Spring, Allergens and Ayurveda
by vpk® Maharishi Ayurveda on April 11, 2013
Spring flowers, ragweed, dust, mold or pet dander can cause your immune system to overreact to harmless natural substances. The result can too commonly be allergies. Millions each year suffer from an overactive immune response to dust and pollen in the air.
It’s not what you are breathing – it is your body’s response to it! Instead of reserving its immune response for viruses and bacteria, your body sounds a false alarm when exposed to a certain food, pet dander, or pollen — and tells the immune system to attack. Sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes; indigestion; swelling or skin rashes — these are some of the all-too-familiar results.
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, accumulated toxins (ama) prevent your immune system from functioning normally and cause the over-reaction; the result – allergies. Ayurveda suggests a multi-faceted approach — adjustments in lifestyle and diet, and specific Ayurvedic herbal supplements.
Herbs for Spring Immunity
Ayurveda has deep regard for the intelligence of the immune system, and offers a sophisticated in-depth body of botanical knowledge and lifestyle tips, centuries old, supporting it. For example, certain Ayurvedic herbs will help support your body’s natural response to allergens by helping to eliminate existing toxins and, at the same time, promote a healthy response to harmless allergens. The herbs also work to support the healthy functioning of your liver. As your body’s natural filtration system, your liver filters toxins and chemicals from the food you eat, the water you drink and the air you breathe.
Let’s discuss the Ayurveda lifestyle approach to Allergies.
Uphold Immune Strength
Supporting the body's immune system to quell its overreaction to allergens is exactly what Maharishi Ayurveda suggests as the long-term, effective solution to a healthy response to allergens. Diet, exercise and many lifestyle changes can play a role in helping to sooth your body’s response.
In the spring, impurities (called ama) that have built up over the less-active winter months — months where during the cold weather we tend to eat more — start to naturally be released inside the body as we become more active and the temperature rises. This causes the body to naturally start a detoxification process in the spring. Thetoxins released during this process can build up in the microchannels of the body (the shrotas), blocking them.
When the microchannels are blocked, nutrients are not delivered properly to the cells. Also, communication between the various systems of the body can be hindered, and the body’s immune system becomes weakened, and/or confused. Then, in the spring, as plants bloom, they fill the air with pollen (allergens) and our body mistakenly regards these natural particles as enemies and attacks them, causing the sometimes-debilitating symptoms we know as allergies. That's the reason, in the Ayurvedic model of health, our reaction to allergens spikes in the spring.
The Spring Flood of Ama
Traditional Ayurvedic experts view the body’s overreaction to environmental allergens as a problem occurring in a particular sub-dosha of Kapha, called Shleshaka Kapha. This sub-dosha is responsible for maintaining moisture in the upper respiratory tract.
As the ama (digestive impurities) in the body is released, it can combine with Shleshaka Kapha to form a thick, sticky toxin called shleshma, which starts to fill the respiratory tract and sinus cavities. The entire respiratory system, as a result, becomes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and health imbalances. This is the reason why allergen sensitivity can become a sinus or respiratory issue. This is also why a Kapha-reducing diet of lighter foods that are easier to digest is recommended. These kinds of foods are easier on the body and help flush ama out.
What about diet?
Researchers have found that a diet that includes regular intake of certain spices can reduce vulnerability to plant allergens. These spices contain natural chemicals that include flavonoids and phenols. For example, turmeric is rich in curcumin, a compound that is known to support a healthy inflammatory response. Turmeric can also help improve digestion and balance the flow of bile. Sage, red pepper, cumin and coriander are some other spices that are known to help with allergy response. Sautéing a combination of ground turmeric, cumin and coriander in ghee and using the mixture to season vegetables is a way of incorporating some of these Ayurvedic herbs/spices into your diet.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, it is important to follow a Kapha-Pitta pacifying diet. When allergens attack the body, the body’s immune system releases various chemicals. So it is considered essential to pacify Pitta, because Pitta regulates chemical functions in the body. Drinking Organic Pitta Tea or using the Organic Cooling Spice Mix (food seasoning) is a convenient way of doing this. It is also important to pacify Kapha to counteract sluggish digestion and congestion. This is especially true in the Kapha season (spring).
