Western culture, we tend to have an associative approach to things: "I have this symptom, I take this herb." In fact the body is much, much more complex than that, and if you look at ancient ayurvedic formulas, they always contain more than one herb. In order to really harness the intelligence, you need something that is much greater than just a single so-called "active" substance.
Q: Tell us a little about immunity.
Dr. Dugliss: The whole immune system fascinates me, and the subject is very, very broad. I see the immune system as the key to preventing much in terms of illness. Even disorders such as cancer — I think that from an allopathic standpoint we're beginning to recognize that the immune system plays a key role in the prevention of cancer, and probably will play a key role in terms of real treatments for it. Of course, in ayurveda there's the whole concept of Rasayana theory, or that which gives life and strength to an individual.
Q: An ayurvedic Rasayana refers to the coming together of herbal and other ingredients to offer strength, health and immunity?
Dr. Dugliss: From the ayurvedic perspective, what hinders the immune system is the build-up of toxins. When digestion isn't 100% complete, when digestion isn't 100% perfect, then there's the build-up of toxic matter called ama that gets deposited in the body. A formula such as Amrit, therefore, from the ayurvedic perspective, is something that restores the ability of each aspect of digestion. The understanding of metabolism and digestion in ayurveda is very deep, and there are various aspects that are enumerated. Amrit contains herbs that are targeted toward each of these levels of digestion and metabolism. And so this is one ayurvedic formula that is very good in terms of restoring digestion and thereby enhancing immunity. Amrit works because it targets an area of the physiology that's overlooked often in Western medicine, and that's the importance of digestion. It allows the proper transformation of food into bodily tissue. Without this mechanism being proper, the body builds up toxins, and the immune system has to work in overdrive to eliminate these toxins and often gets overwhelmed.
Q: Do you personally take Amrit?
Dr. Dugliss: Yes, I have been taking it for several years. I also prescribe it regularly for my patients. Not every patient — certainly there are individual considerations, and the problem that he or she brings to me. I really try to look at the individual and his or her needs, and I monitor very closely his or her response to things I recommend. So often I see people back sooner and more often than other physicians generally do, because I think that it is experience, positive experience, which builds the trust that eventually enables them to get greater control of their health. I don't have a certain rule or pattern for prescribing Amrit. I do know that I tend to prescribe the Nectar Paste more often than the Ambrosia tablets.
Q: What do you think are the advantages of the paste over the tablets?
Dr. Dugliss: I think the paste has a slightly more direct effect on the digestive tract. I like the balancing effect of the ghee, and the fact that it tends towards a liquid type of concentrate. It is something that I find people often enjoy more, so there is more motivation to take it. I find there is a more quick impact with patients taking the paste.
Q: For what conditions or to what kind of people do you prescribe Amrit?
Dr. Dugliss: I prescribe it often for people who are suffering from chronic fatigue, or people with problems that are related to weakness in digestion. Once ama starts to get deposited in the body, these toxins can manifest as many different types of symptoms and problems. And just using a formulation like Amrit that improves digestion is something that can help alleviate many, many different types of problems. Certainly in my experience Amrit is beneficial for people with chronic fatigue or people with fibromyalgia, or with food allergies.
Q: How do you think Amrit has worked for your patients?
Dr. Dugliss: I think it works in many ways. Many of my patients who have taken Amrit have noticed a change in energy level fairly quickly. In terms of problems with energy and problems with digestion, I think it works very well. While I often prescribe it to patients with some type of problem, just because of the nature of my practice, it is also something I would recommend for prevention, to keep digestion balanced and energy levels high. The most common comment that I get from people taking it is that it helps their energy levels, that they have more energy after they start taking it. It's something that most people tend to notice very quickly. Last week I had a patient in my office complaining about getting frequent colds of late. She had been so healthy for so many years, and this was her sixth cold this year. We starting exploring her digestion, and found that there was indeed something there that she needed help with. The benefit of Amrit is that acts holistically on the digestion as well as immunity.
Q: Can you talk about other people in your practice who have benefited from taking Amrit?
Dr. Dugliss: There are so many people coming in to see me whose digestion is "off" that there are many examples I can think of. One patient of mine, whom I saw today, had been suffering from chronic fatigue and not being able to sleep properly; she also had irritable bowl syndrome. I got her started on Amrit, and within a week her energy level was transformed. Over time, she was able to lose a significant amount of weight, her energy came back, bowel movements became normal again, and Amrit is something that she now says she couldn't do without.
Q: Did her family also notice the changes?
Dr. Dugliss: Yes, as part of the changes that we put in place, she started to explore different things in terms of diet and lifestyle. At first there was a little bit of questioning from her family, but they could see how much better she was doing and that this was working. She had been struggling with this problem for about seven years, and going from doctor to doctor, without getting resolution. Her family saw the changes ayurveda and Amrit brought for my patient.
Dr. Dugliss: If you look at Vedic tradition, there are two things that really stand out. First, this is knowledge that has stood the test of time. When you look at the types of medications that we are introducing today, for a medication to be on the market for twenty-five years is considered a long time. These ayurvedic formulas have been in existence for thousands of years. So there is a certain safety in knowing that there is a long-standing tradition behind a formula like Amrit. Second, that this knowledge came out of the cognition of people who were very wise or enlightened. They knew intuitively what kind of synergies to put together. Hardcore scientists have a little difficulty with this, but these formulas are still helping people 5,000 years after they were first introduced.
Q: You told us earlier that you take Amrit personally. Can you enlighten us as to your own personal healthcare and the role Amrit plays in that?
Dr. Dugliss: I have used Amrit for several years. It was quite stressful going through residency — the last couple of years of medical school are tough. You are routinely exposed to many illnesses and germs and viruses, and you don't have the luxury of having the healthiest of routines. We know that when one is not able to have a regular routine or exercise regularly, it can throw digestion off, and that can set the stage for ama-related illness. Amrit was a great benefit in getting through those stressful times.
Q: What have you noticed in terms of positive health as you have been taking Amrit over the years?
Dr. Dugliss: I think the thing I notice the most is increase of energy. Amrit frees up the intelligence of the body to do what it knows to do. And the freeing-up process releases energy. It is really a great benefit for my patients to be taking this formula.
Q: How would you go about letting your fellow physicians know about Amrit and Maharishi Ayurveda?
Dr. Dugliss: I think most doctors want to know that something is real. There are so many theories out there, so many particularly when we get into talking about alternatives to modern practice. I think most physicians do care about their patients and want to know what is real. So the first thing I would start out with would be more scientific research to tabulate benefits. Certainly the research done on the antioxidant potential of Amrit is wonderful, but some research has also been done on specifics: for example, on patients with angina or chest pain due to atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries. When you can show that people are able to go and walk further without having chest pain after taking Amrit — that wakes doctors up. We need more of this kind of research. Once they're aware that this is real, not just a theory, physicians are more open. Then they are more open to prescribing and using it. I find that the students coming into medical school are much more open and very interested in what ayurvedic medicine is all about. I find that there is a tremendous response when I talk about the Vedic approach or ayurveda, or about Amrit and the research that has been done on Amrit.
Q: Do you find that Amrit is equally valuable for balancing all the three doshas — Vata, Pitta and Kapha?
Dr. Dugliss: One of the beauties of this formula is that it is a very balanced formula, so it can be appropriate for all three.
Q: What about the ghee and sugar in the paste? Is that a deterrent in your experience?
Dr. Dugliss: I find that there are people who are very afraid of taking any ghee-based product like Amrit. It usually takes about five minutes of talking with them to allay their fears and to help them realize that usually it is a misconception that all fat is bad. There are good fats and bad fats. Ghee is clarified butter, and it has very interesting properties. It is composed of a short-chain fatty acid with only four carbons, as opposed to the very long chain of fatty acids composing other oils. So when it gets incorporated into a cell wall, for example, being short-chained, it is able to move around, making the cell more flexible, which allows it to survive longer. So there are benefits in taking ghee in moderation — just don't overdo it.
Q: What sort of changes do you see in the pulse when someone has been taking Amrit for a month or longer?
Dr. Dugliss: Typically what I see is that there is more clarity in the pulse, no clump-up, not as much ama. And sometimes, increased energy.
Q: Thank you, Dr. Dugliss, for taking the time today to speak with us about your experiences with Maharishi Ayurveda and Amrit.
Dr. Dugliss: It was my pleasure.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.