Understanding the need to strengthen the body’s defense systems to effectively combat allergens is important. Appeasing symptoms provides only temporary relief.
A key to Ayurveda and diet is timing and quantity. Eating a light breakfast of stewed fruit or oatmeal is ideal. A larger lunch taken around noon, when digestion is the strongest, is considered by Ayurveda to be best. A light dinner of grain and vegetables, taken at least 3 hours prior to sleep, is best for ending the day and sleeping soundly. Remember, if there is no hunger by the next meal, we have most likely overeaten at the prior meal. Listening to our body is a key in maintaining a toxin-free system.
Exercising on a regular basis is a way to remove toxins (ama) from the body. As our body burns sugars and fats for food during exercise, it naturally detoxifies the system. Ayurveda recommends daily exercise and considers a morning walk to be ideal. Yoga asanas (postures) are a healthy way balance the body. Ayurveda suggests some aerobic exercise in addition for cardiovascular health and for burning off ama.
Practicing a stress-reducing meditation technique is paramount for a balanced lifestyle. Transcendental Meditation®, which provides deep rest along with the experience of transcending, pacifies all the doshas. If you do not practice Transcendental Meditation, then practicing the meditation of your choice is a great addition to your daily routine.
Three key principles to long-term balance and wellness in Ayurveda are broadly summed up in three lifestyle tactics: 1) Reducing ama (toxins), 2) Balancing/strengthening digestion (agni) and 3) Significantly lowering stress. Each of these plays a powerful role in supporting long-term, life-changing wellness, according to Ayurveda. To accomplish these three targets, Ayurveda offers you lots of enjoyable options. Each of these choices has the power, in the Ayurvedic model, to gradually, naturally support and restore Ayurvedic balance in mind and body. These lifestyle choices include changes to diet; stress reduction practices like yoga, exercise and meditation; and traditional Ayurvedic herbals.
The Ayurvedic herbals listed below are core herbal products supporting important areas of Ayurvedic wellness.
Balanced digestion is a priority in Ayurveda.
Digestion is a central, long-term, priority focus of Ayurveda. Great emphasis is placed on keeping digestion (agni) balanced. In this sense, ‘balance’ means functioning at its absolute optimum. That’s because digestion (agni) is the engine of transformation and assimilation. This transformation ‘engine’ isn’t found just in the stomach — it is found in every cell in the body. It is an extremely intelligent engine, too. It transforms and metabolizes food nutrients and food intelligence into you, and selects out that which isn’t useful to the body and mind. Depending on the strength of agni, the ‘transformation engine,’ either ama (toxins) or ojas (the beneficial biochemical of balance) will be created. Ojas is the finest and most-valued by-product of digestion in Ayurveda, supporting immunity, happiness, the feeling of connectivity (union or yoga) and emotional stability.
Below find a list of herbs that support allergen response and support the body’s immune response.
Herbal Help in Spring for Strengthening the Body’s Defense Systems
The first line of attack is to remove ama from the system. A spring detox is a great way to do this.
Elim-Tox — Helps cleanse toxins and purify the body. It feels good to get rid of old junk in your life. It feels even better to clear old junk from your body. Elim-Tox helps purify toxins from your whole body — down to the cells. You’ll feel healthy, clear and light. And let’s face it. Modern life is full of toxic input. There are chemicals and preservatives in your food supply, toxins in the air and water, and digestive impurities that build up due to poor eating habits, not to mention the toxic build-up that results from mental, physical and emotional stress.
In Maharishi Ayurveda, these impurities are called ama. They disturb liver functioning and the healthy breakdown of fats, leading to weight and cholesterol problems. They interrupt circulation, leading to poor nutritional input to the cells. They block elimination, causing digestive disturbances. They interrupt the immune system, leading to allergen resistance issues and health problems.
Elim-Tox-O — This is a gentle cleansing (for those prone to occasional heartburn). Do you feel groggy after eating? Are your joints feeling stiff? These are signs of toxic build-up. Other signs include an unpleasant body odor, a heavy feeling in your body, or a coated tongue in the morning. Toxins mask the sophisticated intelligence of your body, creating health issues and discomfort instead of health. Yet toxic build-up is virtually unavoidable in today’s fast-paced world. Stressful jobs, environmental pollution and fast-food diets contribute to toxic waste in the body. And no matter how pure the food you eat, if your digestion is out of balance, your own body will create digestive toxins.
Elim-Tox-O is a gentle formula that helps cleanse your body’s natural purification systems without forcing, making it the recommended choice for people who have a tendency towards acne, heartburn, and excess stomach acid or who have a lot of "fire" in their physiology.
Digestion is the key in Ayurveda to ama removal and avoiding ama production
Triphala: Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) from Maharishi Ayurveda — This blend of herbs is a powerful tonic for the digestive system. If you are feeling sluggish, dull or occasionally constipated, chances are that toxins are building up in your body. Toxins accumulate when your digestion — and elimination — are out of balance, which can lead to skin breakouts, menstrual cramps, fatigue, feelings of sadness and many other health issues. Triphala, available in Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus), is the every-night, overnight detox and digestion balancer, supporting assimilation, balanced agni and ojas. This is Maharishi Ayurveda’s number 1 selling digestion herbal.
Immunity – Allergen response is all about balanced immune response
Bio-Immune from Maharishi Ayurveda — This traditional formulation combines purifying herbs with nourishing minerals, including mica. The herbs and minerals help eliminate digestive impurities and toxins that can affect natural immunity. This aids healthy liver function and helps purify the blood. The herbs also promote a healthy resistance to stress and aid in the assimilation and metabolism of nutrients. Finally, they support communication between cells, an Ayurvedic key to healthy immunity. It takes over six months to prepare these herbs for use. Bio-Immune, in combination with Organic Premium Amla Berry and Organic Digest Tone, is a powerhouse for supporting immunity.
Pitta Rasayana – this Pitta-pacifying formula is essential in quelling the Pitta-increasing effects of overactive immune response.
Organic Premium Amla Berry from Maharishi Ayurveda — Our Amla is prepared according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts — a 21-step process at a temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the potency.
Gram for gram, Amla has 20 times the Vitamin C content of an orange. Good nutrition requires a balance of the six Ayurvedic tastes — sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Amla is one of just a handful of herbs that contain five of the six taste categories — all except salty. Such balanced nutrition means that Amla helps balance all three of the basic operating principles (doshas) of mind and body — Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Amla produces total health benefits. It helps strengthen the mind, eyes, heart, skin, and digestion; boosts cellular regeneration; and promotes a positive nitrogen balance for improved growth of muscle tissue.
If you have addressed the basics with the core herbs mentioned above and find you still need help, we recommend trying the following:
The long-term solution is to delve into the root cause of allergen sensitivity and support the body’s immune system. The Aller-Defense herbal formulation from Maharishi Ayurveda helps remove toxins from the body and strengthen immunity. Aller-Defense helps block toxic reactions by improving digestion, reducing toxins (ama) in the body, and reducing sensitivity to allergens by nourishing and purifying the liver. This herbal formulation enhances the body’s overall capability to fight allergens.
Sniffle Free — Cold weather can compromise your body’s ability to handle cold temperatures that can put out your digestive fire and weaken the body. Sniffle Free supports natural digestive fire, which is often compromised by colder weather. This formula also aids your resistance to the cold, helps lubricate the lungs and helps restore your body’s balance of moisture and mucus.
(Cover Flower Photo By-Darren-Bannister, Flickr Creative Commons. Bicycles Photo By-jurvetson, Flickr Creative Commons. These photographs and credits do not constitute an endorsement of MAPI products by the photographers. The images are used under the terms of Flickr's Creative Commons rules: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)
These articles provide a great resource from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians on the knowledge, practices, products, and applications of Maharishi Ayurveda.
The sole purpose of these newsletters is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure 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.